Does Our Charity Impoverish Our Neighbors?

Someone forwarded me an article from Christianity Today by Robert Lupton on the topic of “toxic charity.” Charity turns toxic where those who serve end up doing for people what they are quite capable of doing for themselves. Those being served are shamed by the very public suggestion that they cannot take care of themselves and their families and they are discouraged from making investments in their own futures. Toxic charity deepens poverty rather than alleviating it.

The difficulty (at least one of the difficulties) is that when a person comes to you in crisis, you first want to help that person find some stability, even if only in the form of a warm, dry place in which to talk the problem over. I don’t know how many times someone has called or come to me in crisis, and instead of asking for money, just wanted me to help them sort through their issues and options. Part of what we are trying to do with Soup After School is offer that kind of place, where neighbors can gather for a hot meal and talk about their lives. Often it’s not the church folk who provide the answers, but rather the neighbor sitting near them. We’ve just provided the chair to sit in.

The next stage is to start offering micro training as part of the programming for both kids and adults. Last week we had a mini workshop on a Christian approach to self defense. The trainer was interpreting some basic jiu jitsu moves in Christian terms. Last spring we taught the kids how to plant seeds that would end up in our Community Garden. Maybe this year we can send them home with some of those seedlings to plant in their own yards.

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