Book Review: Toxic Charity

Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, and How to Reverse It, by Robert D. Lupton

Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, and How to Reverse It

This past year I was “helping” people in a tight spot more than I’d ever done before.  It was a unique situation that devolved quickly from good to toxic.  I believe both parties were harmed in the process, and it soured my desire to help the down-and-out in future.  Tim and I will certainly not be going into any situations like that in future without taking certain precautions.

As a result of that craziness, when I read this book I was able to understand just how harmful good intentions can be if wisdom and caution are not used.  Or if you simply have no idea what is the right way to go about doing things.

Thankfully, Lupton addresses the potential hurts caused (some he witnessed first-hand) and the way we should be going about “helping.”   His clearheaded reasoning is sound, compassionate, and full of grace for those who have gone about it wrong in the past (like myself).   He draws from international research as well as his vast personal experience to bring us to an understanding of his perspective.

And what is his perspective?  That of an individual who has lived in the inner-city of Atlanta for decades, devoted his life to combating poverty, become friends with many down-and-out, and who has spearheaded many successful projects to revitalize the slums of Atlanta and make them safe, diverse, and flourishing communities.

Lupton highly values the motives and heart behind our desire to help others, he simply presents the harm that he (and others) have witnessed as they watched charity being given and received.  Through years of trial and error he is also able to give much practical advice for helping the poor without striking out their self-worth and taking away their dignity.

Through Toxic Charity I was presented with a whole new strategy for helping those in need.  Not only the best practices for immediate or urgent needs to be met, but also for enabling these individuals to meet their own needs in future, ultimately benefiting them the most.  I was refreshed by Lupton’s true (and obvious) passion for loving people the way Christ does, and his desire to meet not just the pressing and obvious needs, but the hidden ones of the heart as well.

I also admire his tactful handling of some of the most prevalent viewpoints on If, How, and How Much to give.  He represents all views and leaves it to us to decide, guided by the Holy Spirit, what we should do.

Furthermore, he also got me really excited about the helpfulness of micro-loans in underdeveloped nations.  The idea of someone being able to take care of their family on their own, and the true satisfaction that is found in that, is energizing!

Thanks, Lupton, for writing this excellent resource for us bumbling newbies!

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