Charity and missions are apples and oranges, in my mind. Missions is about the great commission, planting churches, and making disciples. Offering a meal to the poor, in contrast, is an act of mercy. I can argue the point that missions is the more important of the two, but this is not the place to do so. The two can work together (as in the case of a rescue mission) but they are typically distinct.
When it comes to helping the poor, is it better to do nothing, or is it better to do something (perhaps a lot) — making you feel like you are helping others — when, in fact, you are harming them? That is the ultimate question.
Most of us desire to be compassionate people, characterized by good works. But the key to loving one’s neighbor is not doing what makes us feel better, or even what pleases them in the short term, but rather looking out for their long-term best interest.
Toxic Charity’s author Robert Lupton is not as conservative as most of us are, but he is in the evangelical camp and one of the most respected authorities in this field. He has worked in inner city Atlanta for nearly 40 years. He has observed what works and what doesn’t — and his findings are startling.
When you read chapter one, you know where the book is headed. Here are a few quotations.
What Americans avoid facing is that while we are very generous in charitable giving, much of that money is either wasted or actually harms the people it is targeted to help.