Robert Lupton has worked among the poor in the United States, particularly Atlanta, for over 40 years. During that time, he has learned much about the best ways to help people. There are approaches that work well, some that only temporarily help, and some that actually hurt communities in the long run.
The problem of poverty has been with the human race almost since the beginning of our existence. God told the Israelites in Moses’ time: “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11) Centuries later, Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you.” (Matthew 26:11) He fed thousands of hungry people as an example for us to follow.
Jump ahead to present times. In the metropolitan area I live in, the number of homeless shelters, housing subsidies, food pantries/trucks/kitchens, clothing banks, free phones, and other helping programs are increasing. But it doesn’t seem to be having much of an effect on the number of impoverished people. Do we just give up? Absolutely not! We still have a responsibility to help our brothers who are struggling. Some of our methods are flawed though. Mr. Lupton gives his thoughtful suggestions on making charity something that truly lifts people up, even though it may take longer to accomplish.
Excerpt from pages 129-130:
Anyone who has served among the poor for any length of time will recognize the following progression:
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
Excerpt from page 179:
But when we mainly look on the negative aspects of a community, we overlook the legitimate business entrepreneurs, the good parents, the wise grandmothers. When we focus on what is wrong, we miss what is right. And our strategies for helping are driven by combating problems rather than strengthening potential.