Five books that will change you in 2015

Five books that will change you in 2015

You will remain the same person except for the people you interact with and the books you read. Or so my friend’s dad challenged me. This has proven to be massively influential in my life – our character is shaped by what we expose ourselves to. I can confidently say that my perspective on the world has been shaped by incredible people (whom I didn’t always agree with) and challenging books. So, I want to share a few of the books that have informed my journey of understanding justice and living it. They all have excellent information, research and varied backgrounds but require some ‘translation’ into the South African context. I hope you grapple with the books, like I did, and grow closer to God’s big heart for justice.

The Bible
bibleOkay, a pastor saying, ‘read your bible’ is not that surprising. But I want to challenge you to read the gospels with the lens of: how did Jesus move towards the vulnerable, the outsiders, the looked-down-upon? So often we can miss the radical nature of Jesus’ ministry by focusing on only his words and overlooking that he was perpetually pursuing the outcasts. Reading that has inspired me to treat all with dignity and appreciate the grace that has been shown to me.


Generous Justice by Timothy Keller
tim-keller-generous-justice-475x633This is a powerful resource to motivate us to do justice. Tim Keller provides a more meaningful and deeper motivation to do justice, revealing that guilt and ‘I shoulds’ really don’t last. Good theological grounding for anyone exploring why justice should be on their radar. Also check out his Ministries of Mercy for a very practical guide. Favourite quote: “There is a direct relationship between a person’s grasp and experience of God’s grace, and his or her heart for justice and the poor.” (p. xix)


When helping hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fickert
20120818_helping-hurts_0007If your heart has been stirred to do justice, then this book will light an ever greater flame of doing justice well. Too often we have good intentions, but our approaches can do more harm than we realise. This will help you better understand poverty and the ways in which you can personally respond to those around you in a consistent and empowering way. Most impactful concept for me: “Avoid paternalism – do not do things for people that they can do for themselves.” (p109)


Toxic Charity by Robert D. Lupton
toxic-charity1 Probably the hardest book I read in the last few years – because it so deeply challenged me. Robert Lupton writes with great conviction about the way in which we are to help people. Get ready to have your perspective shaped to truly help people, and not just keep busy doing good. Biggest challenge to me: “Cure without care is like a gift given from a cold heart. Charity that does not enhance trusting relationships may not be charity at all.” (p51)


The spiritual danger of doing good by Peter Greer 
image002If you have been in the justice sector vocationally, or heavily involved volunteering, then this book is an excellent warning and encouragement. It is a straight-forward, application based book that reveals what our hearts are prone towards when we are busy doing justice. Too easily we drift into pharasaical attitudes, bad habits and we end up hurting ourselves and others. Favourite quotes: “The bottom line is this: It doesn’t honour God to steamroll over friends and family in pursuit of service,” (p50) and “The spiritual danger of doing good is to think your service entitles you to make minor moral lapses, whether it’s stretching the truth or justifying guilty pleasures. Right after moments of significant service, my heart is most unguarded.” (p63)

I trust you enjoy the journey of growing and applying this to your everyday life. What books would go on your top five?

This post was written by
Richard works full-time for Common Good as the city impact manager and team leader. He also serves on the Common Ground Wynberg leadership team, which he attends with his wife and three children.

1 Comment on "Five books that will change you in 2015"

  • Marc Waller says

    Great stuff.

    Love the comments, i.e. “Right after moments of significant service, my heart is most unguarded.”
    I would like to add my own take: “if you’re doing it, you’re justifying it!” ;)

    Have a good one.

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