A desire to help the poor and oppressed is appropriate for all Christians—but what happens when our intentions cause more harm than good? Veteran relief-worker Robert Lupton states this is often the case, that our efforts to alleviate suffering are frequently as destructive (if not more so) than the hardship itself.
The problem is that our giving is too often us-based rather than focused on those we try to help. We do "religious tourism," visiting exotic places briefly to dispense Western wealth while enjoying local attractions. Nothing is further from the true meaning of missions, Lupton says, encouraging a them-based approach instead.
Them-based missions take more work, but the rewards are huge and the pitfalls of Western relief-work more easily avoided. Rather than offering handouts, we should train the poor to improve their circumstances while offering the grace of the Gospel.
It's a simple solution, but not an easy one. Some authors might content themselves pointing out the errors of current charitable efforts, but in Toxic Charity Lupton concentrates on offering a positive remedy and plan for improving our effectiveness and extending our reach.
Few topics are as hotly debated in today's churches as missions, particularly socio-economic missions. Robert Lupton's book is a needed corrective to the blind passion and unintentionally self-centered nature of many efforts. Readable and convicting, Toxic Charity is for laypeople and church leaders.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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