- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: HarperOne; 1 edition (October 2, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062076213
- ISBN-13: 978-0062076212
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 585 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, And How to Reverse It Paperback – October 2, 2012
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“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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Where I disagreed with the author and the reason for the low rating is that I felt he was very one-sided. It felt to me like this was an attack on most of the charitable efforts commonly put forth by faith-based organizations like food shelves, clothing closets, meals and the like. The author goes on to say that we should never engage in one-directional giving unless it is an emergency. My questions is: whose definition of emergency are we using? The author mentioned things like natural disasters, which certainly are emergencies on a large scale. But is it not a personal emergency when someone loses their job unexpectedly? A major illness or injury can be an emergency. How do we determine whether someone`s circumstances constitute enough of an emergency?
There is a degree of judgment in that statement that makes me very uncomfortable. And it seems to be contradictory to the theology of faith-based organizations, especially Christian ones, who believe in trying to be unconditional. I am not comfortable trying to decide if the family at the food shelf or clothing closet is in enough of an emergency to warrant my charity or if they are trying hard enough to change their circumstances. I am not comfortable assessing how much work they are putting into this or asking them to do more, like he suggests more than once. Does the single mother working a full-time minimum wage job have time to be working at the food shelf or volunteering at the church to "earn" her charity? I don`t know the answer to those questions but I`m not even comfortable asking them.
Now I certainly agree with the "teach a man to fish" principle but most of the examples the author gave would be well outside the reach of my faith-based community. For example, we support a program that provides food for homeless people. The author would suggest that we need to be a part of their communities and he gives the example of people moving into those neighborhoods. That is not a practical response for my church - people are not going to sell their homes and uproot their lives. In the case of this particular program, the meal provided is the only thing many of these people get to eat in a day, or even two days. The consequences of NOT doing this would be very serious. And I don`t feel that these meals are encouraging these people to remain in their circumstances just to continue to get a measly sandwich or something similar. But that is what the author suggests is the consequence of this type of program - dependency and the attitude that people don`t want to change their situation.
I gave this two stars because I do feel that it is important to consider the long term goals of a charity when supporting it with financial donations or time. And I can see where some of these "mission trips" may cause more harm than good. But many of the fixes the author suggests, like the above, would be neither practical nor economical for the average person. And I don`t contribute my time or money to make myself feel good, which the author seems to think is a common motivation. I give because it is a response to human suffering. Jesus said we will always have the poor with us and I think that is directly addressing one-way giving - there will always be a need for that. But I can agree with the author that we need to establish and support charities that try to help people out of their circumstances as well. I guess I see a need for both and I really felt that the author is arguing that the type of charities that give unconditionally should be eradicated for the most part. I think the circumstances for many people would become even more dire if we removed the food shelves, clothing closets, and free assistance programs that are available through our faith communities. There is plenty of room and plenty of need for both approaches.
The cause of waste and pain is the western pursuit of feeling good by doing something good. Rather than helping the poor build sustainable lives, the drive to feel good by giving funds and resources (and even going on short term teams) leads to dependency and a lack of dignity. Lupton provides six guidelines to follow as justice seeking, kind hearted Christians look to help the poor. The first guideline is to not help the poor with something they can do themselves. The second is to provide free resources (one way giving) only in emergencies. The third is to empower the poor through employment, lending and investment. The fourth is to subordinate self interest to the needs of those being served. The fifth guideline is to listen closely to those you are trying to help. The final guideline is to do no harm.
Similar to Corbette and Fikkert When Helping Hurts Lupton ascribes to the asset-based community development model, forming ministry/programs that promote dignity and self sustainability by capitalizing on the assets and talents the poor have. He says the smart ministry leader will choose to partner with leaders and countries who are ...willing to help themselves, willing to stand up to corruption, and willing to assume accountability for results delivered from each and every investment in their development."
Lupton joins the likes of Corbett, Priest, Steffen and Brothwich in emphasizing that the west can no longer feel like it has the place or authority to lead in global missions. Rather, we should embrace the larger body of Christ, the global south and partner and support the work of non-western Christians "doing" missions. A good and bold goal indeed. Finding partners who are not just "willing" but capable to check all the boxes on Luptons "willing" list is the real challenge. There is an assumption that if one teaches, trains and develops strong relationships with the international partners both sides will be willing to meet each other half way for the good of those that need the help. The history of missions and international aid shows us that this is a very large assumption. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try though!
For those that work in the Christian Non-profit world I suspect much of what you read here won't be new news but it can serve as a good reminder to reflect on the principles and practices one is using to share the love of God with the poor across the globe.
For those who are new to charity of missions work, it is a worthy read. Don't let it sway you into thinking charity truly does hurt more than it helps. While it is true that is can hurt, at the most personal level aid that actually reaches the mouths and minds of the poor child, widow, orphan....can in fact make all the difference!