Could your charity be toxic?

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) -Giving feels good, doesn’t it? But who and what is our charity for? If our motivation is to give because it makes us feel good, then I would like to challenge you, and share a story of how I was humbled.

Several years ago, I found out that I was volunteering for the wrong reasons. I called up my local rescue mission and told them I wanted to bring my family in to volunteer on Christmas. I told them I wanted to serve a meal. I took photos of my family and I volunteering and posted them on social media and then I went home not feeling so guilty about all the blessings I had. Mission accomplished… until next Christmas.

I’ll be honest. I was volunteering for myself. When I called the Mission, I didn’t ask for what their greatest need was because I was afraid of the answer I would get. Money? Fellowship? Mopping the floors? I didn’t think about whether the meal I served was actually helping people and I don’t remember really talking to anyone who was eating a meal in the cafeteria. I can most certainly tell you that I judged those who didn’t say thank you for the scoop of potatoes I put on their tray. “Why can’t they say thank you for this free meal? How rude.”

Two years later, through a series of experiences, God has changed my way of thinking about people who are experiencing hunger and homelessness and how He can use each of us to really make a difference.

Author Robert Lupton has challenged the paradigm of charity through his book “Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, And How to Reverse It.” For the last three years at Mel Trotter Ministries, we have been asking tough questions about our ministry and doing our best to significantly reduce toxic charity.

Lupton defines “toxic charity” as doing for someone what they have the ability to do for themselves. He asks his readers to take the oath of compassionate service.

• Never do for the poor what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves.

• Limit one-way giving to emergency situations.

• Strive to empower the poor through employment, lending and investing, using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements.

• Subordinate our own self-interests to the needs of those being served.

• Listen closely to those you seek to help, especially to what is not being said – unspoken feelings may contain essential clues to effective service.

Do you think you would be able to take this oath?

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