I went to Bible class at church last winter and studied a course called “Seeking Shalom” put out by The Lupton Center with R. Lupton, (author of Toxic Charity) and S. Corbett and B. Fikkert (co-authors of When Helping Hurts) as major contributors. I gave them a fair hearing, but they managed to miss Jesus by a country mile as they set out their guidance for charitable almsgiving.
Some of the salient points of the “Seeking Shalom” curriculum were as follows:
First there is the advertising slogan which says, “Stop meeting needs; start seeking shalom”.
Yes, the course makes a point to drive a wedge between the ideas of meeting someone’s needs and seeking peace and harmony with them. You can search your Bible backward and forward; you will not find a verse, a psalm, a sermon or a prayer that even remotely suggests that you should stop meeting the needs of others as a part of God’s agenda of Shalom for his creation.
Secondly, as I recall, one of the lessons featured an animated video about a woman taking buckets of fresh water into a neighborhood that did not have fresh drinking water. She took buckets of fresh water to these needy people every day and even inspired her friends to help. Soon, she and her friends were supplying hundreds of needy people with fresh water, but this was deemed foolish. Those needy people should have been getting their own water – “Who Says Their Buckets Are Empty?” – or so goes the worldly wisdom of this video that never even bothered to associate itself with a Bible in the slightest regard.
Thirdly, a scenario was presented where a group of caring people were tasked with figuring out how they might feed a nation of starving men, women, and children. The group pooled their best thinking and resources and quickly determined that they could air-drop tons of rice for the starving people. (Personally, I thought it was quite remarkable that in the scenario this group could manage such an extravagant relief effort!). But the scenario ended when the group was told, “Congratulations. You just put ten local rice farmers out of business!”
Once again, the lesson did not even bother consulting a Bible at all. It simply used a harsh rhetorical tone to garner sympathy for business interests over those of starving men, women, and children! Protect the business interest first, and find some way of feeding the people as an afterthought – apparently.
And then fourthly, Lupton asks the students in the “Seeking Shalom” class to take an oath. (Yes, never mind what Jesus says in Matthew 5:34 about taking oaths, if you want to seek shalom with Lupton and friends, this is how you do it!) Below is a copy of that oath:
I will never do for others what they have the capacity to do for themselves.
I will limit one-way giving to crises and seek always to find ways for legitimate exchange.
I will seek ways to empower by hiring, lending, and investing and offer gifts as incentives to celebrate achievements.
I will put the interests of those experiencing poverty above my own even when it means setting aside my own agenda or the agenda of my organization.
I will listen carefully, even to not what is being said knowing that unspoken feelings may contain essential clues to healthy engagement.
And, above all, to the best of my ability, I will do no harm.
I don’t mean to suggest it all sounds stupid. That is not my case, even if you decide it does. No. Some bits of the oath are not anti-biblical, but some are. Thus I am pointing out how unbiblical, even anti-biblical, major parts of this class is. And I think it is clear that The Good Samaritan did NOT take Lupton’s course. If he had, Jesus would not have held him up as exemplary.
Check out what the Good Samaritan does:
Following hot on the heels of a priest and a Levite, neither one of whom stopped to help a needy person in distress (one almost wonders if these fine church people graduated from the Lupton Center course), the Good Samaritan swoops into action. He takes on the risk and the burden of even stopping to help. And when he helps, Jesus describes how he “had compassion” which took shape by the way he bandaged up the needy man’s wounds, put the needy man on “his own animal” and took him to the next inn where he paid the innkeeper from his own wallet for their lodging where the Good Samaritan then continued his care through the night. Come morning, the Good Samaritan wasn’t done helping the man yet, but paid the innkeeper and instructed him to continue the care for the needy man and if expenses continued to accumulate, he would pay that bill upon his next visit!
This is how Jesus describes being a neighbor! This is Jesus’s way of having eternal life in the age to come – something we might characterize as SHALOM!
There is not one whit of concern that the Good Samaritan should not help, but every concern that he does! There is not one whit of concern that the Good Samaritan might help the needy man too much, in fact he seems to go above and beyond, and even beyond that too! I mean, you really might think Jesus is in favor of creating dependency as part of finding shalom. (Just look at the Jerusalem church in Acts 2 and 4 selling everything they own, putting it all in community, and no one lacks anything! You might think they came to depend on each other as a matter of purpose! But let’s stick with the Good Samaritan for now.)
These days it is deemed wise to purchase a cup of coffee at a coffee shop that will send part of the proceeds of your purchase to a charitable organization and let them wisely sort out who deserves the charity you offered when you indulged yourself in a nice cup of coffee. The Good Samaritan, the man Jesus holds up as a real neighbor on the other hand, uses his own oil and wine to bandage up the needy man himself, loads him on his own animal (comparable to picking him up in his own car) and takes him to the same hotel where he plans to spend the night (not dropping him off at some cheap, flea bag joint), and there he continues the sacrificial care for a man he doesn’t even know, who is of a race usually hostile to his! And when he leaves, he sets up a care plan that he himself will finance! He will look in on the needy man again when he has time! All of this without any mention that he might do too much. No worry that he might create dependence. Every reason to believe that this does not threaten the needy man’s dignity. And rather than calling this a “savior complex” and suggesting that should be avoided, Jesus instead calls this neighborly and claims it leads to life in the age to come!
If you value what Jesus says… If you think THE BIBLE makes even the wisdom of the world look foolish to God… Then gather up all the Lupton, Corbett, and Fikkert books and materials, and burn them in a barrel down by the river where the bums keep warm next winter. That will be a good use for them!
Oh… and while you are there, practice being a good neighbor to the bums you find there in distress. Shalom awaits those who do.