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.
Reposted, with permission, from Randy White Ministries.
This week I officiated a funeral for a homeless man. It was a sociologists dream. Every “misfit” you could imagine was in the small crowd. Several of the men I had met previously just because I’m the pastor of the church on the “main drag,” so I was somewhat familiar with a few of them. Others I had never seen.
It was a very “free flowing” service, to say the least. Since homeless people like to talk, and since I didn’t know the man, I let people share (dangerous in most circumstances, but since nobody but the homeless was present, I thought, “what is there to lose!”)
What I found is that the men who spoke were actually quite well-spoken.
"...such measures are bound to reap a range of deleterious effects, from raised consumer prices to increased unemployment to reduced working hours to outright business closures. Contrary to the popular narrative, those consequences tend to hit small businesses and less-skilled workers first and hardest."
The first thing I want to say about volunteerism and “giving back” is that I don’t believe in such things as an “unfair advantage” or “luck.” If you as parents work hard to feed, clothe, and shelter your children; you love and nurture them, pushing them to be responsible, caring members of society; you spend time, energy and money to ensure they have a solid education so they can succeed in life—then you are a normal family.
What isn’t and shouldn’t be accepted as normal is neglectful, violent, or substance-abusing parents. Children aren’t “lucky” because their parents don’t beat them or there’s actually nutritious food in the fridge. This attitude makes neglect and abuse the norm, and it implies that inhabiting a loving home is some kind of magical “only if you are fortunate” thing.
We understand that all good things come from God, but many good things are a natural consequence of prudent behavior—sowing and reaping works just as well for the unregenerate as for those who are redeemed. The eternal reaping comes later, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.
"[E]ven if carbon emissions did increase the global temperature slightly, measures to reduce emissions would not be worth the sacrifice."