Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Does Charity = Love?

Does "giving to charity" result in love? Is it transformative? For the giver? For the receiver?

There's the old saying, "Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime." I wonder of the extent of that statement.

Someone else recently got me thinking about this (I don't remember if it was Claiborne or who, sorry). And then I've had a couple of discussions with others about short term missions lately. In seminary, I went through a phase where I thought short term mission trips were ridiculous. The money exerted seemed a waste and that if we'd just give that money raised to the people we set out to help, we'd help them more than by spending it all on our own transportation. But short term mission trips are hardly about those with or to whom we minister. The transformation inevitably takes place in those of us who go. It's somewhat like pilgrimage.

Anyway, I've often wished that I had millions of dollars with which I could do great things. Who, at some point in their life, hasn't? But as I've thought about it lately, I'm not sure how much long-term good I could truly do with it. True transformation, both for myself and for my neighbor, has hardly anything to do with money. Yes, money is the currency of human power, and power is very important, but when it comes down to it, transformation through experience and relationship is what I'm really seeking and is what the world really needs.

I don't know...I just don't envision Jesus sitting around handing out money.


  1. To answer your first rhetorical question, "Does 'giving to charity' result in love?", I'd say "Not necessarily." For instance, sponsoring a child involves sending amounts of money monthly to provide for his/her basic needs, but it takes a relationship with that child to create significance/meaning. The distance makes it less impactful (not to say there is NO impact, only that it typically is smaller), just as Rob Bell (?) referred to giving money to the homeless person on the other side of the street.

    Occasionally, I think that short term missions trips are a little less than a waste. I mostly think this about missions trips that are a huge production with elaborate setups and all sorts of things like that (NOT YIM, though). However, I do agree with your final point about transformation through experience and relationship.

    World issues, social justice issues, hit harder to one's heart when there are faces to the issues: having a friend who is homosexual and meeting people that live in a border community are two of these situations. On my past two YIM trips, we don't necessarily leave the churches with a wad of cash, or buy supplies for them -- this summer I remember a few times where we purposely only used supplies that could be found in the country. It was more important to encourage the churches, give them ideas, and give them a push in the right direction than to make a big production out of our simple presence.

  2. what up brother...i haven't been here in a while and here you are posting like mad...anyway, readin this post reminded me of a book i read and has become important too me...

    And you Call Yourself a Christian?: Towards responsible charity by Bob Lupton...the CCDA put it out, you should check it out...i miss you bro