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Toxic Charity Hardcover – October 11, 2011

410 customer reviews

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Hardcover, October 11, 2011
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Editorial Reviews


“Lupton says hard things that need to be said, and he’s earned the right to say them. Believers would do well to receive his words with the mindset that ‘faithful are the wounds of a friend.’” (Christianity Today)

“[Lupton’s] new book, Toxic Charity, draws on his 40 years’ experience as an urban activist in Atlanta, and he argues that most charitable work is ineffective or actually harmful to those it is supposed to help.” (Washington Post)

“Lupton’s work, his books and, most importantly, his life continue to guide and encourage me to live and serve in a way that honors God and my neighbor. I highly recommend Toxic Charity.” (Danny Wuerffel, Executive Director, Desire Street Ministries)

“Lupton’s book reminds us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. He shows how the people called poor can be blessed by supporting opportunities for them to give their gifts, skills, knowledge and wisdom to creating the future.” (John McKnight, Codirector, Asset Based Community Development Institute, Northwestern University)

“A must-read book for those who give or help others.” (Booklist)

“In Toxic Charity, Lupton reminds us that being materialistically poor does not mean that there is no capacity, no voice, and no dignity within a person. If we truly love the poor, we will want to educate ourselves on how best to serve. Let our charity be transformative not toxic.” (Roger Sandberg, Executive Director of Medair International)

“A superb book. Toxic Charity should serve as a guide and course correction for anyone involved in charitable endeavors at home or abroad.” (Ronald W. Nikkel, President, Prison Fellowship International)

“Toxic Charity provides the needed counterbalance to a kind heart: a wise mind. Though I often thought, “Ouch!” while I was reading the book, Robert Lupton gave this pastor what I needed to become a more effective leader.” (Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland – A Church Distributed)

“When Bob Lupton speaks of the inner city, the rest of us ought to sit up and take notice... [His work is] deeply distrurbing—in the best sense of the word.” (Philip Yancey, author of What Good Is God?)

“Top 10 book of the year.” (World Magazine)

From the Back Cover

Public service is a way of life for Americans; giving is a part of our national character. But compassionate instincts and generous spirits aren’t enough, says veteran urban activist Robert D. Lupton. In this groundbreaking guide, he reveals the disturbing truth about charity: all too much of it has become toxic, devastating to the very people it’s meant to help.

In his four decades of urban ministry, Lupton has experienced firsthand how our good intentions can have unintended, dire consequences. Our free food and clothing distribution encourages ever-growing handout lines, diminishing the dignity of the poor while increasing their dependency. We converge on inner-city neighborhoods to plant flowers and pick up trash, battering the pride of residents who have the capacity (and responsibility) to beautify their own environment. We fly off on mission trips to poverty-stricken villages, hearts full of pity and suitcases bulging with giveaways—trips that one Nicaraguan leader describes as effective only in “turning my people into beggars.”

In Toxic Charity, Lupton urges individuals, churches, and organizations to step away from these spontaneous, often destructive acts of compassion toward thoughtful paths to community development. He delivers proven strategies for moving from toxic charity to transformative charity.

Proposing a powerful “Oath for Compassionate Service” and spotlighting real-life examples of people serving not just with their hearts but with proven strategies and tested tactics, Lupton offers all the tools and inspiration we need to develop healthy, community-driven programs that produce deep, measurable, and lasting change. Everyone who volunteers or donates to charity needs to wrestle with this book.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (November 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062076205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062076205
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (410 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #604,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

122 of 129 people found the following review helpful By Paul Adams on November 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Its title notwithstanding, this book is not a case for stinginess. Its author has four decades' experience of faith-based charitable work to his credit and draws on this experience as well as a host of anecdotes and research (which, however, he does not cite - the book does is one of advocacy, not scholarship). His is also not an argument against voluntary or faith-based giving in favor of public welfare or rights-based claims on the state. Rather, with multiple and compelling examples, from weeklong `missions' of church youth groups to poor countries through inner-city charitable initiatives to the enormous Kroc grant to the Salvation Army, Lupton argues that this work needs to be rethought and reoriented.

As Brooks (Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism) has shown, giving by religious Americans, both to church-based charities and secular agencies like the Red Cross, is extraordinarily generous by any measure, in time, treasure, and talent, compared with that of secular Americans and citizens of other affluent countries. Lupton does not disparage these efforts or their (mostly) good intentions, but argues that most of this activity does more harm than good. Given the author's own commitment and credentials in the field, anyone engaged in this work will want to pay attention to his critique.

In some ways, Lupton echoes those 19th-century critics of "sentimental charity," who sought to replace random handouts with organized charity based on a relationship between giver and recipient that offered "not alms, but a friend" (the motto of the Charity organization Societies).
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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Kris Zyp on May 5, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Toxic Charity, Robert Lupton embarks upon the much needed task of alerting the church to the pitfalls of poorly informed charitable giving, and showing how short many charitable efforts come in bringing real lasting positive change. He shares hard-won lessons and wisdom from years of work in inner-city service. The author does this with easy-to-follow and interesting stories that quickly show the reader how well-intentioned efforts have unintended results, and presents many great ideas for better ways forward.

However, while important warnings are raised, unfortunately Toxic Charity seems to fall short on solid research, leaning heavily on anecdotal stories and intuitions. While rightly rejecting that all giving works great, the book frequently falls into an almost equally simplistic ideology, that can be summarized, "avoid dependencies". Citations of research on the topics discussed are rare, and range from hearsay to simply false data, such as citation of a World Bank study that quoted the wrong region, wrong intervention, and wrong data.

Again, Lupton has some great suggestions, and certainly the focus on doing a better job of listening to recipients and seeking to understand and research what they truly need to be empowered is wise. But too much of the book fails to follow this advise, instead relying on following the intuitions of the anti-dependency ideology. Sometimes these intuitions are good, but often times they lead to poor conclusions. For example, anti-dependency mentality recommends always preferring microfinance over direct cash transfer.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Dr Conrade Yap TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Focus on outcomes, not activities. Not all giving is good. In fact, much giving is toxic. This is the basic message in this book. Lupton in one sweep exposes the scandals both intended and unintended. He explains the reasons behind the flawed thinking behind conventional giving. He explicates the various alternatives to transform charity from toxic handout to healthy helping out. This book can be summarized in three ways.

Firstly, Lupton exposes the scandal of conventional giving. He questions why the poor remains so poor despite the huge aid given to them over the years. He wonders why handout lines continue to stretch. He probes the flaws of current giving models.

Secondly, the author re-calibrates the basic philosophy of good charity being learning to take the oath of compassionate service. Such an oath puts the development of the recipient's potential as primary, and the fulfilment of the giver's emotions as secondary.

Thirdly, the author tries to provide alternatives that redeems the whole giving process.

Readers will be shocked by the many revelations of how giving has not only not improved the conditions of the receivers, giving has become toxic instead. Thankfully, Lupton is able to articulate very practical and workable models for us to re-think and to restore good giving. What the poor and the vulnerable needs most are not more handouts or more problem solving. They need a helping hand to help themselves, and for the rest of the world to enable them to reach their highest potential. All good giving does precisely that.

I strongly recommend that all givers, both present and future read this book.
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