“Lets Talk about Charity and True Poverty Alleviation!”
Christmas is around the corner. In addition to preparing for Christmas with our families, many of us are seeking ways to give back to those who are less fortunate than us. There are many charity projects to serve food, give away presents, pack shoe boxes, etc. It is something that is a part of who we are as human beings. We want to bless others, and we want to help.
The word ‘charity’ is a word that was used a long time ago to mean ‘love’. So if you read 1 Corinthians 13:13 in the KJV, it reads, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
It’s important that we don’t separate love from our charity work. Charity is not just giving away free stuff to people. I’ve seen people do charity work with love and I’ve seen people do it without love. The latter is extremely ugly!
Charity work can be performed in such a way that dehumanizes the poor. Rather than alleviating their poverty, it drives them deeper into it.
Granted, us in the West have NO concept of true poverty, but I have a theory that I’m pretty sure is global. My theory is that poverty is ingrained in the heart of a person. They feel it in their bones and view themselves as poor, though they would never say it.
It takes a lot of humility to collect a bag of free groceries for their family from a local church food pantry. Imagine if you were in that position and you were met by an impatient grump or someone who was flouting their wealth in your face.
The bag of groceries should never be the end, but a means to an end.
Our goal with Steps (our inner-city youth project) is to alleviate heart poverty. We inspire the kids to see the value that is inside them. By taking them to a skilled nursing facility once a month our goal is to help them to see how much they have in themselves. We are frequently told things like “I have NO friends” “I have NO talents” “I have NO way to get a job” “I CAN’T learn”. These statements flow from heart poverty and it is rampant.
So, as you serve people this Christmas season, do it with a heart of compassion. Don’t treat the recipients of your charity differently than others. Find ways to bridge the gap. Don’t wear your finest clothes to go serve. Make it about Quality and not Quantity!
P.S. For a great resource on this topic, read the book When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (Moody Press)