Toxic Charity

Is Our Charity Really Charitable?

I encourage you to read a thought-provoking book called  Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton.  His writing challenges us to look at the motivation behind charitable giving to those in material need.  His book centers on the damage done to the recipients of toxic charity with (1) deepened dependency and (2) diminished dignity which both lead to (3) disempowerment.

In a simple summary statement:  When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them.

Mr. Lupton points out that:

For all our efforts to eliminate poverty—our entitlements, our programs, our charities—we have succeeded only in creating a permanent underclass, dismantling their family structures, and eroding their ethic of work. Therefore, our poor continue to become poorer.

The book hit home for me when he pointed out:

And religiously motivated charity is often the most irresponsible. Our free food and clothing distribution encourages ever-growing handout lines, diminishing the dignity of the poor while increasing their dependency.

Giving to those in need what they could be gaining from their own initiative may well be the kindest way to destroy people.

Lupton gives these suggestions to those seeking to empower people and not create dependence:

  • Don’t subsidize poverty.
  • Reinforce productive work.
  • Create producers, not beggars.
  • Invest in self-sufficiency.

Lupton acknowledges that, “The hard part is rethinking the entrenched giveaway mentality and restructuring an established one-way charity system.”

He suggests churches and non-profits ask these questions:

  • Are recipients assuming greater levels of control over their own lives or do they show up, year after year, with their hands out?
  • Is leadership emerging among the served?
  • Are their aspirations on the rise?
  • Is there a positive trajectory?

This book has me thinking of my often self-centered motivations for giving.  Give the book a read, and let me know what you think.

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