Meeting Needs vs. Seeking Shalom

One of the main slogans publicized by our friends at The Lupton Center in their Seeking Shalom class designed to have us “rethink charity” states: Stop meeting needs; start seeking shalom.  I belong to a church that offers this class to the congregation and embraces it’s teachings.  Despite my protest against it, leadership there very specifically rejects my rebuttal going so far as to say that my ministry does more harm than good.  I could not be more outright rejected.

But it’s not me being rejected.  Not really.  I bear real pain over it, yes, but I did not merely express my simple opinion, and made no protests on a whim, and despite the effort to turn my protests into an issue about me and my attitude, it’s really Jesus that is being rejected.  Jesus and the poor.

The church I belong to has a rich heritage of being “biblical”.  In fact, I have joined a number of Bible studies offered in this church where we search the Scriptures and listen, really listen, to the Word of God and submit to his authority as it is there revealed.  From time to time that listening process (in group settings) produces debates.  Not, generally, stern arguments, but various proposals for understanding a given passage are weighed in the discourse.  Frequently one proposal appears to hold more weight than another as they are analyzed carefully.  However, in practically all of these studies, the lesson is then spiritualized and made somewhat generic.  They do not call for a specific action from individuals or groups, but rather some spiritualized mental assent (or not).

In the Lupton class, there is a push to revamp the way people traditionally view almsgiving and charity.  They want us to “stop meeting needs” and “start seeking shalom”.

When it comes to “seeking shalom”, there is something of that spiritualized mental assent left up to the individual to embrace in that nebulous way that Bible studies often enable.  Basically, it’s a spiritual feel-good notion.  You can feel really enlightened by embracing it.

That said, I would not in anyway wish to inhibit shalom.  Surely shalom is the Christian goal, the description of Christian utopia, no less!  In fact, if there is a criticism here, it is the rhetoric of the statement that suggests we were not seeking shalom before we took the class.  If there is any truth to that, then we have a far more sinister heart problem than the nebulous mental assent can handle.  But if it never was a real problem, and if we had in fact been seeking shalom all along, then it is just a rhetorical device that lends rhetorical weight, not real substance, to the Lupton Center program.

However, the first part of the slogan, “Stop meeting needs”, is not so nebulous, and in fact the Lupton class explores this notion at length in various ways and approaches.  Very specific prohibitions (along with some general ones too) are discussed.  One thing for sure, according to this philosophy, you should never give cash to a needy person.  In fact, you should never give them anything they can obtain some other way.  You should never do for a needy person something they can do for themselves.  The idea is that a needy person has needs alright, but it will only do them more harm than good if you meet their needs rather than direct them to meet their needs themselves.

Now… back to the Bible.

First off, as I search the Scriptures, I NEVER find a passage that says anything like “Stop meeting needs; start seeking shalom”.  It’s not a verse anywhere in there.  There are no such sayings, no such directives, and no examples demonstrating this “wisdom” in any concrete fashion at all.  If, and I mean IF, you can find a passage that lends weight to this notion, it is only in the most abstract way.  You really have to work it in between the lines.  This runs a strong risk of being eisegesis, not exegesis.

On the contrary, just reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry (never mind all the rich narratives, the prophets, the psalms and proverbs that would challenge this slogan), we find him meeting needs on page after page – sometimes in rapid fire/quick succession – multiple times with various people.

He heals Peter’s mother-in-law of her fever, the paralytic lowered through the roof, numerous demoniacs (including the one called Legion), lame people, blind people, lepers, a bleeding woman, a dead girl, a dead man, a dead son, and on and on and on and on.  News of his needs-meeting abilities spread like wildfire and crowds come from far and wide to see him, hear him, touch him, be touched by him, even for him to just walk past them.  If meeting needs were somehow inhibitive of shalom, Jesus would be doing more harm than good!

But he’s not done.  Even his own apostles find themselves in need, certainly on a boat in a storm, and they cry out in fear.  And he asks why they have no faith!  It would seem that they should be having faith that would save them, but they don’t, and so he meets their need by stilling the storm (pretty much half the definition of shalom, btw).  And what about the “woman caught in the act”?  This is a woman caught up in her own sin, caught in the very act, and there is no dispute about it!  She should not behave like this.  She got herself into this mess with her own poor choices, and the law would have her stoned, but not Jesus.  Jesus meets her need and spares her life!

How did there come to be a wedge driven between the meeting of needs and the seeking of shalom?

I don’t know for sure where it came from, but I am certain that it did not come from God.

Meeting needs does no harm to shalom.  Don’t let the nice folx at the Lupton Center tell you otherwise.  And I hope, really hope, your church does not reject Jesus and embrace this garbage.  If it does, I challenge you to show me where God’s Word ever tells you to “Stop meeting needs; start seeking shalom”.  Listen to me carefully here.  I am not saying show me how smart you think it is; I’m saying show me where God says this.

If you can, I will hush my mouth.


  1. God never says it. Jesus never says it. The Holy Spirit flat out rejects it. It is hokum.

    Thanks for speaking the prophetic truth.

    God is with you.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jesus says: “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Agent X · June 21, 2018

    Anonymous comment sent in:

    So….is the local congregation going to stop feeding families after funerals? Are they going to stop encouraging people to be foster families? What does seeking shalom look like in these matters? So what did Jesus envision us doing for people in jail? And the others of Matthew 25? One would be curious as to what this kind of shalom looks like!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. clashofcashntrash · June 21, 2018

    Something smells funny to me about this post.

    I am suspicious of the thing about “nebulous mental assent” vs. “specific prohibitions.”

    You describe how your church has a heritage of being biblical – analyzing the bible very carefully. Maybe even debating fine points of doctrine and all that, but its all sort of “generic” and “spiritualized” mental assent. All of it matters of mental assent. All of it.

    until you start talking about the poor.

    Suddenly there is something specific to prohibit.

    Why is it that your BS (bible study) suddenly gets a spine and deals with real world dos and donts when it comes to the poor?

    I have an idea. I think you should write a curriculum for a Bible class on how to deal with the rich! I wonder what bible passages you would find for that class! You are always quoting Luke 1:53 for one thing.

    Oh wow! I bet it would be a hard class to sit in. But maybe you should offer it to the bums on the street. After all, the rich white people at your church take a class about how to deal with the poor. Maybe the poor should get a class about how to deal with the rich.

    What do ya think?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agent X · June 21, 2018


      Was missing you. Glad to have you back.

      Great idea. I will have to look into that.

      I wonder if any other readers here would have some ideas about that BS.

      Liked by 1 person

      • clashofcashntrash · June 21, 2018

        One more thing, theres a story about a bunch of drunks at a wedding party running out of wine. Turns out that a bunch of drunks running out of wine midway through the party puts them in NEED.

        So Jesus (the miracle bartender) meets that need seeking shalom too!

        I bet the homeless charity church avoids that bible lesson too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Agent X · June 22, 2018

        I should have mentioned the feeding of the 5000 and the 4000 too.

        Talk about feeding people a fish for a day, Jesus did it more than once. You would think… Wouldn’t you?… that of all people, Jesus would know that if you feed a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish (for fish, not men), then you feed him for life.

        Wonder how he didn’t get that memo.

        And what kind of idiots follow a nut into the desert and nobody takes a sandwich? They never learn that way. You need to teach these people that according to the Gospel of Jesus NOTHING IS FREE! It’s a DO IT YOURSELF GOSPEL, don’t you know?

        Yeah. Jesus really blew, huh?


  5. Jonathan Erdman · June 21, 2018

    Jesus seemed more inclined toward outrageous generosity, like going over the top with this grace thing. So, when the disciples ask him to put a number on how many times they should forgive someone who takes advantage of them (“seven times?”), Jesus essentially says that there’s no end to forgiveness. So, yeah. Going the opposite direction and refusing charity seems to sort of be anti-Christ. Like most pro-American and pro-capitalist Christians, they are likely working on a project of trying to reconcile bringing together God and money, despite Jesus’ warning that you can’t serve both.

    Still, I sympathize with the desire to find an underlying solution to poverty rather than just throwing money at folk, but that investigation would take people into a discussion of capitalism itself and the deeper economic and psychological destruction that capitalism causes. From my own investigation, capitalism creates and perpetuates enmity between people and living beings, quite the opposite of shalom and quite the opposite of the project of cosmic redemption initiated by Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. GraceandTruth · June 21, 2018

    The problem is “programs” in the church. The church is run as a business now with business/marketing jargon and models. People have to keep coming up with new “innovative” programs to create “paradigm shifts” so we can “reimagine” things and thereby get the $$$ because the simplicity of the Word doesn’t satisfy anymore. We have itching ears that need to be scratched by all manner of worldly garbage. It makes me want to vomit. Let’s cut the marketing BS and just get back to the Bible.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Debi · June 22, 2018

    I might have missed it (I do have a difficult time focusing these days), but exactly how must we seek shalom, according to them?

    I think the BS for the poor about how to minister to the rich is a great idea! I’d love to see a brainstorming session on that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · June 22, 2018

      Great question!

      To be fair, I did not offer their version of seeking shalom. So, no, you did not miss it. However, I did take the class, and I don’t remember a clear teaching on it. I suspect there was some comment about it, but I am clear that the major thrust of the message was about stopping the meeting of needs (so as to avoid making matters worse), not so much about the shalom. I think they have in mind that by not making things worse, from the cessation of meeting needs, will then provide the shalom automatically. But that is MY perception based on memory, not a review of the material with your question in mind. So I need to be fair about that.

      As for the BS and the brain storming. I too like the idea. But I have not tried to develop it. I wonder if you would kick off the brain storm.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Debi · June 23, 2018

    I personally cannot see how to feel and/or seek shalom while seeing the homeless on the street.

    Having said that, I will admit that there is a part of me that wants to crawl under a bridge somewhere to miss the fallout of the world we currently live in. It all scares me, and with everything in my life right now, I don’t know how to deal with it or be a productive member of society as we’re “supposed to be.”

    As for kicking off a brainstorming session on how to create a Bible Study or class or discussion on the poor ministering to the rich, how would I do that? I obviously have blog access on WordPress, but I only use it to read and respond to the blogs I subscribe to. I am not a blogger myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · June 23, 2018

      I don’t see how you drive past homeless people and seek shalom either. That comment makes sense to me.

      Wishing to crawl under a bridge and hide out from the scary world… I sympathize with that. I am sorry you suffer such concerns. If it’s helpful to you, I don’t know, but I happen to believe that if we celebrate Jesus (throw a big party in his honor and invite everybody, esp the poor and needy, there is power in that to heal the deep wounds in our world).

      As for brainstorming, I am giving that post thought myself. I have not developed the thoughts yet, but I was thinking you and other readers might make suggestions for it here in the comments, and I would be thrilled to take them into account as I develop it.

      God bless, and thanx for coming around once in a while. Miss you sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. laceduplutheran · June 23, 2018

    X, I’m one of those weirdos that thinks meeting needs and seeking shalom go hand in hand. I don’t understand how the two could be separated? Second, have you read the book – Living without Enemies? It talks about working for, working with, being for, and being with. There are many keep insights in this book. It’s argument is that God is about with. And at the same time, it is not bad to be for. All of these things move us towards deeper relationship with God and neighbor, but in different ways. Being with is the hardest though. It strips the advantages and makes us equal. Being with is painful. It opens us to actually seeing the humanity of those we are with. It is no longer about serving someone else who is different, it is about being with a brother and sister in Christ. It leads to being for, working for, and working with. That’s my take on it anyway. How can we really work or be for someone if we have not been with them, see them as a brother and sister in Christ?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Debi · June 23, 2018

    I have a suggestion on the brainstorming thing… Take all the comments you get and copy and paste them into a separate blog that you can publish and republish as needed. That would keep the thread cohesive and complete.

    Now, here is my first comment on that subject…

    It occurs to me that my comment from before would be a good start…

    [Having said that, I will admit that there is a part of me that wants to crawl under a bridge somewhere to miss the fallout of the world we currently live in. It all scares me, and with everything in my life right now, I don’t know how to deal with it or be a productive member of society as we’re “supposed to be.”]…

    How many are literally hiding under a bridge? And why? And do the rich have any clue why they are there? I wonder how many are hiding from a scary world, and if there is something that THEY feel could be done to make the world not so scary, and thus make it possible for them to be “productive members of society.” This would be a good thing to tell the rich, wouldn’t it? [Realizing, of course, that not all homeless folks aim to become productive.]

    I am not homeless, although I sold my house (thanks be to God) in Maryland and am back in Oklahoma helping my father (again). So I am staying at his house while he is in rehab, and will stay here until he is, God willing, settled into assisted living. He plans to sell the house once he’s completely moved, but there is some possibility that I could stay here through the winter. My only other options are my camper (which is currently still in Maryland), or buy another house, but God has not yet told me where I am supposed to be.

    I realize I’ve gotten a bit off track here, but before I sign off, I just want to say that I fully agree with your comment that throwing a party for Jesus is a beautiful way of coming out of ourselves and healing. I might just have found a church near here that will help me do just that.



  11. Pingback: Meeting Needs vs. Seeking Shalom — Fat Beggars School of Prophets – Hard Times Ministries

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