How Should We Give? I Must Admit, My Politics Are Changing

I’m currently reading Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help by Robert Lupton, and it’s messing with my politics.  The book is not political, mind you, but it strictly appeals to my utilitarian nature.

Does Church charity work?

The answer is complex.  A food pantry does feed, a shelter does house, and a fundraiser does give.  But Lupton asks the simple question that so many of us are not asking.  Does it work for the people it’s supposed to work for?

There are concerns.

Lupton says that giving freely compromises human dignity, dis-empowers recipients, and kills self-will and initiative.  I just cannot deny this.  I’ve seen first hand how people in Haiti have learned to spend all creative energy into begging short-term missionaries (Lupton calls “Christian tourists”).  I’ve seen the first-rated solution to a problem be to wait for the next mission group and ask the eager do-gooders to solve it for them.  A culture of dependency is there.

This book has also exposed my selfish need to help others for my own sake.  I do so much for others, for me.

It’s messing with my politics because I’ve long since believed that we need to give blindly because that’s simply what we’re supposed to do.  But what if I…and we…really cared if it was all working?


3 thoughts on “How Should We Give? I Must Admit, My Politics Are Changing

  1. Giving without expecting the recipient to make an effort to change his/her circumstances that cause the need can be toxic, and yes, we should “teach people to fish.” But while we’re teaching them, we need to make sure they have enough food and shelter to allow their brains to operate. We do need to challenge people, to find the “sweet spot” for motivation. We also need to be sure we aren’t giving because we feel superior because we don’t have a need for food or shelter. One never knows when or where the next disaster will strike.

  2. Heard Bob speak at a conference last spring..certainly changed my thinking about giving, helping, serving, ministry.

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