Skip to content

The Misconception

What is the Misconception?

In the United States there’s a growing scandal that we both refuse to see and activly perpetuate. What Americans avoid facing is that while we are very generous in charitable giving, much moneyis either wasted or actually harms the people it is targeted to help.

This new sermon series will shock you, it will bother you, and may even offend many of you, but that is why I have decided to write such a message. As Americans, we are so obliviously ignorant of what our “ministry” is doing and how it is affecting people. While good intentions are a big thing when it comes to charity, it is certainly not the end. Good intentions do not always mean good results.

Giving to those in need what they could be gaining from their initiative may well be the kindest way to destroy people. While our motives are good, and we mean well, Americans often neglect to look at the economic and emotional outcomes of our charitable giving.

As compassionate people we have been evaluating our charity by the rewards we recieve through service, rather than the benefits recieved by the served. We have failed to adequatly calculate the effects of our services on the lives of those reduced to objects of our pity and patronage.

So the point that I will be arguing in this sermon series is;

Much of American charity does more harm than good, it creates a sense of dependency and reduces the status of those being served to just objects in need of pity. 

Compassion is a good quality, but when combined with our human perspective it creates shortcomings, our memory is short when recovery is long.

The Role of the Church

We first must examine what the role of the Church is in today’s world because if is not our job to care for the poor, then who cares if it’s being done poorly. However what we will come to see is that it is our task to care for the needy and unfortunately that job is either not being done or being done poorly.

For a large amount of human history economic growth was little, and economic inequality was relatively low, in fact, the largest gap between the rich and the poor was only about 4x, until the industrial revolution hit, causing monumental economic growth, and this only happened in a handful of countries, and as a result many countries were left in the dust. Now, the gap has ever so increased, the average American lives on about 90$ a day, while 40% of the world is living on less than 2$ a day.

“When Helping Hurts,” says this;

If Gods people in both the Old and New Testament were to have a concern for the poor during eras of relative economic equlaity, what are we to conclude about God’s desire for the North American church for today? “If anyone has material possesions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

What is Poverty?

When one is poor, she has no say in public, she feels inferior. She has no food. so their is famine in her house; no clothing, and no progress for her family.


A feeling of powerlessness and an inability to make themselves heard.


Your hunger is never satisfied, your thirst is never quenched, you can never sleep until you are no longer tired.

– Senegal

These are just a few of many quotes from those in “poor” countries, do you see any differences between their definitions of poverty and your own definition of poverty?

Americans are very tunnel visioned on instant gratification when it comes to almost everything, even charitable giving. Studies have shown that people are less likely to give to a ministry or outreach unless tangible results are accessible within a period. Which is why “we” send teams to construct buildings in third world countries, because we want to see the results of what we accomplished, we rarely take time to examine what the long term economic effects are of “us” sending the team, Robert Lupton says this;

The money spent by one campus ministry to cover the costs of their Central American mission trip to repaint an orphanage would have been sufficient to hire two local painters and two new full-time teachers and purchase new uniforms for every student in the school.

Instead of sending inexperienced youth to accomplish what the natives can accomplish themselves, we blindly ignore the impact that we could be having for Gods kingdom because we are unaware of the toxicity that we are spreading.

Even the most kindhearted, rightly motivated giving—as innocent as giving Christmas toys to needy children—can exact an unintended toll on a parent’s dignity.

Relief, Rehabilitation, Development

Agape Internation Missions says,

  • Relief is the “urgent and temporary provision of emergency aid to reduce immediate suffering from a natural or man-made crisis.”42 Economic conditions plummet, and help is needed to “halt the free fall.”43 Relief may also be applied on an individual level: On the first night when a child is rescued out of being exploited by traffickers and pedophiles, her immediate needs may be a safe place to stay, medical care, and food. Counseling, therapy, schooling, etc. come later.
  • Rehabilitation begins as soon as the immediate needs are met, and “it seeks to restore people and their communities to the positive elements of their pre-crisis conditions.”44 Importantly, while relief was largely assistance provided to helpless people, rehabilitation works with victims of disaster to empower them in participating in their own recovery.45 For the children being rescued out of trafficking, this step may be the process of counseling and therapy whereby they begin to understand their trauma and, more importantly, understand who they are in Christ Jesus. This is the bridge between relief and development.
  • Development is the “process of ongoing change that moves all the people involved—both the ‘helpers’ and the ‘helped’—closer to being in right relationship with God”46 and dealing with all of the forms of poverty we discussed yesterday (spiritual, internal, community, and material). It is a process that people do with each other, not simply for each other.47 This is the process not simply of rebuilding, but of helping impoverished people become productive such that they can care for their own needs and the needs of others. It is the process of discipleship that makes a new believer able to lead and disciple others to know Jesus; and it is the process of working with a child sex trafficking victim to be an empowered individual, whose identity is in Christ and who is able to contribute and give back to her community as God planned for her.

The North American church, hardly contemplates the above definitions, and that results in us treating many places as a “relief effort” instead of helping them “develop.”

Think of the transformation that would occur if mission trips were converted from make-work to development work; if soup kitchen servanthood were redirected to afford homeless men the dignity of securing their own food; if Saturday service projects shifted from pity to partnership; if government giveaways became accountable investments.

It’s time that we realize that we have been giving out of uninformed compassion, as I said earlier good intentions, do not always produce good charity.

Until Next Week



Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our AWESOME Newsletter!
in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list and get a free copy of our new BOOK! You will also get exclusive offers, and exclusive podcast episodes!