Toxic Charity: Lessons from Bob Lupton

Repeatedly offering charity to the poor can create dependency, rather than breaking the cycle of spiritual and physical poverty, writes Peter Greer, president and CEO of HOPE International. Read below for his thoughts on a recent talk by Bob Lupton, author of “Toxic Charity.”

I recently had the opportunity to hear Bob Lupton, author of “Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It),” speak at the co-lab conference in Chicago.

Toxic Charity: Lessons from Bob Lupton

I was especially struck by his take on the receivers’ response when we offer charity:

· Give once and you elicit appreciation;

· Give twice and you create anticipation;

· Give three times and you create expectation;

· Give four times and it becomes entitlement;

· Give five times and you establish dependency (Lupton in Toxic Charity, p. 130).

The system of charity is broken: Necessary for short-term relief, charity is like putting a Band-Aid on a broken bone. As Lupton says, long term it reinforces the underlying issues of poverty—hopelessness, powerlessness and helplessness. Affirming the superiority of the giver, it subordinates the receiver.

As Christ followers, we are called to something better. Christ came to break the cycle of spiritual and physical poverty. Therefore, let’s not create dependency. Instead, let’s encourage the poor to use their God-given talents and skills. Let’s uphold and affirm the poor’s dignity.

Read more from Peter Greer.

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