Subscribe now

Power and Poverty: Divine and Human Rule in a World in Need

By Dewi A. Hughes
May 2009 | Review by Ray Evans


Dewi Hughes' conviction is that the suffering through poverty of such a vast number of people in our day is overwhelmingly the result of the misuse of power by others. Hence, the underlying theme of this wide-ranging, challenging study is that poverty has to do with the way in which we human beings use and abuse the power God gave us when he created us.

  • Publisher: Inter-Varsity Press
  • ISBN: 978-1844743124
  • Pages: 256
  • Price: £0.16
Buy this book »

Book Review

Authored by the Theological Advisor for Tearfund, this book is a major work aiming to give a biblical understanding of, and Christian responses to, the desperate poverty so many experience. He argues that, fundamentally, poverty has to do with the way human beings use the power God has given them. He explores this theme in three major sections, covering Old Testament material, the teaching and action of Jesus, and the church’s ministry.

There is much that is helpful and engaging. His outline of the covenant relationships in the Old Testament is clear – including an insightful description of the limitations of the Mosaic administration.

He works through the Beatitudes and presents fresh challenges to us all. His description of the early church should leave us humbled, and stir up a longing that our own churches might conform to that pattern more than they do.

Finally, the reality of the poverty he portrays, and the God-given challenges to care for the poor and uphold their rights, should galvanise the hardest hearts. It is a sober lesson to be told that Evangelicals as a group have become less generous with their wealth over the last 20 years despite becoming richer!

Yet I did have misgivings. It is not an easy read and it took some discipline to get into the book (and I like reading). I was expecting more concrete examples of the abuse of power – how it has led to poverty and how it has been overcome. Without this, the analysis felt abstract.

It also became reductionist, in that most of the criticism was levelled at the ’empire building’ policies of the USA and the weaknesses of global capitalism in general. I found this superficial and simplistic, even though there were some valid insights.

Despite the attempt to challenge the church and its members to greater practical commitment to uphold the rights of the poor and to model radical generosity, I felt the author never ‘got down to the level’ of the pastors and members of ‘regular’ churches. Without this, the book felt designed for academics, degree level students, and those already engaged with helping the poor in organisations.

It doesn’t describe how ‘ordinary churches’ have taken up the challenge practically. Nor did it tackle the feeling of being overwhelmed expressed by many individuals when they ask, ‘Where do I start?’ Instead, the reader is made to feel that simply to live and work in the West is to be complicit in the power-abuse he describes.

So, some very important biblical principles helpfully stated, but significant weaknesses in application, which left me disappointed.


Book Reviews

Read our latest book reviews

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
The Christian and Technology
John V. Fesko

Even the most hardened Luddite will find himself using a satnav, mobile phone, or email on occasion. But John Fesko urges us not to reach for the latest gadget without thinking carefully about how it might shape our minds, relationships,…

See all book reviews
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Christ Victorious: Selected Writings of Hugh Martin
Hugh Martin

Hugh Martin (1822–1885) was one of those 19th century Scottish theologians whose published works have stood the test of time. With good reason, for his works are consistently sound, reverent, edifying, and challenging to mind and heart. This is a…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
God’s design for women in an age of gender confusion
Sharon James

Is our belief in male headship culturally outdated, and should we see alternative ideas of marriage as ‘progress’? Is it possible to be born into the wrong body, and is sexual freedom good for women? Does Scripture show us a…

Sexuality and Identity (trilogy)
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Sexuality and Identity (trilogy)
Owen Strachan

These three punchy books address pressing issues: what the Bible teaches about lust (on desire), about homosexuality (on Biblical sexuality) and about transgenderism (on identity). The trilogy approach keeps each book short and focused while dovetailing effectively. Each book has…