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The Problem with Good Intentions

The Problem with Good Intentions

My motives when I serve are noble. I want to do good things: help the poor, care for the sick, share God’s word. It’s all good. But, sometimes I get burned.

I get burned not by those I’m helping—they are generally appreciative and kind. I get burned because serving doesn’t always produce the results I hoped for. Often we put our needs and the needs of our Church ahead of the needs of those we are helping.

The Church wants a three-hour Saturday morning mission experience in the inner city. The Church wants a 7-day trip to Africa to build a well. I want to scoop mashed potatoes onto a plate and peer into the eyes of a hungry child and feel good about it. Face it. It’s true.

What the inner city mission really needs is tutors on Thursday nights, and the village in Africa needs a micro loan program to build sustainable business so they can build their own well, and maybe that hungry child needs a parent with a living wage. I’m not sure—but, I never took the time to find out. I just did what I thought was best.

I’m a “religious tourist.” I’m a “social worker,” not a neighbor. I like to “do things for” other people rather than “do things with” other people. I want a short-term feel-good experience and am not always interested in a long-term investment opportunity.

I have a hunch I’m not alone.

Are you with me? What are we going to do about it?

-These are reflections from Robert Lupton’s recent book Toxic Charity. Christianity Today recently shared this article about the topic.


One Response

  1. Mrs Bivens:
     I totally agree and wish I was in the position to assist, I used to volunteer back in California many many years ago… I think your answer may be pursuing your own Mission or program to help the needy using Grants.  It’s an extraordinary feat, but it can be done, with will and drive (u got it!) and the resources are out there in your reach… The satisfaction would be immense!  ;-) I know a good friend that writes Grants! ;-)

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