Lupton has a good presentation of the problems with "charity," going well beyond the conventional wisdom about "teaching someone to fish" instead of "giving them a fish." As motivated youngsters ramp up their efforts to prove themselves as a strategy to get admitted to top universities, these issues will become more and more relevant. But in the end, I think his presentation on the subject is less than balanced. I simply do not agree that most shallow, impersonal charity is toxic. It just isn't all that effective, and isn't what we are called to do as Christians.
What is really persuasive is his discussion of the long term approaches to community transformation which have been proven in some communities, especially in the Southern U.S. where he works. The kind of approach he advocates, building on the strengths of the community to create successful structures within the community pursuing strategies against poverty, has a good track record and a strong theoretical justification. It has practicality and morality on its side. And it is beginning to be recognized as a real improvement over top-down private charity or government programs.
Lupton writes in a lively, engaging style with head-on confrontation of the moral and institutional complexities. His examples are superbly chosen and explained in human, understandable detail. All of them are telling, and some are moving. I would have liked more evidence of understanding of economic constraints, but he stays within the world of the realistic so my complaint is more of a quibble.
Looking back over our years in the ministry of 45 years, I see where we made so many of the mistakes that Mr. Lupton spoke about. Christians always want to help and give and we need to learn more about the areas to serve and what is best in the giving. Is it going to help the recipients or are we just enabling them more because it makes us feel better as Christians that we helped? I passed the book on to the Deacon in charge of benevolence at our congregation. All in all, I found it very interesting and informative.
Lupton brings to light the need for churches and individuals tp seek what is God's will for those in need. Christians want to help the poor and that is Biblical, but giving a man a fish is temporary relief while teaching a man to fish results in eliminating need.
Robert Lupton has been engaged in urban-renewal efforts for over 40 years and brings his expertise to light in this excellent book. It seems that Toxic Charity is often mentioned in the same breath as When Helping Hurts - after having read both, this makes a lot of sense. Both came out roughly around the same time and both deal with the question of "Are our efforts to alleviate poverty actually working?" The answer that both books give is "no".
This is a difficult thing to hear, as many of us (myself included) regularly give to and work with various charities and have gone on different service and missions trips. While Toxic Charity doesn't write these endeavors off completely, Lupton does point that that Africa has received billions in aid over the past several decades and is seemingly in a worse position. Churches will spend 1000s of dollars to send a group of under-qualified volunteers to do work in a foreign land that the locals could easily do. We pass out free clothing and food locally, without knowing the folks we're trying to help and not realizing that our basic one-size-fits-all solution of hand-outs isn't the most effective thing we could be doing to help.
Obviously we do these things because we care - so instead of beating ourselves up over possibly being too in-effective (I've gone on two short term missions trips myself), maybe we should start asking the question of "How can we work with the poor?" instead of wondering how much money is needed to fix a certain problem. Like with any issue, it's good to be able to take a step back and ask difficult questions and if you're looking to challenge yourself with your understanding of aid/charity/missions etc, then I would highly recommend you picking up this book. While it's written by a Christian and mostly to a Christian audience, it would also be useful to non-Christians who give/participate in charity endeavors.
This was a very good book on the subject of charitable giving and work. The basic premise is that one should consider the person/ people who are receiving the charity. After emergency charity, one can strive to help the people help themselves and that will help motivate them to continue to work to solve their problems themselves. Basically this is "a hand up is better than a hand out" after the emergency is over.