I’ve given to many charitable organizations over the years and started going to South Africa with a church partnership in 2007. I was pretty content with my “giving” level and the good that I was doing for the world. But Bob Lupton spoke from his book, Toxic Charity, at St. George’s Episcopal Church this past Saturday, and his presentation has rocked my self-satisfaction level. I realized that most of my ‘giving’ has been an effort for me to feel good, but now the nagging question remains, “is it really doing any good for the recipients?”

It will take me a long time and many conversations to process everything that Bob said, but one slide got me focused on the source of the problem. He listed the progression of “one-way” giving that we see in some food banks, clothing closets and adopt-a-family programs that are so prevalent in our churches. The problem is that if not done right, they eventually foster dependence on the giver rather than freedom from the oppression.

Giving someone a hand out without any investment on their part leads to:


First time       =          gratitude

Second time  =          anticipation

Third time     =          expectation

Fourth time   =          entitlement

Fifth time       =          dependency

An audience member asked if we see similar progressions when we help out a family member. Do we foster a sense of dependency in our loved ones when we are always “bailing” them out? Bob says its okay to provide “one-way giving” in a crisis but we don’t solve long-term problems at an arms length.

I want to continue to be a good steward of my resources, but I don’t want to hurt the people I’m trying to help.

But how?



(click below for MP3 file)