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Affluent Christian Investor | December 8, 2023

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Toxic Charity: Lessons from Bob Lupton

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.

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 an interview with Bob Lupton in Christianity Today: How Charity Can Be Toxic, Just in Time for Christmas.

On the topics of relief, aid, and charity:

· “Aid is not the Answer”

· “Why Telling One Story Isn’t Enough”

· “Why We Need to Listen to the Poor: HOPE’s Untold Story”


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