Top 20 Quotes from Toxic Charity
In his book, Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It), Robert D. Lupton calls out the bad in most short-term missions and charities—and tells us how to fix it.
Here are 20 quotes from his book:
“What Americans avoid facing is that while we are very generous in charitable giving, much of that money is either wasted or actually harms the people it is targeted to help.” (1)
“The compassion industry is almost universally accepted as a virtuous and constructive enterprise. But what is so surprising is that its outcomes are almost entirely unexamined.” (3)
“When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them.” (3)
“Giving to those in need what they could be gaining from their own initiative may well be the kindest way to destroy people.” (4)
“The money spent by one campus ministry to cover the costs of their Central American mission trip to repaint an orphanage would have been sufficient to hire two local painters and two new full-time teachers and purchase new uniforms for every student in the school.” (5)
“Service projects and mission trips do not effect lasting change. Within six to eight weeks after a mission trip, most short-term mission-trippers return to the same assumptions and behaviors they had prior to the trip.” (15)
“Even the most kindhearted, rightly motivated giving—as innocent as giving Christmas toys to needy children—can exact an unintended toll on a parent’s dignity.” (33)
“There is no simple or immediate way to discern the right response without a relationship.” (48)
“…the overwhelming majority of our mission trips are to places where the needs are for development rather than emergency assistance.” (69)
“Not only does aid foment political instability and corruption, it discourages free enterprise—like the African mosquito-netting manufacturer who was put out of business by well-meaning charities that handed out millions of free nets.” (95)
“But isn’t it time we admit to ourselves that mission trips are essentially for our benefit? Would it not be more forthright to call our junkets ‘insight trips’ or ‘exchange programs’? Religious tourism would have much more integrity if we simply admitted that we’re off to explore God’s amazing work in the world.” (69)
“A hunger-free zone may be possible, but developing the dependency-free zone is the real challenge.” (101)
“To the extent the poor are enabled to participate in the system intended to serve them, their self-worth is enhanced.” (130)
“Little affirms human dignity more than honest work. One of the surest ways to destroy self-worth is subsidizing the idleness of able-bodied people. Work is a gift, a calling, a human responsibility.” (152)
“Becoming a neighbor to less-advantaged people is the most authentic expression of affirmation I know—becoming a real-life, next-door neighbor. When connected neighbors move into the struggling world of those who are poor in order to be friends (rather than profit-making gentrifiers), news possibilities begin to appear.” (153-154)
“…it is far better to enter the neighborhood as a learner than an initiator.” (161)
“Betterment does for others. Development maintains the long view and looks to enable others to do for themselves. Betterment improves conditions. Development strengthens capacity. Betterment gives a man a fish. Development teaches a man how to fish.” (167)
“Think of the transformation that would occur if mission trips were converted from make-work to development work; if soup kitchen servanthood were redirected to afford homeless men the dignity of securing their own food; if Saturday service projects shifted from pity to partnership; if government giveaways became accountable investments.” (189)
“Authentic relationships with those in need have a way of correcting the we-will-rescue-you mind-set and replacing it with mutual admiration and respect…”(190)
“The poor, no matter how destitute, have enormous untapped capacity; find it, be inspired by it, and build upon it.” (191)
Lupton urges all his readers to consider taking this oath before engaging in charitable work:
Oath for 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 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.
-Above all, do no harm. (8-9)