Becoming Whole: Why the Opposite of Poverty Isn’t the American Dream | A Review

Looking for your next read?

We’ve got you covered. Pick up Becoming Whole: Why the Opposite of Poverty Isn’t the American Dream by Brian Fikkert and Kelly Kapic.

Here at Lifesong, we believe every Christian is called to do something for orphans and vulnerable children. Some people will adopt, some will go, and some will give. So Becoming Whole, is for Christ-followers like you who genuinely want to love and help vulnerable people—around the world and in your own community—in the most effective ways.

Quick note: This is an unsolicited, unpaid review.

Available in paperback, Kindle, and on Audible, here’s what this deeply theological, yet easily readable and life-changing book is all about


Main Idea

Here in the U.S., we’re the richest people ever to walk the face of the earth, but according to research, we aren’t becoming any happier or healthier.

Families and communities are increasingly fragmented.
Loneliness has skyrocketed.
Physical and mental health are on the decline.

Our unprecedented wealth doesn’t seem to be doing us much good.

Yet, when we try to help materially poor people at home or abroad, too often, our implicit assumption is that the goal is to help them to become like us.

There are no simple answers to questions of poverty alleviation, but it’s clear we need a better story (for us and for others) than the American dream.


Here are 5 key insights from this incredibly important book:


1. “Even followers of Jesus Christ do not have a shared understanding of what success in poverty alleviation looks like or how to get there.”

We know the Bible tells us to care for the poor. Throughout the Scriptures, God tells us to give generously to the less fortunate and to speak up for them.

So we know doing nothing is simply not an option for a follower of Jesus Christ.

But what we should do is not quite as clear. For decades, Christians have asked—

Do we meet physical needs and not spiritual needs?
Should we prioritize spiritual needs over physical needs?
Should we only focus on spiritual needs?

This book explores each of these questions.


2. “The way we diagnose the problem of poverty informs the remedies we use to alleviate that poverty.”

On one hand, we see and acknowledge deeply disturbing trends within western civilization and the western church. We know our materialism isn’t working, for example, and that we’re unhappy and unhealthy.

And yet, many of the western Church’s poverty alleviation efforts are entirely material in nature.

The god of our western culture is purely material, individualistic, self-interested, and consuming. If we’re not careful, we can inadvertently export this god to the same people we sincerely want to help.


3. “People are whole people, so partial solutions that address either the body or the soul will not work as well as solutions that address both the body and soul.”

If the goal of our ministries and efforts should ultimately be the worship of God, does this mean we should ignore the physical needs of the materially poor? Of course not.

Fikkert and Kapic define true human flourishing as follows:

People experience human flourishing when their mind, affections, will, and body enjoy loving relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation.

Whole people need whole solutions. Being economically empowered is not the same thing as fully flourishing. Nor is using a Gospel presentation as a bait and switch the same as pointing people to Christ.

These are not superficial issues.


4. “We should not be so fearful of doing harm that we completely withdraw from trying to help materially poor people.”

On the contrary. As the richest people to ever walk the face of the planet, we have a tremendous responsibility to act.

Sometimes, Christians use the excuse of bad poverty alleviation strategies to justify their lack of concern for the poor. But as followers of Jesus Christ, we don’t have the right to close our eyes to people in need.

Isaiah 51:10 is one of many verses throughout the Bible that instruct us to “pour ourselves out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted.”

We must consistently and courageously abandon strategies that undermine dignity, diminish capacity, and create unhealthy dependence. And we need to continue creating and implementing approaches that truly empower the most vulnerable people in the world.


5. “Poverty alleviation definitely is spiritual warfare.”

Satan and his legions absolutely love poverty.

They have a vested interest in keeping that homeless man in the gutter, in ensuring inner-city youths remain unemployed, and in spreading famine across Ethiopia.

False gods and erroneous stories of change ultimately distract people from the God of the Bible Who loves them more profoundly and infinitely than we could ever imagine.

When we pursue people in need and love them as Jesus loves them—as whole people made in the image of God, worthy of dignity and love—we go to battle for those whom the Enemy thought he had safely in his grasp.

In the process—by the grace of God—we become whole, as well.



Holistic care and biblical redemption radiate on every page of this much-needed book.

As Christians who want to love others as Christ loves us, we need a biblically-based, relationally-focused approach to caring for people who are materially poor. Thankfully, this book gives us the courage and the blueprint to do just that.


Photo courtesy of The Chalmers Center


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