St. Paul, the same apostle who wrote, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1) also calls himself a “bond-slave” (Rom. 1:1, II Cor. 4:5, Phil. 1:1), referring to himself a bit more indirectly as such even in the same letter to the Galatians (1:10), designating some of this closest friends and companions as such also (Col. 1:7 and 4:7), just as some of his fellow apostles use the same self-designation as well (Jas. 1:1, II Pet. 1:1, Jude 1, and Rev. 1:1).  For the most part, the very first Christian leaders in The Way saw themselves as bond-slaves of Jesus/God.

What is a bond-slave?

Well, first, let us compare a bond-slave to a slave.  I don’t think I have to tell you what a “slave” is.  You have a good idea of that already, and no doubt the slavery us modern, Americans are most familiar with is the slavery our nation used to trade in before President Lincoln emancipated the slaves and we fought the Civil War.  Slavery of that kind was reserved almost exclusively for black people.

But all through world history, people of all kinds have been enslaved.  And not all slaves were black, not all slaves picked cotton or served in the house.  Not all slaves were poor.  Some were trusted with remarkable and sensitive responsibilities – even running the family business.  Some slaves grew rich and relatively powerful.

To be honest, I don’t know that much about slavery.  In fact, the term “slave” might have relatively well defined meaning, yet it might, as far as I can tell, be applied to a vassal king even.

However, a slave is always beholding to their master.  A slave is a servant, serving at the direction of the lord, or lords, over him/her.  A slave is not his/her own master doing freely whatever they like.

So what is a “bond-slave” then?

Well, sometimes a slave would be set free by their master.  This might occur for any number of reasons.  Perhaps enslavement was agreed upon for a short time (not all slavery was a life-sentence).  Perhaps freedom was a reward for some job well done.

However, when freedom was offered to a slave, it was not always considered the desirable option to the slave!  (This part sounds most remarkable to us American types, given the pictures of slavery and of liberty we have.)  A slave offered freedom MIGHT, on some occasions, consider their lot in life as a slave to THIS particular master, to be a better proposition than even freedom!  (I don’t know any Americans who think like THAT.)

When a slave was offered freedom and found the servitude with that master a better option, then that slave would counter the offer of freedom with the offer to become a bond-slave, a person committing freely for life to be a slave to their master who is setting them free – which traditionally entailed having their ear pierced with an awl.  A whole ceremony devoted to this life-long commitment to be a slave to a beloved master.

When St. Paul (and the other apostles) depict themselves as bond-slaves, they are saying they have been set free by Jesus and have chosen to remain his servants for life.  They have traded their freedom for the LOVE of their Master.

That, of course, is a deeply un-American kind of choice.

My blog post here is not intended to educate you on bond-slavery.  If you already know about this stuff, you surely see I have not explored it in depth at all.  I merely introduce the idea.  If you never knew this stuff before, then I urge you to “google” it.  Learn more.


Bond-slavery … &… Me


I only point this stuff out as a backdrop to other thoughts.  These other thoughts are not, strictly speaking, a direct outgrowth of bond-slavery at all.  The relationship is not a one-to-one correspondence or a result of that kind of thing at all.

But thinking about bond-slavery pushes boundaries in my American mind.  It opens up categories of thought THIS American is not apt to consider otherwise.

There is a lot of controversy these days about wearing masks and keeping social distance.  The politics have come to divide us up on these things.  I might be “giving up” my civil liberties if I wear a mask.  I might be kowtowing to fear if I wear a mask.  That kind of thing.

But here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, that part about the orphans has become state-sanctioned for the last five years or so.  It wasn’t always like this, but we decided to become “official” about it.

To be honest, you don’t have to become official to keep a needy child in your home.  In fact, being unofficial has it’s perks!  And for that matter, if you want to keep sojourners (HOMELESS), it’s probably best to be unofficial and “keep it on the DL” as they say.  The fewer neighbors and law enforcement that know about it, the free-er you are to do what needs to be done (until you are discovered and they send Channel 9 News out to do a story on you and how you have upset the neighbors (ask for details on that kind of thing)).

We used to do this with children too.  Several kids, on an unofficial basis, stayed with us off and on through the years.  Street people too, for that matter.  However, when we became “official,” we had to become licensed too.  Suddenly we paid a lot of money to take a lot of classes.  Now we have various state agencies inspecting our home, we submit to fingerprint and background checks.  Sometimes we face surprise inspections, frequently we face them announced.  There are always new certifications to get!  And I thought I was gonna be busy changing diapers!

All manner of things we do (did) and take (took) for granted in our home become subject to scrutiny, enhancement, or are even placed off limits.  We have special locks, alarms, and thermometers in our refrigerator.  People we don’t even know come and make judgments about us of all kinds – nurses, lawyers, firemen, code-enforcement, you name it.

And believe it or not, we are known as trustable because of this – but I note we are not trusted hardly at all.

We are second-guessed on everything.  We expect to be second-guessed on lots of things.  It is not pleasant.  It is invasive.  It feels ugly.  This kind of regulation strikes at the core of our liberty!

(It also means I don’t keep street people in our home anymore.)

This stuff is not really the SAME as bond-slavery.  Even saying “similar” is too strong a word for it.  But there are dynamics there which are points of contact in both which are undeniable and sacrificial.

We do this for the LOVE of God.

Sure, there are perks to being official.

It’s not the money we get.  Yes, we get some.  That pittance offsets maybe a fourth of the added expense of taking in kids.  (I am being generous with that number.)  But no doubt on those occasions when we take a kid to the doctor (I have been to the ER a half dozen times over the years doing this), we don’t fork up the big expenses either, nor do we face liabilities since our inspections are up to date.

Nevertheless, you have to really GAME the system to make any money in this business, and I don’t even know how.  Thus, the only other motive for giving up so much freedom is the LOVE we have for God and for kids.

And I find wearing a mask to be a tiny fraction of that pain.

When it comes to taking the form of a bond-slave (which Jesus does (Phil. 2:7)), this kind of self-denial is mere baby steps.  But you gotta start somewhere.

Who wants to be a bond-slave for Jesus?  Who wants to find the ironic freedom to be found in selling yourself as a slave to LOVE?

I don’t think of myself as a bond-slave.  Not really.  I think of myself as an American wading in the kiddie pool of service.  But, I can see the deep end from here.  I figured I should tell you what it looks like… even from this perspective.

Worth considering.


I intend this to be the LAST in this series of critiques – in THESE series of critiques (since there are seven of them dealing with When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert preceding these as well).  Please look for them, assuming you actually have interest in such things.  

Keep in mind, both series of critiques are COPIES from composition books of notes I kept WHILE reading these books as part of my research into the forth coming project on HEAVEN’s HOSPITALITY.  These notes are only slightly edited.  They were not initially intended to be shared – certainly not like this.  But as that larger project has grown so big, and the centrality of HOSPITALITY has proven so potent and important, I find that the address of these books and the theories they present deserves far less attention than I originally imagined.  

Here’s the thing: I have spent much of the last 8 years rebutting When Helping Hurts (WHH) in meetings, seminars, face-to-face, and on this blog.  Once I began researching HEAVEN’s HOSPITALITY, I found in the Bible not so much a rebuttal of the WHH thesis and philosophy as a replacement for it.  But even wording it like that sells it short.  The HOSPITALITY is what we should have been aiming at all along.  The WHH nonsense is the replacement for God’s HOSPITALITY program, and not a worthy one at that.  In fact, I think we have been so busy, as American Christians for the last 40 years or more, pulling away from the poor as we give our hearts more and more to the wealth of our nation and to the health-n-wealth Gospel, that the backside of that phenom in addition to the pulling away and is the insulation of ourselves from the poor in evermore ingenious ways.  When Helping Hurts and Toxic Charity have proven to be powerful as part of that insolation.  They talk like we care while providing cover for the fact that we don’t.

Meanwhile, HEAVEN’s HOSPITALITY has been neglected, and now that I have discovered it, I want to talk MORE about THAT than I do shooting holes in the TOXIC critique of our traditional CHARITY.  BUT, I have these extensive notes on these books too, which I think still have value even though I plan to minimize the critique in favor of advancing the HOSPITALITY.  (I expect the critique is worth one chapter in the forthcoming project, but not half or more.)  Thus, I publish the raw reactions here on the blog, in part to refresh my own thoughts, but more to put this critique out there.  

I think that when we are REALLY HONEST about it, Corbett and Fikkert and Lupton (and others like them) bring up, at least a FEW, good points for us to consider.  I am not against modifying our charity, and certainly not against talking about it.  However, if we continue being REALLY HONEST about it, I think the vast majority of people buying and reading books like this fall into one of two overarching categories of readers.  1) “Christians” who feel great relief in finding what appears to be God-ordained approval to stop giving to the poor, that they have found the smokescreen behind which to hide their contempt for the poor and/or their greed, and 2) “Christians” who recognize there are dimensions of the “traditional charity model(s)” that probably can stand to be reviewed, but who then are a bit baffled by the smokescreen which SEEMS to be God’s way of saying not to give to the poor, not to care in some “harmful” way, and thus they become scared to help too much for fear of getting it wrong.  

This latter category suffers a “paralysis of analysis” in a sense.  And I have seen, on Wikipedia, where Brian Fikkert himself point this out and worries about it.  People reading his work, taking it to heart, and trying to apply his principles have discovered that it is hard, that it doesn’t really work anymore “effectively” than the traditional models.  These folx then feel stuck, and not knowing how to move forward just throw in the towel and walk away from the poor altogether.

I pick apart these books to confront the first category of readers and to give help to the second.  The Bible does not actually teach what Corbett, Fikkert, and Lupton teach.  But then it does not aim at the same goals either.  Jesus’s Kingdom is not OF this world.  It is FOR this world, yes, but not of it, and it employs the foolishness of God rather than the wisdom of men, since the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men. 

Jesus dies on a cross, a Roman cross, more than 2000 years ago.  What does that save?  How does that save??  Who does that save… from what???

How is Jesus the answer to all the world’s problems?  

“Sound business principles” step in to save the Salvation of Jesus from the stupidity of discipleship – according to Corbett, Fikkert, and Lupton.  Not their words for it, but that’s what their books distill down to nonetheless!  

I am wrapping up this series with the last part of my composition book notes on Toxic Charity.  I will want to make a few final editorial remarks about this last entry midway through.  Look for the red font color.  I feel sure in this raw presentation there is much cumbersome redundancy and complexity which could have been refined quite a lot.  But if you are willing to weed through it all, I think the critiques have value and help you if you fall into that latter category.

Thanx for reading here.



MISC. Concerns with Lupton


I have narrowed my main argument(s) with Lupton’s book down to his worry about DEPENDENCY and his promotion of the use of LOANS over against GIVING.  I have focused on these 2 (the second being of two parts), and examined each one in the light of Scripture (or more accurately his lack of attention to Scripture).  Thus, Lupton’s lack of, and under/mis-use of, Scripture is actually a 3rd feature of my critique, but a feature relating in it’s own way to the other two – maybe an umbrella feature under which the other two fit.

That said, there are yet other features of Lupton’s book I take issue with as well, but maybe not as powerfully as those listed above.  In reality, there is hardly a page of Toxic Charity where I don’t find issues with which to quibble.  Yet I found Lupton’s presentation of the case that charity, as done in the church, can and should be rethought to be more consistent (fewer contradictions) and at one or possibly two points more compelling (raising worthwhile questions to consider) than the very similar book called When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert.

I am being complimentary about this.  I think Lupton’s observation about “religious tourism” has merit and should be explored.  I think the inconsistencies in When Helping Hurts far outweigh the few that Lupton makes.  And I find his style to be strong and convicting.  I want to take care and give praise to the extent I find it worthy.  I take Lupton’s book seriously.  In fact, he shares a story in chapter 9 (page 157) that I actually like.

Nevertheless, the 3 features (one over arching umbrella and two subpoints – DEPENDENCY and LOANS) I isolate and analyze in light of the lack of biblical support, and they make up the bulk of my reaction.

Still, I have several smaller concerns as well.  Maybe just questions that don’t have answers, but maybe they are worthy of note.

Why does Lupton, over the course of 191 pages, question so profoundly AND refute so strongly traditional charity AND do so addressing the church (people of faith) expecting to persuade us without more Bible?

(Okay, that is really my big concern and not one of the small ones… but bear with me a moment as I sort this out…)

Seriously, in this whole book, only 12 points clearly relate to God or his Word?  (And I am being generous with my count of 12!)

(Okay, so here is where I am driving at with a new thrust…)

At NO POINT in the whole of Toxic Charity does Lupton EVER EVEN MENTION, much less consider, the CROSS of CHRIST, the SPIRIT of God, or the RESURRECTION from the dead.  NOT EVEN A PASSING THOUGHT.

Yet these things are FOUNDATIONAL to EVERYTHING in the Christian faith.  None of them make sense to the “secular” world at all, but they make sense to the faithful and undergird EVERYTHING!  These things are indispensable, yet completely ignored in Lupton’s book.

Thus, it seems to me that we people of faith already have a keen sense that our life with God does not make sense to a worldly wisdom.  Otherwise, explain in some worldly wisdom to me: Why do we meet to worship and pray?  What do these things have to do with banking or investing?  But the worldly wisdom is so key to Lupton’s case, while God’s Word is not?


Why is the church so eager to accept Lupton’s book then?

Why is it that NO WHERE in Lupton’s rethinking, revamping, criticism of outcomes, and worries about creating DEPENDENCY that he never even mentions prayer or worship?

How can a Christian trot in “sound business principles” to the ministry of the poor and never even make mention of prayer???  Not once in 191 pages???

Feel me yet?




No sign of it in his whole book.  Just criticisms that if you GIVE ALMS to the poor, SOMETHING JESUS CLEARLY ENDORSES, you cause people damage to their lives.  And in all that damage and all that concern for causing it, Lupton never turns to prayer nor advises his readers to pray.

No.  Lupton merely turns centuries of biblical wisdom and tradition upside down, criticizes it relentlessly, barely involves any Scripture or theology in any of this, and never suggests it be a matter of prayer at all.  Instead, the whole thesis is a manifestation of his engineering manipulations which I assert coincide nicely with the political mood of many in the modern church.

I certainly don’t “know it all,” but I’m not stupid.  Even if it turns out there are better explanations for all this, mine is a fairly good guess, and proves undeniably devastating to Lupton’s book – even if some bits of it are worthwhile.




March 24, 2019


It’s been a couple of weeks since I read or wrote about Toxic Charity now, but one feature just keeps echoing in my mind.  It’s a case – an analysis – offered by Lupton which comes up in Chapter 3, “The Anatomy of Giving” under the section called “What about the Homeless?” (which begins on page 43).

However, I don’t want to quote the whole section.  But there is a part starting on page 45 where Lupton compares/contrasts the giving philosophies of 3 separate Christian ministers.  They represent something of a spectrum of thought ranging from unrestrained giving to no giving at all.

[As I review this portion of my own notes, I want to edit a bit of my own thinking here.  I sense my notes on this point are not completely fair to the subject, not as I normally would critique such matters.  So let me make this editorial note:

Lupton, in this section, quotes from 3 different Christian ministers, each respected in the field, but each bringing a somewhat different view to the question of giving to the homeless.  I want to take all three views seriously even if I disagree with one, two or three of them.  Especially, insofar as these ministers appeal to Scripture.  We have, then two separate, but intermingled criteria here.  1) do they appeal to Scripture, and if yes, then 2) do they read the Scripture RIGHTLY?  

The second of these two criteria will always be “arguable” in a sense.  The first one is pretty cut -n- dry.  The second one always has room for debate.  

IF a minister appeals to Scripture, that does not automatically mean he is right to use it the way he does.  But if he makes the appeal, more than half the battle is done.  I might disagree with his biblical analysis, but I will RESPECT the fact that he goes there to make it.  It could be that I am mistaken and as yet cannot see it.  I must have that much humility about Scriptural appeal.  

That said, I will make my counter argument nonetheless.  But I will do it respectfully.  I am concerned that my first draft notes on this point may not reflect that respect as much as they should.  Thus, I editorialize with this interjection into the presentation.  I will attempt to pick apart the biblical offerings I find in this quotation from Toxic Charity, and these ministers have my respect for appealing to Scripture to the extent they do.  My argument with theirs does not necessarily settle the matter.  I believe it does, but I am open to further debate.

I think it will be clear what I agree with and what I disagree with, and I hope I demonstrate adequately why.  But I have already made the case that Lupton’s use of Bible is anemic, very anemic, at best throughout his book.  In fact, this is one of the places where a clear citation is quoted and cited, and where the text argues against him strongly!  But it also features some of that other appeal to Scripture where Lupton (and/or the people he quotes) merely ALLUDE to Scripture as they make their cases while they don’t make a well executed effort to be clearly biblical.   Nevertheless, that is not, in and of itself, enough to reject the point.  It merely shows a weak effort to make the case.  But the case could be a good one still, in theory.  I need to respect that.  

I hope I have made that clear for my readers now as we go forward]


I will quote this part.  Four paragraphs in all.

SEE IF YOU CAN SPOT MY CONCERN WITH IT.  (Don’t worry; I will spell it out on the other side of this copy)

Lupton quote:

In a January 2011 Christianity Today article, the question was posed to three veteran ministry leaders known for their commitment to the poor: Should Christians give money to street people who ask for it?

“Yes, freely!” answers Gary Hoag, known as the Generosity Monk, whose passionate mission is to encourage Christian generosity.  To him it is very clear in scripture: “Freely you have received; freely give” Matt. 10:8).  It is not our place to judge others, to evaluate them as worthy or unworthy of our assistance.  God is the judge, not us.  What they do with our aid is between them and God.  We are to love and give unconditionally.

Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, sees it differently.  “Giving cash to someone in need is the least helpful and most temporary solution and should only be a last resort,” he says.  His years of experience with street people have taught him that most panhandlers are not really homeless at all.  Most are scammers who may collect $300 a day from kindhearted passersby and at the end of the day walk a block or two to their cars and drive home.  When people approach Andy for money for food or a place to stay, he gives them his card and invites them to his mission where they can get not only food and shelter, but other support as well.  Very seldom does he give money, and then only when there are no other alternatives.  He refers to the story of the lame man in scripture who asked Peter and John for some money.  They offered no money but rather something better – healing.  “People experiencing homelessness and poverty need a caring community,” Andy says.  “People need permanent help in becoming strong.  They need a connection with Jesus Christ and a faith community.”

“Absolutely not!” says Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action and author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.  A quick donation is cheap love.  There is simply no way to tell whether a story is legitimate, or if a person will spend the money on drugs or alcohol.  Supporting immorality, laziness, or destructive behavior is simply irresponsible and clearly not a loving act.  Scripture demands that we stand on the side of the poor, but it certainly does not tell us to give irresponsibly.  Rather than giving money, Sider suggests taking the homeless person to lunch and listening to his story.  “People almost always need love even more than money,” he says.  Generous giving should be directed toward effective, holistic programs equipped to deal with the deeper socioeconomic issues, ministries that share the love of Christ and “truly liberate, empower, and transform.”

Always.  Sometimes.  Never.  Three respected Christian leaders all committed to helping the poor, all relying on the scriptures to guide them, each with distinctively different convictions on how to rightly serve.  They take their stands at different points on the charity continuum, from “always give money” to “never give money.”

(Lupton pages 45-47)




Let me state very carefully here:

The paragraphs just above [in the indentation sequence] are all exact quotes.  To be exact, I quoted 4 consecutive paragraphs and a partial exactly as I find them in Lupton’s book Toxic Charity – grammar mistakes and all.

However, to be fair, we must keep in mind that I [was… in the original composition notebook] hand copying them rather than photo copying.  It is possible that I introduced (or skipped) an error by mistake, but I was being careful, so even if I did, it surely is a minor defect in my copy.




The point is to show what I find arguable here.  Thus, I will do that now.

Right off the top, I note that Lupton is showing us a spectrum of opinion/philosophy on Christian charity.  Fair enough.  However, even though he cites Christianity Today in-text, he does not give us footnote info, AND even though some bits of it are in quotation marks, most of it is not.

Thus, we can assume he is NOT taking the same care to accurately copy – and thus represent – the people cited here which I do with my chicken-scratch notes.

He is not simply comparing/contrasting these opinions as an interesting idea (a disinterested observer) but rather building a case that at least the second and probably the third opinions should be adopted by his readers who it would seem are ministers and laity from the church.

How much Scripture did Lupton cite for this?



(To be fair, he does reference a second citation, but does not cite it either, and merely calls our attention to “the story of the lame man in scripture who asked Peter and John for some money” (page 46).)  This, and in the last bit claims these ministers take their guidance from Scripture without showing us ANY evidence of it in the part where he quotes for Ron Sider.

So… as far as actual Scripture citations???

Lupton offers only one.




Go figure!

Yes, the first opinion analyzed comes from Gary Hoag, “known as the Generosity Monk” (page 45).

I don’t know Gary Hoag or his work.  The first I recall ever hearing/knowing his name is in reading Toxic Charity.  It seems he is important to somebody since he appears to be citied in Christianity Today,.  But, I never heard of him, and that really might say more about me than him.


Notice how Lupton introduces him.

He’s “known as the Generosity Monk.”

That’s great, I suppose, but I’m betting that to the eyes and ears of Lupton’s intended readership, that title sounds a little hippie-like and not all that well respected.

ESP, when you look how Lupton introduces the other two opinionators who he seems to admire.

“Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, sees it differently.”

See the difference yet?  It’s the same difference as comedian Steve Martin points out between “Security First Trust and Federal Reserve” and “Fred’s Bank.”

Then there’s “Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action and author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.

Oh yeah.  The first guy is the Generosity Monk, which sounds like a hippie, a monkey, or a Catholic, but the second guy is a CEO of… and the 3rd guy is president of… AND author of… and even the title of his book sounds a guy getting to the bottom of things.

But which one gets into an actual Scripture reference?



Oh, but I’m being petty, right?



You really think so???

Okay, you’re right, the second guy does appeal to Scripture, though he can’t cite it.  But we know it’s in there… somewhere….


(hint: Look for it in Acts 3:6)

So maybe I am being nit picky.

So, where’s the Bible reference in this professionally published book?  Is that really too much to ask for a publisher of Christian books for a book that calls into question 6000 years of faith tradition?  From an author with a Ph. D.???

I’ll remember to tell my editor how nit picky they are when they ask for it from me.



So, where’s the Bible reference for mr. president and author of…?

Here it is (as close as it gets, anyway):

“Supporting immorality, laziness, or destructive behavior is simply irresponsible and clearly not a loving act.  Scripture demands that we stand on the side of the poor, but it certainly does not tell us to give irresponsibly.”

(see page 46)


Makes you wonder if mr. president and author of ever read Luke 6:30 or Luke 6:34 or Luke 1:53 or… LUKE!


What passage do you see represented in this “Scripture demands” remark?


Is it Mark 10:21?


Maybe Matt. 19:21 or Luke 18:22?


My God!  What about the very passage Lupton himself actually did cite just two paragraphs before he started quoting this “leading minister”?  Remember Matt. 10:8???

Yeah, the Communist, Catholic, Monkey/hippie quoted that one, and it says “freely give”!


Need I go on???


What was it Sider said (according to Lupton) right before this bit I quote here?

There is no way to tell if a story is legit or if the person will just use the money to buy drugs or alcohol?

Then how about Sider go look up Proverbs 31:6-7!  Oh yeah, the BIBLE directs you to go ahead and get the BOOZE for the bum yourself and save him the trouble.  Don’t give him the cash, cut out the middle part and just give the booze!

So, maybe Sider is ironically right in saying no to giving money!

He should carry around a stash of booze and drugs instead!  – just to be biblical!!!

(Okay, I am sure that passage does not cover the use of heroin, but you gotta know the Hebrew to get that worked out.)


Let’s get into Bales’s stuff now.

Let’s look a little closer at Acts 3 where Peter and John meet the beggar on their way to worship.:

The man begging there asks for “alms.”  Where in the Bible – ANYWHERE IN THE BIBLE – are God’s people directed NOT to GIVE alms?

Got a verse???


I didn’t think so.  Sider says, no, but the Bible does not say what Sider says.  Let’s get that straight right up front.

So Peter looks at the man in need and tells him, “I prefer not to give money to you because it is the least helpful and most temporary kind of help – AND anyway, there is a good chance you are scamming us – so let me offer you healing in stead!”

Is that how the passage goes?

Wait… what???

You mean that according the BIBLE, that’s not what he actually said?

So either Bales or Lupton (or both) are roping all that extra stuff into the conversation and slipping it in to APPEAR to the casual observer as if the uncited passage alluded to from Acts 3 somehow supports all this.  But it doesn’t really address these matters in any depth, and mostly not at all.  And certainly not in these terms.


So what bearing does this text have on the matter of giving alms?

Does it teach us not to give money but instead to give healing?  Does it teach us not to give money but instead to apply “sound business principles”?

Well, sure enough the beggar expects to receive some money alright – thus it strongly suggests that when the Bible talks about giving alms to the poor (as it does in many places – quite favorably, I might add) the “alms” in question CAN be in the form of money.

While Peter declines to give money in this case, he does give a REASON for not giving it.  He specifies that it is because he does not have any!  He makes no mention of the harm it would cause if he did have some to give, just that he doesn’t have that to give, but actually something else.  There is absolutely no indication here that he reasons the money would not help or that he would withhold it if he had it to give.


He simply doesn’t have it to give.

However, he has something else.

And I would agree that a prayerful healing touch is BETTER than a dollar!  I would agree with that completely.  In fact, I would agree that a caring community is better than a dollar.  I would agree that sharing a lunch with a bum and listening to his story is better than giving him a dollar.

My counter point to Lupton is not that you must give the dollar.  It’s not.  My counter point is that his insistence that you don’t is not biblical!  Giving the dollar simply is not wrong.  It may not be the best, but it is not wrong.  And sometimes, I think, it might be best.

Of course, if Lupton were teaching us to give healing touches to lame beggars instead of the dollar, I would be all ears.  I would still quibble with him here, but I would be very interested all the same.

But neither Lupton nor Bales are offering the healing touch.  That is not Lupton’s point at all.  He wants to protect Mammon from your generosity, but he has no interest in the healing of that man.

No Lupton has totally dropped that idea.  Instead, he is developing his case that giving money is a bad idea, and he is alluding to this text (rather than quoting, citing, exegeting or in ANYWAY studying it) as a means of support for his point.

The problem is this: This passage does not actually support his point.

What else should we note about Bales’s analysis?

Well, according to Bales (via Lupton), “Most panhandlers are not homeless at all….[they] are scammers.”

No doubt Bales is in a position to describe experiencing such a phenom.  And no doubt the phenom exists.  However, I strongly doubt that even all the workers coordinating the US Census Bureau could determine if “most panhandlers” are really “scammers” with homes and cars.  Certainly, Bales alone, despite his authoritative experiences in LA is not enough to make such a blanket statement with accuracy.  I wonder how much damage and mistrust such a blanket statement from such an authoritative person in such major publications as Lupton’s book or Christianity Today have caused between Christians and beggars!


such a statement contradicts the Bible at some very important junctures that Lupton and his readers should be heeding.

How about “Do not judge”?

How about “…did it to the least of these… you did it to me”?

And for that matter, I would ask Bales under cross examination (if I could) whether he ever held a fundraiser and asked for people to give him (and his organization) money.  And then I would ask if he has a home, and a car.

If he answers ‘YES’ to those questions, then by his own definition, he is a “scammer” too.

Thus, there is more to the story – to each individual story – than Lupton is telling us.

Am I denying there are “scammers”?


But they have yet to be properly defined on the one hand or to be shown as an actual issue I, as an almsgiving, Bible-observing Christian, should worry about on the other.

No, instead, with the force of rhetorical wit, Lupton has drawn his readers in to this nonsense, and I am systematically calling the bluff on it.

So far, the place where Lupton has been authoritatively biblical, he has argued AGAINST his own thesis.  Since then, he has relied on rhetorical wit to appear authoritative or biblical, but it’s not real.



The other part of Bale’s ministry AS PORTRAYED BY Lupton, looks pretty good to me.

It appears that Bales actually cares for the poor and actually offers real assistance to such people.  He directs them to the place where he (and his crew) offer food, shelter, “and other support as well.”

Personally, I think that’s great!  I wish him and those he serves all the best in that.  I totally commend it.  I can even entertain the idea that all that ministry is more valuable than a few dollars.  It really MIGHT BE.

None of that is my beef here.

I trust that is clear.

My  beef is that Lupton (and it seems Bales and Sider too) is telling me that giving some money to the poor is a bad idea.

My problem is that THEY HAVE A PROBLEM WITH IT


THAT TRANSLATES INTO an abuse of Scripture on the one hand and abuse of the poor on the other.

(More on the ABUSE OF THE POOR at a later time)


Let’s get into Sider’s stuff now.

I don’t want to repeat the rebuttals I made a few pages back; so what else needs to be said here?

Well, as always, there is that LACK of SCRIPTURAL support, and even though that was mentioned above, there is the part where he falsely claims it (which is the other side of the same coin in some respects, but which I did not yet address).

According to Sider (via Lupton), “Scripture DEMANDS that we stand on the side of the poor.”


That is not a quote from Scripture at all; rather it is a theological statement basing itself on uncited Scripture – a distillation of scriptural ideas.  And as such, I agree with it.  The problem is… obviously Sider (via Lupton) means something by it that I do not mean by it if I use those same words.  Thus, we seem to be dealing with that rhetorical effect again.

The terms are not well defined.  What does it mean to “STAND”?  What exactly is “the side of the poor”?

I’m thinking Sider is not at all thinking of Mary’s words in Luke 1:53 or of the rich man and Lazarus or of the Father’s treatment of the prodigal son when he returns.  I have the strong idea that if I behaved in accordance with such teachings, or even just threw a Luke-14 party, then I would not be on the same side as Sider when “standing on the side of the poor” like “Scripture demands.”

What exactly does Sider think “supporting immorality, laziness, or destructive behavior” looks like?  Does that only happen when you give money away?  Is that always the only result of giving money away?

Consider the prodigal son.  Those are almost exactly the plans he makes for his inheritance when he hits up dear old Dad even before he’s dead.  But what does the FATHER do?

He GIVES the boy his money and sends him on his way.

Wait… WHAT?

Oh yeah!  That’s exactly what the FATHER in this BIBLE story does.

Oh… and the FATHER in this story represents GOD.  So in Jesus’ parable about the lost son, “supporting” the boy’s immorality, laziness, and destructive behavior” is exactly what God THE FATHER does when he gives him all that money!  And SOME believers think God is omniscient too!  He saw this coming!!!

Oh… my…

He sure did.

But back to that other question: Is this always the result of giving money?

Well, maybe so… but if so, we must then come back and examine ALL the people we give money to and think this through in a more than one-sided way.

How about those stock broker/hedge fund managers we give money to?

Oh yeah!

Go watch the movie The Wolf of Wall Street and come back and talk to me then.

Cocaine on trays at your high-end restaurant for lunch??? Call girls on private jets???

And – YES – we give them our money hand over fist!

Oh… was I being unfair to single out those poor little RICH PEOPLE?

Well, tell that to Isaiah and Amos, not me!  (See Isa 5:8 or Amos 8:6 – just for quick examples.)


Go look up their records on corruption.  BOTH of those organizations  which are otherwise FINE institutions (AND OTHERS TOO) have failed in exactly the same ways as those “scammers” we were talking about before.

Is there any chance these organizations might qualify for Sider’s description of “effective, holistic programs equipped to deal with the deep socioeconomic issues” to which “generous giving should be directed”?


Look again!


I am grateful Sider and Bales and Lupton find value in addressing issues “holistically.”  I find no fault with that.  In and of itself, those ideas surely play A PART in the big picture.  Why not?  But they are not really after “holistic” approaches that would involve better Bible study, prayer, and faith.  No.  They are interested in smuggling in “economic development strategies” and “sound business principles.”  That’s not actually “holistic” in the true sense.

Insofar as holistic ideas are concerned, I am not against them.  I figure something LIKE that was at work in the program Joseph put together in Pharaoh’s Egypt.

But Lupton (and Bales and Sider) are claiming that if I give some money to a homeless person, then I am doing harm.  And even if we marshal good evidence to that affect AND even if we establish that there really is a phenom we can call “ENABLING,” which (btw) I don’t deny, the problem is that none of that can/or should be allowed to thwart THE WORD OF GOD which very obviously does not care about the phenom or evidence you marshal.



If Lupton had chosen to write about how we can (AND SOMETIMES SUBTLY DO) use $5 or $10 or $100 as a “LOAN” to a needy person and find that the needy person begins to AVOID us as a result of feeling obligated to repay, THEN it turns EVERYTHING ALL AROUND.  And this too is a real phenom, and I have seen it put to this exact use on some occasions.

Have a pesky needy person hitting you up for a loan?

Give him just enough that it’s not likely he can, or will, repay it, and IF HE HAS ANY PRIDE, he will avoid you for a long time.

YAY!  You just got ride of a pesky needy person!

And YEAH, I have seen it.

and NO.  Giving like that is NOT LOVE.  It is NOT JESUS.

Of course, it doesn’t change my view one bit, but Lupton COULD have addressed THAT, but he didn’t.  Just like he didn’t address giving money to the rich stock brokers or charity organizations that have proven to be corrupt.


Lupton doesn’t want you to give your money



He singles THEM out for this exemption.


Seems like discrimination to me.

And it’s just not biblical.


WARNING (Disclaimer):

I am pretty sure I am insane.  Undiagnosed insanity.  Off the grid with no meds.  So, if you are NOT reading this, then that is PROBABLY a good thing.  HOWEVER, I KNOW you are nuts.  You might be in denial, but you’re nuts to be reading this far!  The world I live in is Bat?!*@ crazy, and you are definitely part of the problem.  


(So am I.)


“If I know I’m going crazy, I must not be insane.” – Dave Mustaine


So, I am standing there cutting seeds out of cherries so I can feed them to my little kids as part of their “well-balanced breakfast of champions” and thinking about how to Make America Great Again as I ponder how I miss my mom and consider her cutting seeds out of cherries for me to eat when I was small.  And it occurs to me standing there with a very sharp knife, working away at the cherries with my mind racing 117 mph that MAGA is mythical in nature and not actually well defined.  It’s one of those phrases, like “the American Dream,” that in reality “means different things to different people, but which sorta has a consistency which it seems MOST people kinda get.

Just then the sharp knife slipped a little and whipped in a slice at my finger holding the cherry just then, and I suddenly thought about going to the emergency room with little babies as baggage during a pandemic so I could get the bleeding to stop and maybe get stitches.  And just then I noticed where the cherries had been bleeding cherry juice all over the countertop, and it sure looked like real blood at first blush.  That caused me to stop a moment and examine my finger in case I was in denial.

Anyway, to my way of thinking, America was at its “greatest” when we became a NUCLEAR SUPERPOWER by reputation.  I mean, we are the only nation on earth to detonate an atomic bomb on our enemies, and no doubt we were a nuclear superpower in the months leading up to that moment, but in the days, months, weeks, and especially the next three – four decades following that moment, we had the reputation too.  That reputation commanded respect worldwide!

We vaporized men, women, and children in the name of Truth, Justice, and the American Way (which fully justifies it, of course), but we buttressed even that logic with the notion that if we had protracted the war in conventional island-to-island fighting, we probably would have still won, but it would have cost far more lives to do it and taken much longer.  But that is beginning to get off the point.

So, I found some bleach spray and a wipe-rag and cleaned up the cherry blood after determining that I was not in fact cut.  And I realized that my kids are going to eat these cut cherries without ever really appreciating the time and effort I put into them for them.  I knew this, not because I expect then to fail to be thankful, for in the end, they did say “thank you,” but because as I was cutting them and missing my mom, I suddenly had newfound appreciation for her that I did not have before.

I began thinking about how the mothers – let’s make that “mothers” – of my kids have the physical and mental capacity to cut seeds out of cherries for their own children, AND if given the chance (at about their second week of sobriety in a strictly disciplined residential treatment program), they would do it, would love doing it, and would find healing for both themselves and their kids in doing it, but that would probably be short-lived since they likely would fall off the wagon in another week or month or so.  Anyway, my kids are getting pitted cherries with their breakfast this morning, in case you didn’t realize that yet.

So, maybe you, and maybe half a million others like you, think Making America Great Again refers to some other time impacted by some other events, but I doubt it.  Especially since there were no other times and events which gave us the reputation and respect of being a “nuclear superpower” on the world stage.  Dropping that bomb (those bombs) on the world stage of history commanded respect worldwide.  And I personally see THAT as foundational to the economic recovery America experienced after the Great Depression which we were facing going into that war.

Thus, as I see it, all the steel we produced, the cars and trucks, all the privilege our nation was afforded in trade, in justice, in influence, in wealth, in education… and more… these things were staggeringly awesome.  An American could step off the plane in almost any country and be afforded respect, would be treated with great favor.  America was exporting culture as well as things.  America set the agenda for the free world, and we were considered the protectors of the free world.

Who doesn’t want to “keep on rockin’ in the free world”?

I was actually standing there cutting cherries, missing my mom, and thinking about how Great America WAS in the 1950s and 60s – and really it still was in the 1970s and 80s too, though with some tarnishes on the gleam in a few spots.  There were question marks on our morality, our justice, our sincerity – stubborn question marks – but the big thrust was still there, and in fact in the 1980s with code name “Rawhide” at the helm, there was a sense that it all was true blue through and through AND blowing and going and growing still.  A sense at least.

But then I gathered my little ones around me in the kitchen to begin feeding them their breakfast of champions of which the cut cherries were a well-balanced part.  There was a lot of French Toast involved too, by the way.  I was putting it on for these little guys, and just then so very many thoughts began flooding my thought-racing mind.  I wondered for a moment WTF and I doing here?

Yeah.  I confess it.  I did.

I am a red-blooded, American male.

Once upon a time, I drove a muscle car and rode a motorcycle.  I worked for General Motors.  My grandpa and I rebuilt a 1966 Ford Mustang once.  I once heard from an old girlfriend from high school, many years after the fact, that she once got in a van with a bunch of other young ladies to go attend a social function for their club.  I don’t know how many of them were in this van, but apparently they needed the van to transport them to the other town where the event was held.  Anyway, this old friend informed me that the whole way there, the girls talked about one boy they were twitterpated for – [the future Agent X]!

Hey!  That’s me!

Wow!  Too bad I didn’t know about that at the time.  I am quite certain it was not a common thing.  There were other boys for whom that might have been common.  But I bring it up now because as I am preparing breakfast for these little tikes who biologically ARE NOT MINE, I realize who I was and who I almost could have been, and how I NEVER IMAGINED THIS!  Call me “Virginia Slim” – I have come a long way, baby.

Yeah, baby.



THREE different daddy’s and two different mama’s.

Gathered around my kitchen wanting to eat cherries I cut for them.

And I love these kids.  THEY ARE MINE NOW because I claim them.  They were refugees briefly, but I got to them in the first few days of life, and they  don’t know any different.  I don’t hide this from them at all, but at their age, the complexity of all that is too advanced to really talk about.  So, mostly I am just Pops, or Papa, to them – the one they love and snuggle with and get their cherries from.

But there are other complexities to this too.

I am talking like there are only THREE of them.


That’s not actually true.

I have officially been a foster parent almost as long as I have been producing THIS blog.  It’s up to five years, now, I think.  I have THREE of these guys here with me NOW, but that is not counting the others who have come and gone, nor is it counting the times I had FOUR at once!

I can’t tell their stories, due to confidentiality rules.  I adopted a couple of them, and I don’t want to create a record of the horror stories they come from and leave that weight for them to carry on the internet after I am gone.  But let me say, some had it bad and others had it REALLY BAD, and a couple had it astonishingly BAD – like I just never imagined.  And SOME of those kids… we gave back to the people who harmed them.  The judge ruled it, so we did it.  But I am scarred by it.

And most of the kids have been damaged in ways that will scar them for life emotionally, mentally, and otherwise.  I plan to be here with them/for them for the next 20-30 years.  After that, I plan to either be gone of too old to be of any use to them.  But I am Papa/Pops.  You might have a second one of those but you only get one first.  I am the first, and likely only, for these kids.  But I sent a few of them back to their biological monsters.

I see, in my crazy mind, the little faces of some of those kids like ghosts haunting my kitchen.  I will never be the same.  I loved them and sent them back into hell.  I did that.  I am part of the problem.  Maybe if I had enough money or power or influence I could have run to Mexico or Africa or Europe and got away with them someplace where we could not be found or could have paid off the judge to rule differently.  IF ONLY…  But I was not able to get across the MAGA wall and drag the babies with me deep into Mexico or any points south.  I am not that strong, rich, influential or whatever.

So, I can’t really talk about these babies, but you know how I said before that I used to be a red-blooded, American male with a motorcycle and all?  Yeah, and how I became this Mr. Mom character somehow???

Yeah, well, one of the important steps along the way in that transformational process can be traced back to 2004-05 when I was working with my street ministry partner Special Agent D (SAD) and we were offering communion on the streets of Lubbock at the sites of murders and other crimes at midnight.  Yeah, it was long before I ever heard anyone make a political pitch like Make America Great Again, and we crazy street ministers were just out there trying to Make the Kingdom of God Relevant Again.  (Doesn’t have quite the same pithy ring to it, but it catches the idea, I think.)

Anyway, SAD and I decided we might be crazy enough to take Jesus to ground zero at the zero hour and invite our enemies to dine with him at the table the Lord prepare before them.  And we expected to confront drug dealers, thugs, criminals, and bad guys – which we did a little.  But the big response we REALLY got a lot of?  Well, that was the children of all those drug dealers, thugs, criminals and bad guys.

Yeah, those kids flocked to us in droves AT MIDNIGHT down in the hood come rain, sleet, or snow!  Some were so young they were still in diapers and not old enough to speak.  Some were as old as 14, and taking a chance that these two crazy white boys would show them a little love and attention.  These kids were desperate for love.  And we gave them Moses and David and Jesus in one to two hour Bible studies at a card table with a lantern in the middle of an empty lot in the middle of the night in the cold where we all shared a blanket to keep warm and where SAD and I worried we might catch lice and so forth.

Do you think some of them knew the difference between soft-core and hard-core?  (Yeah, I’m referring to porn.)  Do you think some of them got pimped out by their parents?  Do you think some of them got cut cherries from either their mom or anyone ever???

So, yeah, I am giving all this thought to Making America Great Again, you see and thinking about bringing back jobs to Ohio and Michigan and reopening coal mines and all that stuff.  But really, I am thinking about those troops in WWII who marched onto those beaches and laid down their lives by the thousands.  I got to watch Greyhound with my dad a few days ago, and he was informing me of my grandpa’s service on ships like that in seas like that, and then I was thinking about how even though my grandpa and my dad both served as sailors in the world’s greatest Navy, and how my dad was trained in the use and management of nuclear weapons like those that vaporized men, women, and children in the name of Truth, Justice, and the American Way, and how that my grandpa in the 7th grade did not have shoes to play on the basketball team, so his coach bought him some since he was so tall and showed promise for the team, and how by the ninth grade, he was no longer attending school, and how that the Great Depression forced him to leave home to find work to feed himself as a kid in need of some cut cherries, and how he and so, so, so many little boys like him signed up to go fight and die so they could make America great the first time and how that they never really used terms like that to describe what they were doing.  How they were mostly innocent little kids barely off the farm when they saw France or when they tried desperately to shoot down Japanese Kamikaze aircraft before they crashed into the ship.

I think then about how at his age, I was shopping in the mall and bummed that I could not afford the Kangaroo shoes and how I really wanted to get that new Van Halen album everyone was buzzing about.

Did I mention that I almost cut my finger while preparing breakfast?

Kinda makes you wonder if that wasn’t a physical version of a Freudian slip.  Did I subconsciously mean to cut myself?  Shouldn’t I be more careful with sharp blades?

And so I have these kids eating these cherries that I prepare for them out of sheer love.  I LOVE my little boy.  I LOVE my little girl.  I would do anything for them, and I just about do!  I am NOT the man I dreamed of being when I was a kid.  And that is in part due to my failures to reach goals and so forth, but it also is due to my change in goals.  And I am finding that area of change to be so rapid and so profound that I don’t recognize myself anymore.  I am not my old (young) self.  I am not the man I thought I would be.  I am not my dad or grandpa.  And more and more and more, I find this is not about me – so just scratch those last four sentences, since they are canceled out now.

And I realize that I have THREE of these kids.


Count ’em – 1, 2, 3!

I have THREE.

Do you know how many want/need in here with me???






There are MILLIONS of these kids across America today who need in here with me in the worst way.  And I am NOT sufficient for this.  In fact, for all the vitamins and well-balanced meals they get here, for all the baths, toys, routines and too much TV they get here, on top of all the damage they come with already, now they get my name AND my baggage too.


(Seems like there is some Bible verse that deals with that.  But let’s leave religion out of this.  Once you start mixing politics and religion you definitely are nuts!)

Yeah, I am adding to the screwing up of my kids!

I got two adopted.  I am too old and fat and slow to keep up with them.  They outrun me.  And they NEED more guidance.

They are sweet kids.  You would think so to meet them.  But if they spent a night at your house, you would quickly begin assessing the damages we bring to your space!

My wife wants to adopt the other one.

I am sitting here counting the cost.

It is NOT SMART to adopt another.

We have paid our part.  Have you paid yours?

Wanna rethink abortion?

Look.  My life is not my own.  And it is ending faster and faster everyday!  So is my stuff.

Please, let’s Make America Great Again – what exactly does that mean?  But I am not impressed with your trade war with China.  I am not impressed with your wall that Mexico is paying for either.  I am not impressed with your short-sighted, selfish politics.

Remember that movie Hotel Rwanda?

Yeah, I blogged a post on that too several years ago.

The main character, Paul Rusesabagina, seems to have this refrain in the movie that just haunts me like a person I can see and hear that you can’t.  He says, “We always have room for one more.”

Yeah, Rwanda is in full blown genocide outside his hotel, and he is cramming “guests” inside for cover and trying to RUN A HOTEL at the same time.  It’s a little higher-speed disaster than even a pandemic.  And yet Paul Rusesabagina is determined NOT to turn away refugees at his door.  It is a desperate ploy to save people that will probably get him killed.  There is NO FUTURE in it!

I live in slow-motion Rwanda.

Do I be Paul Rusesabagina and throw caution to the wind?  Do I say yes to every refugee who wants to be my baby?

Or do I count the cost?  Play it smart?  Plan prudently for the future, for retirement and so forth and stock up on toilet paper???

Which way do I go with this?

What is the RIGHT ANSWER?

Are we going to Make America Great Again… or not?

Was that even really greatness the first time?

What do you say?

You crazy reader!

You read this far.

What do you say?

I am listening to voices in my head.  What have you got to lose?  Talk to me.

And consider this being shot by my scatter gun.



Once again IN CASE you are new here AND actually care, then be advised: This post is part of an on-going series.  I keep introducing each post in the red print.  If you want to follow along from the start, please scroll down through the archives.  They are in order, but the series does get interrupted sometimes.  Also, this is the second of two related series.  So if you scroll back into July, you will find I did much of the same response with the book When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert.



In response to Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton:


Loans vs. Giving/Free Gift



Well, I think it’s clear that I am already getting deep into my second point of contention which I have against Lupton’s book Toxic Charity – even in the previous argument.  So, at this point let me take just one or maybe two steps back and set the stage for my argument on this.  These points all impinge on each other, and so to discuss one at length is to begin discussing the next as well – at least in my analysis.  They are not sealed off from each other, but effect each other in various ways.  Thus, if we are not careful, this will become confusing.

We have already determined that Lupton sees the creation of DEPENDENCY as a BAD THING… an undesirable outcome, and though he never uses the term itself it is nonetheless effectively calling DEPENDENCY “evil.”  By virtue of the fact, as he rightly points out, that GIVING ALMS to the needy creates (or at least has the strong potential to create) DEPENDENCY, then he is therefore calling the act of giving – or even the gift itself – evil because it is the cause of DEPENDENCY.  Lupton takes care not to call the GIVER evil, rather he wants to honor the sensitive heart that offers the gift.  But he wants the people doing this giving to stop just giving and start worrying about the damage their gift will unleash.

DEPENDENCY! (among other damages).

Dependency has become the wages of the sin of giving.

But we have already seen that the Bible fully recognizes this DEPENDENCY, not as evil or as a problem at all, but as a result of God’s gracious giving AND thus views the dependency as desirable and GOOD.




Lupton had come with an entirely secular agenda, I would still find the same problem with it, BUT at least he wouldn’t be characterizing God’s plan with worldly wisdom.  This is taking the Lord’s name (or will) in vain.  The fact that he dares to represent God and address God’s people with his concerns and agenda means that he absolutely must take into account God’s Word.

I am willing to give leeway to the notion that people of faith can (and sometimes do) come to the honest and sincere differing opinions on issues, but Lupton, as an expert, and a thoroughly educated expert at that, really can and should do a much better job of handling God’s Word in this presentation.

The differences of opinions Lupton highlights (pages 45-48) between 3 Christian “ministry leaders,” as featured (he says) in a January 2011 Christianity Today article, is not enough.  His observation of Gary Hoag’s citation of Matthew 10:8 actually opposes his own thesis.  He quotes a guy who quotes Jesus in complete opposition to his own book!  Yet, Lupton offers absolutely NO analysis or evidence that this passage should be understood differently from the way Hoag presents it.

To be far to Lupton, the other two “ministry leaders” (again, pages 45-48 of Toxic Charity), demonstrate a array of views alright, but we should not be fooled here.  These other opinions, which increasingly move along a spectrum closer to Lupton’s (it seems), show absolutely no biblical support – and for that matter none is offered by Lupton either.

So, basically, what we have, even right there in Lupton’s own presentation is biblical evidence against his own thesis!  Yet Lupton just drops his analysis as far as Scripture is concerned and disregards it.


Wow!  Who does that?

… and who reads it?  buys it??  and teaches this worldly wisdom in Sunday school???


Suddenly, dropping God’s Word after bringing it up – even a verse that SEEMS to completely oppose his point… well that’s just nuts.  How can this be???  How can the book-reading public sit with this???  How can the church, the people of faith who hold so tightly to God’s Word, just swallow this???  You don’t have to actually be a Bible scholar to see what I’m talking about here.  (I’m surprised HarperOne publishers didn’t send it back for more editing!)

Alright!  Alright!!

I Know!

This is drifting more and more into a discussion about whether or not Lupton listens to God before he speaks, which is already proven to be EXTREMELY anemic, if NOT FUNCTIONALLY nonexistent.  But I said I want to talk about Lupton’s appeal for the use of LOANS in place of GIVING.

Some pages where Lupton talks about making loans to the needy as a better, “more effective” way of offering them help can be found here:  Pages 18, 28, 96, 110, 111, 113-120, 129, and 141.  I will concentrate on his analysis of LOANS as a means of charitable salvation but, this is probably a good point at which to give mention to Lupton’s appeal numerous times to sound “business principles” as well.  See pages 17, 22, 72, 75, 95, 104, 107, 108, 130, 131, 144, and 179.

That’s quite a lot of references to making loans and treating the poor to a business mentality.  Never mind the role(s) loans (to the poor no less) played in the 2007-2008 global recession or even the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Never mind the greed frequently and rightly associated with loans, loan-sharks, banks, stock brokers, day traders, hedge fund managers, investment firms and so on.  AND never mind the traditional relationship (OR LACK THERE OF NORMALLY) BETWEEN RICH BUSINESS FOLX AND POOR PEOPLE!  I mean never mind the whole point of having gated communities that perpetually keep poor people out of sight and out of mind!!!


That is all just basic worldly wisdom, and I wouldn’t want to start relying on it now.

Let’s just look at Jesus briefly.

When does Jesus ever offer a loan to the poor?


When does Jesus, St. Paul or Peter or John ever instruct us to make loans to the poor in order to effectively help them???


When does Jesus ever suggest that when the poor get the discipline of paying off a loan that they will FINALLY have dignity and take OWNERSHIP of their wealth which then translates into successful living???



Why does Lupton actually tell us “sound business principles are also good principles for responsible charitable investing” (page 104) in a book suggesting it grounds itself in “the teachings of Jesus” (page 15), analysis of Micah 6:8 (page 41), or a story of a lame man who asks for money “in Scripture” (page 46)?

Which takes precedent here, Jesus and Scripture or loans and business principles?    God or Mammon?  Because you really can’t serve both!  (Matt. 6:24)  (Scripture citation, mine!)

I’m just not convinced that making money/generating wealth is the Divine answer to the poor’s problems no matter how much worldly wisdom seems to bear it out.  But of course, that’s ME and MY concern; let’s see what Jesus says about these things.



What does Jesus have to say regarding loans?


“Lend without expecting ANYTHING in return,” says Jesus (Luke 6:34).



(That’s gotta hurt the ol’ thesis.  Huh, Lupton???)


Just when Lupton was convincing us that the discipline, the dignity, and the sense of ownership a person gets from paying back a loan translates into EFFECTIVE CHARITY and lasting positive change (“Salvation,” anyone???), Jesus comes along and knocks out the leg of that stool Lupton’s thesis was standing on.

Is that all Jesus says about lending?

Uh… NO.

Jesus also says (and we know this from “the Lord’s Prayer” no less), “Forgive us our debts as we forgive the debts against us,” (Matt. 6:12).  Later Jesus tells a fascinating parable about a servant who owed a debt he could not repay but how the master forgave it.  Yet later the same servant found another who owed him, and he did NOT forgive that debt.  When the master hears of it, he throws the unforgiving servant into prison!  (Matt. 18:23-35).

Just imagine what it would do to the whole financial industry if all the banks and mortgage brokers took Jesus seriously!  Just imagine what it will be like for all those servants who were forgiven by God the debts they owed, but who then did not in turn forgive the debts owed them … come time for Judgment!  I mean, if our culture REALLY treated Jesus as if he were REALLY Lord of all and honored his word over that of Mammon, then the whole financial system would collapse in an instant.

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of a LIVING God! (Heb. 10:31)

The fact of the matter is we don’t really WANT Jesus as Lord.  He turns everything upside down.  No longer can you count on the way we order our world with money and debt!  We just have no idea how to live naked and unashamed in the world GOD CREATES.  We actually prefer the fear and death, the enslavement of our imaginations.

But I digress…

The thing is this: Lupton looks at charity – “traditional charity models” – and sees ineffective waste, low (or no) return on investment, and he sees dependency, all of which he thinks is evil.  He goes to the same source as Corbett and Fikkert to promote ABCD (Asset Based Community Development) and claims that this is how you deal with the image of God, you look for the strengths – the assets and build on that.

Contrast that with St. Paul’s words to the PROUD Corinthians when he tells them “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, … the weak… to shame the strong… the base and despised God has chosen, and the things that are NOT so that he may nullify the things that are, SO THAT NO ONE MAY BOAST BEFORE GOD!” (I Cor. 1:27-29).  Yes, Jesus at one point had equality with God in every way, but he did not regard that as something to grasp.  Instead, he took the FORM of a human, in fact the form of a lowly slave – even more he HUMBLED HIMSELF in obedience to the point of death – even the shameful agonizing death of a Roman cross (Phil. 2:5-8) and there he bore “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).

Yeah.  St. Paul has a lot to say about Jesus and about the image of God.  But not one single verse, not one single prayer, not one single sermon, not one single hymn of all of St. Paul (or any of the other apostles) looks for God’s image in the pride, the assets, or the feeling of ownerships one gets when paying back a loan.  No matter how common the sense Lupton makes of that, it is worldly wisdom and not God’s.  It doesn’t even aim at God’s glory.  And for that matter, Lupton offers no kind of biblical citation for any of that kind of thinking, yet we just swallow it.


No.  On the contrary, look at what Lupton actually says:

“Effective service among the less privileged requires a significant degree of awareness and delicacy.  Sometimes even the most innocent and well-meaning attempts to help, inflict pain.  Made in the image of God, we were created with intrinsic worth.  And ANYTHING THAT ERODES A RIGHTFUL SENSE OF PRIDE AND SELF-RESPECT DIMINISHES THAT IMAGE.”

(page 147)


I think it is clear now (if it wasn’t before) that Lupton just is not really dealing in good theology and certainly has run afoul of Scripture.  He totally missed the point of DEPENDENCY and now he’s made a mess of Jesus’s teaching about LOANS in his rush to avoid DEPENDENCY.

But all of this mess Lupton has made stems from his attack on GIVING.  He is so sure that the GIVING of money, assets, and goods-n-services causes damage that he has made a mess of sound BIBLICAL principles in his analysis all through.  And this is where Lupton has all but called giving evil.  I am convinced that if Lupton has his way he will do away with GIVING all together or in almost all circumstances you are likely to come across.

Lupton has taken care not to disrespect the Giver.  The “intentions” of a giving heart are “good” (page 2).  Lupton is careful to appreciate the “compassion  boom” of recent years (page 2), but will spend the next 189 pages attempting to get you to rethink and revamp the way you show your compassion with giving.

However, the act of GIVING and the object of GIVING (the GIFT) he blames with all manner of evil, of unintended consequences, of failure and indignity, of shame and futility.

Yeah 189 pages devoted to highlighting the misery of the GIFT and of offering alternatives like LOANS in its place.

Lupton points out the observations made by “Zambian-born economist Dambisa Moyo” from her book, Dead Aid.  All this international aid comes pouring into Africa, but it produces “opposite effects.”  People fight over their share of the funding; “…corruption, nepotism, and political intrigue festers…” (page 94).

I can’t help but wonder why Lupton points all this out with regard to Africa – as if it is a sudden revelation that needs the quote from a published economist.  Don’t we all already see this kind of thing happen in the US Congress AND complain about ‘lobbyists” for just this kind of corruption?

It’s called “greed,” and it’s a sin.  You can read about it in the Bible!  The Bible actually addresses it without blaming the generosity of givers at all, but Lupton has his readers discovering it in Africa and thus blaming the gift!


That just smells really rotten at levels I don’t need to expose.

Let’s just listen to Lupton a moment and then answer him specifically.

“So why is humanitarian aid still so popular?  Why does it continue to be a moral imperative among the affluent cultures TO IMPOSE charity on the less fortunate?  Why do the Oprahs and Bonos, the USAIDs and Millennium Challenge Corporations, the national churches and parachurch agencies, the local church service-project volunteers and mission-trippers all buy into the belief that GIVING TO THE POOR IS A GOOD THING?

The heart!  That’s what moves us to help.  It’s that imprint of the divine, the essential attribute of our humanness, that impels us to reach out, even sacrificially, to help another in distress.”

(Page 95)

(Emphasis, mine)



Did Lupton just credit GOD?  The “imprint of the divine” on our hearts???

This may not be a biblical observation, but it is a theological statement.  Whether it actually finds biblical support is still up for grabs, actually, but of more immediate concern to me at the moment is the fact that this is one of the rare moments where Lupton appears to be having it both ways at once – what we might call self-contradictory.

Here’s the thing:  Lupton is asking these questions to build a rhetorical steam with which to argue against such giving.  He is already pointing out all the corruption that coincides with this giving, as we saw in the quotation just cited.  Also, in case it’s not already clear, the whole book is written to dispute such giving!

But here we have Lupton crediting/blaming the “divine imprint” (GOD) with the very thing his whole book disputes.   He has tried to separate the giver from blame while assigning it to the act of and the object of giving, but here in a rare moment of candid admission, Lupton gives God the credit/blame for the very thing he refutes!

Personally, I think that if Lupton looked closely at passages like Luke 6 or Matthew 10:8 or Mark 10:17-27 where Jesus tells at least one rich man to sell all he owns, count his riches in heaven, GIVE ALL HIS WEALTH TO THE POOR, and then come follow…, then he would be in a much better position to say his theological statements AND probably write a very different kind of book.  But as it is, it almost looks like he purposely sidestepped such passages.

I’m wondering, WHY?

Maybe it wasn’t purposeful.  I don’t actually know that.  BUT, Lupton holds a Ph.D.  I’m thinking he knows a thing or two about quality research.  He claims to be Christian AND IT WOULD SEEM he is a life-long Christian at that.  So, if these things are true, then there is practically no way he never heard of these passages I cite here (a short list of which I could have added more).

ACTUALLY, his book even quotes (or paraphrases) a line from Jesus in Luke 6 (a very pertinent line no less!) though without citation.  AND his book also quotes Jesus in Matthew 10:8 AND DOES CITE it that time!

But I’m thinking there is no way you grow up in the faith never hearing/reading about the rich young man in Mark 10 who wants to know how he might find eternal life.  And I’m certain that if you have a Ph.D. and a few published books under your belt then you should be familiar with Mark 10 just to show your thorough at least.

AND THEN you need to examine these passages (or others which like them have at least a strong prima facie case about how GIVING to the poor is a good thing) and with exegetical, hermeneutical, and theological insights explain to the church you are trying to persuade NOT to GIVE how Jesus doesn’t really mean what he says there!

But… no surprise… Lupton doesn’t.

So why not?

Is he afraid God’s Word will cast too much doubt on his common sense/worldly wisdom?  Dare I ask: Would Lupton actually want to lead God’s people astray?



But he doesn’t even TRY.


In case you are an interested newcomer to this blog or to this series, please be aware that I recently posted a seven part series devoted to When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert also.  I am now sharing a shorter series addressing Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton.  

These series of posts are copied from my hand notes – “chicken-scratch” – that I wrote in composition notebooks as I was reading these books.  I spent last year researching for a forthcoming project on Heaven’s Hospitality and considering the impact books like When Helping Hurts and Toxic Charity have had on the church of Lubbock, Texas, books which get in the way of Jesus’s message and mission to the poor and homeless of our streets.  I felt it pertinent to read and devote some reaction to these books as part of that overall project.  

There is no way I am going to use all the observations I have made in reading Toxic Charity in the forthcoming project, and it seems a waste to just let this critique languish in the back of my closet.  Thus, I have decided to share them in their raw – only slightly edited – form here on the blog.



Notes on Toxic Charity



DEPENDENCY (Good or Bad???)


By my count, Lupton addresses the idea of “DEPENDENCY” at least 21 different times in Toxic Charity scattered all through 191 pages.  Ironically, one of the relatively few places I find inconsistency in Lupton is one instance (page 114) where he considers dependence to be a GOOD thing as it relates to securing loans!  Ha!  More on that later (if I still find it necessary).

The other 20 times Lupton (by my count) refers to “DEPENDENCY,” he keeps considering it to be a BAD THING.  I will let this quote near the start of the book represent the idea that reappears in practically all the others all through the book.


Lupton quote:


“The food we ship to Haiti, the well we dig in Sudan, the clothes we distribute in inner-city Detroit – all seem like such worthy efforts.  Yet those closest to the ground – on the receiving end of this outpouring of generosity – quietly admit that it may be hurting more than helping.  How?  Dependency.  Destroying personal initiative.  When you do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them.”

(page 3)


This is one of those points that resurfaces over and over again, employed to justify Lupton’s case that our almsgiving is toxic and actually harms people.  Every time Lupton refers to DEPENDENCY in this way, it just looks and feels and sounds so self-evidently justifying.  And while that is a powerful rhetorical force, it is, in the final analysis, rather empty and devoid of reason.  According to Lupton, anytime you GIVE alms to someone you are creating DEPENDENCE and that is a bad thing – an evil scourge.

Lupton has paid respect to the notion that when we give to the needy, our hearts are motivated by GOOD, but he then blames the act of giving and/or the gift itself as the source of dependency AND then labels that harmful.  AND it’s amazing to me how rhetorically powerful this observation is for his case!


Well… duh!


Yes, part (not all, but a big part) of what makes Lupton’s book so compelling is his rhetorical wit!  It’s got punch!  As Lupton himself says, “This book has taken the gloves off and hit straight on” (page 189).  And sure enough, he does not come to the table looking to dither or talk about the weather, but rather to get straight to work calling the bluff on traditional charity models.

No doubt his style would be considered hard hitting in Christian literature genres.  But it’s not simply the edgy style and rhetoric that makes his book tick.  It also taps into a sense of common sense.  I can easily imagine the average reader taking conviction from Lupton’s book with a “Well… duh!” attitude.  It’s not so much an “‘a-ha’ moment” as a “Well… duh!” moment.   I sense that Lupton has tapped into a vein in such a way to expose what you always really thought, but were maybe afraid to actually say.

I mean, even my grandma used to say, “Don’t feed that stray dog… that stray cat….  You’ll never get rid of it if you do.”  Yeah, this kind of wisdom has been around for a long time, and we don’t NEED Lupton’s expertise and 30+ years of experience to alert us to the wisdom Gram-Gram gave us 40+ years ago.

I mean, surely you have heard it said: FEED A MAN A FISH, AND YOU FEED HIM FOR A DAY.  TEACH A MAN TO FISH, AND YOU FEED HIM FOR LIFE. (Not in the Bible, btw)

Oh yeah, Lupton quotes it too (page 108), though of course he expands on the idea and calls it “conventional wisdom.”  Hey, he’s not trying to take credit for it!  But even he basically calls it “common sense” when he says it’s “conventional wisdom.”

Yeah, it’s been around.  It’s not new, though back in 2011, Lupton’s book was new.  And it was all avant garde insofar as it criticized the church’s giving in the process.  But still, there is a kind of crowd among whom all this sense is “common” and all the “wisdom” is “conventional.”  There is a choir Lupton preaches to here!

Who might that be???

The Evangelical Church of North America of course.  Evangelicals are known as a voting bloc – and this happens to be the target audience for books like Toxic Charity.  Historically, Evangelicals have a sensitivity for being BIBLICALLY CONSERVATIVE, but at least by the 1980s that began to evermore vocally involve being POLITICALLY CONSERVATIVE as well.

What once upon a time was known as “the silent majority” enjoyed a lot of power and prestige and has now, it seems, hitched its wagon to the very vocal Tea Party and louder conservative movements and seems to be morphing into ever more radical, vocal, and even hostile conservativism and away from meek, humble, and patient discipleship.  It looks, sounds, and feels less biblical all the time as it definitely becomes more political and financial in nature – more common, conventional, and… well… worldly.

I mean, Evangelicals played a very important role in supporting Donald Trump’s bid to be president despite his self-professed  bragging about “grabbing pussy” and his open use of words like “shit” even though when he attempted to cite Scripture at a campaign rally at Liberty University (just the name of that “Christian” institution makes my point almost) he called the citation “Two Corinthians” rather than the far more traditional “Second Corinthians.”  It was a signal to everyone of either his lack of familiarity with Scriptures or with the lack of it with Evangelicals (who in the last generation read their Bibles far less than previous generations).  Yes, the Evangelicals made him their champion and gave up God’s wisdom!


This is not your father’s Oldsmobile, and neither is it your grandfather’s Republican Party.



My point in chasing that bunny trail is that now I can highlight the way I perceive a book like Lupton’s gains the kind of influence it has.  He is barely referring to his Bible at all, yet he is influencing the church with what we used to call “worldly wisdom” but more recently call “common sense”, but which Lupton terms “conventional wisdom.”

With reality TV stars like “The Duck Commander” and Donald Trump taking leadership in the religion/political atmosphere (and by default the church too), Lupton’s message will easily pass for God’s will – even God’s Word (though you can’t find a verse for it).  All this even if God’s Word specifically opposes Lupton’s agendas!

Yet I will say this much in the way of irony: Lupton’s book, for all its lack of Bible while promoting “business principles” and bashing the giving of alms to the poor still ironically makes numerous (at least 2-3 times) comments that favor government programs.  Thus, I am not claiming Lupton manipulates his message with all this in mind, because I think he would temper that rhetoric if he thought about it.  However, the book When Helping Hurts does, in generic terms, takes shots at government programs, and it advances the same general thesis.


Getting Back to “DEPENDENCY”



But let’s keep in mind here that we are looking at Lupton’s concern about DEPENDENCY in particular.  He can merely highlight the correlation between giving alms to the needy and the “dependence” that creates (or seems to create), and that is enough to make his point.  Lupton sees this phenom as a bad outcome – a sign of ineffective charity.  He need only point it out, and his readers fully concur.

Here’s the thing though: I don’t argue against the phenom – at least not against it’s existence.  I agree that if/when you give alms to the poor, it can (and perhaps normally does) create DEPENDENCE!  But I come to this with a biblical worldview, and thus I see it as a good thing, not bad.  I am not beholding to some very modern, American fiscally and politically conservative ideals or reality TV star hype.

Perhaps this would be a good place to tell Lupton to consider Proverbs 3:5-6, and to TRUST GOD with all of his ways and not lean on his conventional wisdom!

I want to look at DEPENDENCE as we find it in God’s hands all through the Bible.  However, I figure I need to be selective rather than exhaustive just because this project is already challengingly cumbersome AND not actually intended to be any more scholarly in nature than Toxic Charity in the final analysis.  Also, this is the chicken-scratch initial thoughts and reactions notebook, not the final product AT ALL.  Thus, everything is subject to change and almost all of it is destined to be enhanced with time.

That said, I am thinking of “DEPENDENCE” as a theme in the Bible and esp the way it is featured IN THE BEGINNING, certainly in Genesis 1-3, also in the Exodus and certainly as we find it with Jesus – perhaps most importantly as it is seen in the FEEDING OF THE FIVE THOUSAND.

Perhaps other texts should be added – and very likely will – at least in conjunction with these.  However, my approach to Scripture always yields such deep and profound insights when I can establish links between any given topic or passage and Jesus on the one hand, and Genesis 1-11 on the other.  When set against the backdrop of the Eschaton still more… and it gets enhanced even more when I find it in Psalms or Prophets too.  But somehow those Alpha-Omega links with Jesus in the middle seem to always, always, always yield depth beyond compare.

At present, I think mostly and right off of the manna God feeds Israel in the wilderness at the time of the Exodus.

Are there other passages more pertinent when talking about DEPENDENCE in the Bible?

Possibly, but I have read the Bible a few times, and this is one leaping off the page of my sheer memory.  I expect that makes it a good start.  We find that story, I believe, in Exodus 16.  And one of, if not the main, features of that story is how God instructs these grumbling, needy people to eat this manna – not to take more than you need for one day (except in prep for Sabbath).  Of course, the people test God on this, and the food turns foul and wormy, as I recall.

So what’s the point of that?

God is purposely creating DEPENDENCE!

Oh… my!

Yes, He is!

It becomes quite clear that YHWH saves his people and sustains them.  In fact, the whole story of the EXODUS, not merely the FOOD part, demonstrates this.  The children of Israel suffer under tyranny for 400 years!  In all that time, they never manage to make their lot in life any better.  But then YHWH comes swooping in (via Moses) and begins laying waste to the Egyptians on behalf of his children.

But isn’t it odd that the Hebrews suffer the plagues at first right along with the Egyptians?  What’s up with that?

And what does Moses say to Pharaoh?

Does he say, “Get My people a job!”???

Does he say,” Make My people a loan!”???


No.  He says, “Let My people go.”


Does this sound like a saving act Lupton would endorse?  These people have a job, but YHWH, their Savior, wants them to leave it.  And how “effective” is YHWH at saving them when they reach Sinai and build a Golden Calf???  Would we say that God has done more harm than good?  Or will we look deeper into our faith for answers to such questions?

But meanwhile, YHWH tells Pharaoh, “Let My people go.”  And where does he want them to go???


Oh yeah!  A 3-day journey into the desert!



A 3-day journey into the desert???

Talk about doing more harm than good!  That sounds like a death-wish or a death sentence!  In fact, if Pharaoh banished you to the desert, you likely would die in about 3 days, if not sooner.  Only the most well-prepared caravans survive more than three days in the desert.  I’m betting the children of Israel know this, maybe they have seen it!

And what does YHWH say will happen at the other end of this 3-day journey into the desert?


Hmmm… That’s strange.

Is God sure?  Is that how you help needy people?  Does that really SAVE them?  Does it look ANYTHING like Lupton’s thesis???

What other 3-day journeys do we know about in the Bible?

Well, very quickly, Jonah comes to mind.  No doubt we should, if we want to be thorough, follow up on that lead.  But already my mind is registering Jesus’s 3-day death and burial – a journey THROUGH DEATH.

Hmmm… there are some interesting connections starting to surface there.  And certainly Jesus told some of his critics that the only sign they would get is the “sign of Jonah.”  Jesus foretells of a time when he will eat his covenant meal anew in his Kingdom Come sometime after his 3-day journey through the grave.

At the risk of jumping around too quickly, I am recalling that Jesus also fed 5000 men in the desert.  The menu for that occasion?  A fish for a day! with some miracle bread!   AND THAT scene very prophetically recalls the  moment the Hebrews in the desert with Moses eat manna!  Oh yeah!  Jesus just played the Moses-card, and did so on more than one occasion.

And here’s the thing: That 3-day journey into the desert and the manna-meal all had the GOAL OF CREATING DEPENDENCY on God.  It turns out YHWH wants to impress us, and for us to honor HIS NAME.  If Israel had thrown a rebellion and whipped Pharaoh, YHWH would not get the credit for saving them.  If Israel had grown and harvested their own food, then YHWH would not get the credit for it.  But if YHWH miraculously saved them and fed them AND wanted his name honored, then it would be appropriate that the Hebrews become DEPENDENT on God for their life and well-being.  It is important that Israel NOT somehow steal this glory from God by doing it for themselves!

And the extra manna collected began to spoil and rot.  The Hebrews would NOT be permitted to store it up for themselves or to sell it for a profit, but only enough for each day.  God is NOT teaching sound “business principles” here!  You would have to TRUST that God would come through for you again tomorrow too.

Yes, this is all about DEPENDENCY.

It’s worth noting at this point that when Elisha needs to eat, in II Kings 4, the widow woman and her son offer  him their last meal.  God honors  this widow’s sacrifice for his prophet, not by getting her a job and not by writing her a check for a million dollars either.  Rather, her jar continues to produce oil miraculously, calling her to TRUST/DEPEND on God’s goodness and to honor him for his sustaining, gracious gift.

Toxic Charity shows NO SIGN Lupton has any familiarity with this DEPENDENCY and NO VALUE for it.  On the contrary, Lupton holds DEPENDENCY in contempt and calls God’s people to as well.


But wait!  There’s more…


I can’t help but note how much of this DEPENDENCY involves food – meals eaten together specifically in celebration.  I can’t help but notice how the saving acts of God involve AND ARE CELEBRATED BY eating!  In fact, celebrating (partying) as some how commemorating the salvation seems to be the point.  We see it with Passover and with Eucharist, and certainly Eucharist opens doors for chasing leads into the Eschaton.

But these observations also point to and remind us of THE BEGINNING.

Was there WORK to be done in the Garden of Eden?

Yes. Yes there was, but if you look CAREFULLY you will find that work in the garden before sin and “the Fall” did not involve “sweat of the brow” or battling thorns, weeds, and thistles.  In fact, it involved ruling over creation by virtue of bearing God’s image.

What did that involve?

Nakedness – shameless, humility and nakedness.

This is the domain of the poor!

Think about that.  They were naked and unashamed.   They were male and female and bearing the image of God and thereby ruling the world which responded favorably BECAUSE SUCH IMAGE AS THEY BORE WAS THAT OF GOD!  Every particle of creation harmonized with every other particle of creation as the male and the female go to WORK bearing God’s image!



Well… sorta.

Actually, I’m not sure we creatures who have only lived in a “fallen” world really know just what true, mountain-moving, image-bearing sex is!

But this much I know: Naked humans running around the garden oblivious to any danger in the world are utterly vulnerable before God.  They have no idea what danger even is or a whole race of people banished to a 3-day journey in the desert to PARTY WITH GOD.  Lupton’s book shows no indication he has any idea of this either.

And you know what?

There is a party for these naked image bearers who honor God’s name simply by breathing in his Spirit through their nostrils!  And that party involves a meal in which they eat fruit from THE TREE of LIFE.

In fact, every single problem in the whole of God’s creation (according to those who read and believe the Bible) can be traced back to the moment these naked image-bearers listened to the serpent who convinced these people who were made in God’s image that they could be like God when they ate from the other tree, the forbidden tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (where “common sense” was born) and convinced them they can do for themselves what God was doing for them.

Yes, when these people took the initiative to do for themselves what God had been doing FOR THEM, ironically the image of God suffered, and now we and all of creation too suffer because of it.


I know there is a lot of mystery wrapped up in all that – mystery I don’t have all ironed out for myself.  But every bit of it is biblical, and as such… important for the church to consider.  It all points to the centrality of DEPENDENCY.  All of this biblical observation involves the care of vulnerable and/or needy people.  So, when Lupton writes a whole book addressing THE CHURCH about how it gives alms for the poor, criticizes the church for doing this, barely acknowledges any Scriptures at all and certainly none of the Scriptures I have offered here which prove so relevant, AND THEN uses worldly wisdom to say DEPENDENCY is somehow a bad thing, I’m thinking this book should be rejected by the church rather than accepted.


I think, by all rights, I could just stop right there with that remark.  The fatal blow has now been dealt.  But there’s more… much more.


What about Jesus’s teaching about anxiety in the Sermon on the Mount?  Doesn’t he say, “Why worry about food and clothing?  Doesn’t the Father clothe the flowers and feed the sparrows?  Are we not worth more than sparrows?  Are not the flowers that get burned up tomorrow better clothed than Solomon?”

Yes!  Where does ANY of THIS fit in Lupton’s worldview as presented in Toxic Charity?

And Jesus then tells his disciples, “Seek first the Kingdom of God… and THEN ALL THESE THINGS WILL BE ADDED to you.”

It sounds to me like Lupton needs to go to Sunday school.  It seems like he is worrying about HOW we will feed and clothe the poor while NOT seeking the Kingdom of Heaven.

He wants the church to stop giving alms to the poor even though in Luke 6 Jesus says, “Give to all who ask.”  No mention of discriminating and discerning whether the giving fills a “relief” need for a “crisis” situation or whether we should offer rehab or development.  Nope.  Jesus says, GIVE to ALL who ASK.


Is Jesus in charge here?  Or Lupton???


As for LENDING, in that same passage from Luke, Jesus says, “Lend expecting nothing in return.”

Wow!  That’s not really even a loan then, is it?

And Lupton speaks of the importance of making LOANS and claims that salvation is found in their repayment while giving instead is doing harm to those we give to.

The problem is that despite Lupton’s awesome “conventional [worldly] wisdom,” he is directly opposing the words and commands of LORD JESUS!


He is selling this book to the church like hotcakes, having tremendous influence on the church all while undermining the Word of God!

And I get that posing the issues the way Lupton has raises some legitimate questions, but it is quite clear to me that this utter betrayal of Jesus CANNOT BE THE ANSWER THE CHURCH SETTLES FOR!  He has promoted Worldly Wisdom and “business principles” (worship of Mammon) in place of FAITH/DEPENDENCY on God and sold it to the church.  That is just disastrous.

Call me crazy.


Much like I did with seven posts on When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert, I now copy from my chicken-scratch composition book notes my initial reactions to Robert Lupton’s book Toxic Charity.  If you are not already familiar with my reaction to Corbett and Fikkert, scroll through my posts from July 2020 and find a seven part series.  If you are not familiar with Lupton’s book, please consider my review here as you read it.  I think you will find it is NOT all it should be and not fit for praise by the church.



From notes jotted down on March 11, 2019


This vol. deals primarily and specifically with my initial thoughts and reactions concerning Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton particularly, but with an eye on the other book When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert AND their collaborative project with Lupton called “Seeking Shalom” – a web-based seminar I attended a year ago as facilitated by my home church [here remaining nameless].

To be forthright and openly honest, I never actually read Toxic Charity before this weekend, though I have read excerpts and reviews on the web, and visited with others who have read it.  So, I did have familiarity with it all along, but only just now gave it my full attention.

The general argument it makes was just as I expected.  It was really no surprise – not any new kind of evidence for its case which I never saw or heard elsewhere before.  Thus, the book pretty much met expectations.

Toxic Charity does not present itself or the author as scholarly.  According to my findings on the web, Lupton has a Ph.D in Psychology, but I saw no sign of that in his book.  Rather his book offers no footnotes at all, and any citations he makes are “in text.”  Thus, his book appears to be written for popular consumption.

Lupton refers to his expertise in inner-city work with the poor and claims to be the founder of his organization FCS Urban Ministries – one of the few indications he actually speaks/works from a religious/Christian perspective.

Toxic Charity was quite easy to read.  I found Lupton’s book to have much stronger language and consistency than When Helping Hurts, but way less effort to appear biblical/theological.  By my count, Lupton only appeals to Scripture SIX TIMES in 191 pages.  That is a bit interpretive on my part because he only cites the passage he alludes to in 3 of those cases.  [That’s only 3 Bible citations in the whole book!]  He very colloquially tells us “Jesus teaches” or “Jesus’ directive” and so forth without citation in other cases.

By my count, there were SIX TIMES Lupton made theological assertions to back up his position, but did so with no citation of either Scripture or the teachings of any theologians.  Thus, my count of these citations and allusions is highly interpretive of the evidence.  I noted a couple of cases that to my mind SEEMED theological in nature, but were of such a liberal judgment call that I decided not to count them.  I sense that if Lupton wants to credit God (or God’s Word) with the backing for his arguments, he can make that explicit, and I was already being generous to count the SIX I did.

That said, Lupton’s rhetorical effect is very convicting.  Over all, with few exceptions, his arguments are reasonable, compelling, and consistent.  Most of the evidence he offers is wise and compelling.  In fact, I must admit that if I did not have biblical/theological reasons to object to his work (and I must temper some of my objections even there – by that, I mean disentangle them from some complexities of his arguments), then I would find Lupton’s version of the When Helping Hurts program to be more compelling than Corbett and Fikkert’s.


The problem is that Lupton almost flat out ignores the Bible and good theology and the bits he uses are hardly more than decoration, or cosmetics, for his offerings.


In fact, even worse than that – actually – he alludes at one point to Luke 6:30 without citing it, even acknowledges its opposition to his general thesis (in an indirect way) and then just functionally drops it without making a case for how it should be understood differently – a way of arguing his point without detracting from God’s Word.  But, it seems, Lupton just doesn’t even care.

I find this deeply troubling.

It is clear that Lupton wants to address the church and people of faith.  The subtitle (How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help) is indication enough.  It’s not clear that he speaks from within – except that the name of his organization suggests it and his allusion to his own church life briefly would also suggest it.  The final chapter of the book is specifically addressed to the church and parachurch ministry organizations.  But in today’s world, I can easily imagine political pressure groups of secular persuasions seeking to address and/or join forces with churches and faith groups.  Also there are partnerships between faith-based organizations and both private and governmental agencies, and esp. considering the overlap in outreach ministry to the poor with social work, I would think conversations in books and articles between people of faith and secular groups along these lines might be fairly normal.  Meanwhile, Lupton shows no understanding of the difference between the church and other organizations whether faith-based or not.  Thus, Lupton’s lax appeal to Scripture leaves me wondering about his commitment to God and God’s Word.

At any rate, I do object to this book, not to every single particle of it, but certainly to the overall thesis and several related matters.  And despite it’s compelling reasonability and consistency, I object based almost entirely on biblical/theological grounds – grounds that Lupton mostly ignores.  And yet, I am inclined to think there are issues Lupton raises, and raises in ways, that should be addressed.

Two features of Lupton’s book that stand out to me as in need of profound refutation are 1) his concern that “dependency” is a bad thing and 2) his insistence that making loans to be repaid is a good thing whereas the giving of FREE GIFTS is a bad thing.  I might quibble on some other points, but I am not convinced at this moment to chase those lesser bunny trails considering how cumbersome this whole project has become.

HOWEVER, I do feel compelled  BY LUPTON no less, to consider/account for/seek solution to/address dynamics like the phenom he calls “religious tourism.” (see page 14)  When a mission trip to Tahiti subtly becomes a vacation rather than service to the Gospel, it seems to me the consumerist mentality is running the show alright.

I do not feel compelled to offer a chapter-by-chapter refutation of Toxic Charity like I did with the first part of When Helping Hurts.  There are a handful of passages/quotes scattered all through it that I may want to pick on, but actually there is significant overlap in the material offered by Lupton in Toxic Charity and the book When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert.  The overlap in the overall thesis – or point of the book – is so much that they are practically redundant at that level.  Thus, I expect to concentrate more on When Helping Hurts and thereby address both AND capture a few bits of their joint project “Seeking Shalom” at the same time in that chicken-scratch rather than this one.


I know I have a few interested people reading here and praying for us, and so I need to share this update.

Today we are blessed with a new COVID CAMPER.

A COVID Camper is, in our case, a small Winnebago travel trailer.  We managed to purchase one of our own this week, and it arrived just today.

Several doctors and nurses and other medical workers are purchasing, renting, or borrowing these things these days in case of exposure at work.  This makes it possible for Mrs. Agent X to isolate in a home away from our home full of foster kids if it becomes prudent.

Hopefully it will not come to that.  Hopefully, we just go camping and have fun with it.  The kids are all a buzz over it tonight and want to go camping tonight!

COVID CAMPER.  It is the ultimate in preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.

We are blessed to have it.  If Mrs. Agent X either becomes sick or even just thinks it is likely, which of course is a real concern since she works in the ICU where the COVID patients go, we have a tremendous option now.

And if that doesn’t happen, we have a fantastic camper to enjoy at campgrounds nationwide!

(I can’t help but think who else might wind up taking advantage of these spare beds we suddenly have acquired!  We might entertain angels unaware!)

Anyway, it is a blessing in this time of trial, and for those of you praying for us and caring, I want you to know.  Join us in thanx!



It took six posts to get us through Chapter 1 of When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert.  There is just SOOOOOOOO much to nit pick.  However, in this post, it’s probably not fair to call it “nit picking” since my review in Chapter 2 is just so heavily devastating.  The fruit hangs low too.  I can’t believe the observations I make here have not been made before me.  I am not that smart.  This is not some great intellectual debate.  The thesis is just that pitiful.

The only thing I can say is that I just did not drink the Kool-aid.  It must be some tasty Kool-Aid too, because it seems like everyone and their dog is drinking it.  But for you few who read here, if you haven’t read When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert before, should be able to see what I am talking about.  I will be as fair as I can to them, but as I shine a biblical light on their book, it collapses under its own weight magnificently.

Enjoy.  (oh, btw, this post is not nearly as long as the others in this series)


Chapter 2 (page 51)



What is the problem?

Well, with barely 27 pages left in this composition book for me to make my chicken-scratch notes, I reiterate the lack of BIBLE and/or the misuse and ABUSE thereof (to the extent it is used) as my chief problem.  Maybe not Corbett and Fikkert’s but since this book is addressed to churches and Christians – then it sure is mine.

By my count, Chapter 2 cites/alludes to Bible passages 8 times total (counting one in the review questions at the end and once in the footnotes.)  I also note that at least one citation quite effectively (ironically) argues AGAINST the point it’s meant to support.  Contrast this against 9 (count them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) times nonbiblical sources are cited or alluded to (some of which have no connection whatsoever to the Bible).  Here is the list of them:


World Bank (page 51)

“the true poverty experts, the poor themselves” (page 51)

Cornel West (page 53)

Bryant Myers (page 56)

Westminster Shorter Catechism (page 57)

The “Cultural Mandate” (page 58)

research from around the world (page 64)

Robert Chambers (page 70)

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen (page 71)


Also One TABLE and Two DIAGRAMS are offered and repeatedly referred to as authoritative.

What is the problem?  According to the chapter???

Well, put in my words, my rephrasing and truncated repackaging (which I hope is fair to Corbett and Fikkert’s intent), I say:

The problem is a misdiagnosis (which is a metaphor Corbett and Fikkert use for) a flawed definition of “poverty.”

For Corbett and Fikkert, “poverty” correctly defined and rightly diagnosed is really a matter of FOUR BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS.


Relationship with God

Relationship with Self

Relationship with Others

Relationship with Creation


These broken relationships manifest in at least 4 forms of poverty (which it turns out may or may not have bearing on “material poverty,” which is of course (or was at least before When Helping Hurts was published) JUST “POVERTY”


which actually is the focus of this chapter and most of this book in the final analysis ANYWAY… but I digress….)


Anyway, the 4 forms of poverty are:


Poverty of Spiritual Intimacy

Poverty of Being

Poverty of Community

Poverty of Stewardship


At any rate, Corbett and Fikkert want us to correctly define and diagnose the underlying problem of these broken relationships rather than simply treat the symptom which is “material poverty.”  They go to pains to show how these broken relationships lead to these other 4 poverties which often manifests in “material poverty,” but along the way, they ironically show how (apparently (based on page 27)) Brian Fikkert, being a “workaholic” which causes him to suffer a “poverty of stewardship” has made him “unlikely to experience “material poverty” (see page 64 for details).

AT THIS POINT I should probably say something nice, before I forget.

All this talk about broken relationships (and the quote from Bryant Myers on page 62 comes nearest to making this clear) is actually a rather jumbled up way of speaking about SHALOM, the Hebrew word for “peace” that means so much more than the mere absence of conflict (like that word is typically used in Modern English) but branches out and speaks of the presence of complete harmony between every particle of God’s creation with all the other particles of all of creation!

It is a biblical concept, and heavily theological!

Yay to Corbett and Fikkert for trying!  However, funneling all that shalom down into matters of poverty (or not) is reductionist to say the least.  Corbett and Fikkert start off in the right ball park, but just like they so sadly suggested in Chapter 1 about “small” and “nuanced differences” having “dramatic consequences” (see page 31), they fall victim to it again.

Why all the reliance on the worldly wisdom of THE WORLD BANK, of “the poor themselves,” of Cornel West and Bryant Myers among others, especially when ignoring Jesus’s words in Luke 6:30 or Mark 10:21 or the biblical example of the church in Acts 2:44-45 and 4:34?

You see, I’m all in favor of examining SHALOM as part of this process, I even see a clear and valiant attempt to be biblical in considering “the Cultural Mandate” and a study of biblical stewardship that MIGHT flow out of that.  I really do!  But you can’t expect me to take seriously a persuasive case about how to “help” the poor while you call it “biblical” yet ignore these important passages and then go lean on Cornel West to help hold the glue in your cobbled-together theological assertions all designed to undermine the words of Jesus you just ignored!

NOPE!  Not havin’ it.

I really think all this redefinition of “poverty” really just helps create the smoke-n-mirrors on the one hand, and then lends credibility to the rhetorical effect and manipulations on the other.  Despite all the fancy, hifalutin exercises to the contrary and in the middle of the chapter, the “poor” refers to the “materially poor” at the start and still has them in mind every step of the way … all the way to the other end of the chapter (and the book for that matter).  Thus, all the redefining of terms doesn’t actually change the meaning we started with at all.

Instead, it winds up giving us pointless jargon about “experiencing a poverty of being” which reminds me I need to talk gently to my “inner child” too!

When does St. Paul ever say, “Don’t give a dollar to a beggar on your way to the temple, he has a ‘poverty of being,’ and that’s his underlying issue.  If you give him a dollar, you’ll just exacerbate his ‘poverty of being’ which might lead to a devastating poverty of spiritual intimacy too?

Got a verse???

(I didn’t think so.)

Space just doesn’t allow me to dwell there any longer, and sadly some of that was the better contribution of this chapter!  But I’ve really got to get into Jayakumar Christian’s contribution about “the god-complex” and Fikkert’s battle with the health-n-wealth gospel before I run out of space.

Oh… man!  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black… WOW!


First off!  Is the term “god-compex” in the Bible at all?  Is it even a biblical concept?  As image bearers, is it appropriate or inappropriate?   Should we try to be like Jesus or not?  Should someone warn Jesus not to have a “god-complex”?

Just exactly WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT here?  Misters Redefine everything???

Hey man, I’m thinking, if you’re gonna bring it up, and esp if you’re gonna use that term for it, then you have a lot of explaining to do.  However, Corbett and Fikkert don’t.  They don’t explain it.

Look here how the writers of a book called When Helping Hurts define this term:

“…a subtle and unconscious sense of superiority in which [the helper(s)] believe that they have achieved their wealth through their own efforts, and they have been anointed TO DECIDE WHAT IS BEST FOR LOW-INCOME PEOPLE, whom they view as inferior to themselves.”

(I added the emphasis.)

I mean these guys write a whole book devoted to HOW BEST TO HELP LOW-INCOME PEOPLE, and they jump through all manner of rhetorical hoops to actually oppose the words of Jesus in Luke 6:30 while claiming to be biblical as they ignore how the church in Acts 2 and 4 help needy people so they can justify themselves telling you, the proud owner of their best-selling book which dares to speak for God, NOT TO GIVE MONEY to a person who needs it and /or asks for it because THEY (the writers with the god-complex who are now setting you up with one while warning you against it) KNOW BETTER than the poor (who they list as “true poverty experts” on page 51).  These MZUNGUs seem to know better than misguided liberals and even better than you and me!

But don’t take my word for it; listen to Fikkert TALK ABOUT HIS OWN gOD COMPLEX!:

“Few of us are conscious of having a god-complex, which is part of the problem.  We are often deceived by Satan and by our sinful natures.  For example, consider this: why do you want to help the poor?  Really think about it.  What truly motivates you?  Do you really love the poor people and want to serve them?  Or do you have other motives?  I confess to you that part of what motivates me to help the poor is my felt need to accomplish something worthwhile with my life, to be a person of significance, to feel like I have pursued a noble cause… to be like God.  It makes me feel good to use my training in economics to “save” poor people.  And in the process, I sometimes unintentionally reduce poor people to objects that I use to fulfill my own need to accomplish something.  It is a very ugly truth, and it pains me to admit it, but ‘when I want to do good, evil is right there with me’ (Rom. 7:21).”

(page 65)


Wow!  He even used Scripture finally, but used it to call his whole project into question.

And yet… somehow doesn’t see it.

[I guess if I read Luke 6:30 or Mark 10:21 and felt compelled, based on the words of Jesus, to give money to a poor person – NOTICE EVEN FIKKERT FORGETS TO CALL THEM MATERIALLY POOR OR “people suffering poverty of stewardship” or whatever – that I would be having a god-complex since I would be trying to be like Jesus.  Of course, doing that does NOT mean I think I know better than the poor person themselves, so that superior part is not really jiving, but actually, I am trusting the poor person knows how to use that five spot I just gave them… but wait, that is what prompts this book huh?  The poor person Fikkert has reduced to an object so he can fulfill his need to sell you this book is likely to buy some booze if I give them a five spot, and so Fikkert knows better what they need than they do, and he is having the superiority complex here, not me!]


Midway through the next paragraph Corbett and Fikkert say this”

“The way that we act toward the economically poor often communicates – albeit unintentionally – that we are superior and they are inferior.  In the process we hurt the poor and ourselves.  And here is the clincher: this dynamic is LIKELY TO BE PARTICULARLY STRONG WHENEVER MIDDLE-TO-UPPER-CLASS, NORTH AMERICAN CHRISTIANS [the people mostly likely to purchase this book, btw] TRY TO HELP THE POOR, GIVEN THESE CHRISTIANS’ TENDENCY TOWARD A WESTERN, MATERIALISTIC PERSPECTIVE OF THE NATURE OF POVERTY.”

(page 65)

(I added the emphasis)


It’s almost like the writers suddenly see clearly the log in their own eye and then help you get one in your eye too!


They move from this cathartic confession to an illustration of Creekside Community Church which is made up of white, professional types who reach out to the black residents of a “nearby housing project.”  Just then the narrative asks, “But what could they do to help” (see page 66).  I’m thinking: WHY NOT PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR like Jesus says?  Hey, it’s a biblical idea!

Well, Creekside gets all these Christmas gifts for all the residents and their kids, and as our writers report, “The congregation felt so good about the joy they had brought that they decided to expand this ministry….”

“Unfortunately, after several years, Pastor Johnson noticed that he was struggling to find enough volunteers….”  And the reason given?  “Pastor, we are tired of trying to help these people out… their situation never improves…. They don’t deserve our help.”

(page 66)


What happened to “spend yourselves”?  Remember like was quoted from Isaiah 58:10 on page 56, on of the very FEW times we went to the Bible in this discussion???  What happened to the “trial and error process… necessary before a proper diagnosis can be reached”?  As Corbett and Fikkert themselves have already said, “even after a sound diagnosis is made, IT MAY TAKE YEARS to help to overcome their problems.”  (see these quotes on page 56)


I mean NEVER MIND for the moment, that such observations about making a correct diagnosis so as to treat the underlying problem and not just the symptom suggests that there is a LOT of trial and error involved and even then it may take several years!!!

Makes for an awful alternative that is hardly any better than getting it wrong! 

(I mean, if my doctor’s diagnosis is that bad, I am getting a second or even a third opinion!  But since we could just trust God’s Word in the Bible in this instance, it surely suggests we should do that!)


I said, “Never Mind” all that!

Do you REALLY THINK I MEAN NEVER mind?  Or am I just using the rhetorical effect forcefully here?

hmmm… turn about is fair play!

But, really, never mind all that, at least for the moment  Get back to Creekside and apply these thoughts to their situation like page 56 would have you do in yours.  “Spend yourself,” be patient with the trial and error, and even give the diagnosis YEARS to see if it will make any changes.

BUT DON’T!  Please DON”T let Creekside off this hook, esp when they say they are “tired” that it doesn’t seem to be working, and that “these people” don’t “deserve” our care!

Oh!  And while we are at it, these PROUD fathers who are hiding out because they feel ashamed to receive the FREE GIFT of GOD on behalf of their kids??? – Well, they need to learn some humility.  No doubt they don’t suffer anything the poor in the church of Acts 2:44-45 and 4:34 didn’t suffer, but then PRIDE is actually THE UNDERLYING PROBLEM that prevents many from following Jesus and receiving his blessings!  It’s not unique to the poor or the rich, nor is it a new idea!

And finally on pages 68-70, Fikkert REPENTS of the health -n- wealth gospel.

Actually, he tells a story about one of his many experiences in a slum in Nairobi, Kenya.  As he tip-toes and slips-n-slides around the slum on the poo and mud and other ick, he gets asked to preach at a humble church he finds worshiping there.  In addition to learning Fikkert can cobble together a good Presbyterian sermon off the cuff just for the asking, we join him in experiencing what James meant when he said, God chose the poor to be rich in faith.

Sadly, Fikkert makes no mention or application of James 2:5 as he did on page 42, but this would have been a great place to ponder that text!

You see, suddenly, as Fikkert is preparing his impromptu remarks for the sermon, the members of this destitute congregation are allotted “a time of sharing,” which doesn’t mean they spit a sandwich or a can of beans, but rather they “cried out to God” (page 69).

“Jehovah Jireh, please heal my son, as he is going blind.”

“Merciful Lord, please protect me when I go home today, for my husband always beats me.”

“Sovereign King, please provide my children with enough food today, as they are hungry.”


Let’s listen to the impact Fikkert reports this episode had on him:


“As I listened to these people praying to be able to live another day, I thought about my ample salary, my life insurance policy, my health insurance policy, my two cars, my house, etc.  I REALIZED THAT I DO NOT REALLY TRUST GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY on a daily basis, as I have sufficient buffers in place to shield me from most economic shocks.  I realized that when these folks pray the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer – Give us this day our daily bread – their minds do not wander as mine so often does.  I realized that while I have sufficient education and training to deliver a sermon on God’s sovereignty with no forewarning, these slum dwellers were trusting in God’s sovereignty just to get them through the day.  AND I REALIZED THAT THESE PEOPLE HAD A FAR DEEPER INTIMACY WITH GOD THAN I PROBABLY WILL EVER HAVE IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.”

(page 69)


Yeah… Fits well don’t you think?  I mean with the rest of this chapter which demonstrates that even though these people live in abject “material poverty” and have NOTHING, nothing except a FAR DEEPER INTIMACY with God than Fikkert will ever have in his entire life, nevertheless, Fikkert (who I now see as completely out of touch with the poor and with his own humanity and with GOD) has a responsibility (according to this chapter) not to give these people a solitary dime, but rather to correctly diagnose their broken relationship with God, with self, with others, and with creation.  Otherwise he might HURT them!

But my mind keeps going back to his own Bible quotation on page 42 from James 2:5: “Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”

Maybe Fikkert, ironically, is/was THE NEEDY ONE.




More than three years ago, I posted about divine peek a boo vis-à-vis the image of God.  A very brief post which did not attempt to exhaustively exegete Scripture and develop a full-blown biblical theology, but in whimsical brushstrokes painted the picture in almost devotional terms.  It’s been a long time now since I posted that, but I have not stopped thinking about it.  I keep putting the observation together with the rest of my worldview and with the things I believe are important in life.  I want this post to build on some of those foundational thoughts.  If you want the refresher, here is the link:

Yeah, as I sit here today ministering (to use church lingo) to this foster baby almost learning to walk, I find myself having a spiritual experience playing peek a boo.  AGAIN.  And I notice that the child is coming from behind.  AGAIN.

Babies don’t come to live with us/me because it was just so good with their parents that they had to quit.  No.  They come to this house because their parents are strung out on dope.  They come to me because for the first 9 months of life (or was it 6, 7, or 8?), they too were getting hooked on the dope.  (Did I just use the singular form of the word “dope”?  Let’s make that dopes – as in many dopes!) Yes, here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, we specialize in Come-Back Kids.

Fortunately, early intervention helps.  Not entirely, but it helps a lot.  My kids will have life-long struggles after the battles they faced in the wombs of their biological mothers.  Some of those struggles we will put behind us, some we will learn to compensate, and others we will lose over and over again for life.

Which ones will we win and which ones will we lose?

It’s hard to say.

Perhaps I need to pay $30 for a seminar in outcome-based, solution-oriented, effective parenting so I can help my kids be independent, educated, home-owning, Amazon shoppers and taxpayers.  No doubt, that could help.

(If that is really the goal.)

But it is clear that just by virtue of living in this house where these kids get love, and lots of it, every day starting early in life, they recover a lot more ground than they would otherwise.  I don’t need H.M. Skeels and H.B. Dye to study the IQ of orphans or Harry Harlow to study rhesus monkeys to know that if I show my LOVE to the kids, they will learn to be human.


Let’s talk about parenting a moment.  Do you have kids?  Did you raise kids already?  Were your kids born healthy?  Did they get the benefit of prenatal care, of in-tact nuclear family relations, of steady and well-balanced breakfasts and diets?  Did they get piano lessons, play soccer, and go to school?

Did you make any mistakes?

You did???

Did you not read the manual?  It’s all in there, right?  How to raise perfect angels and all?

Did you raise 2, 3, 4, or more kids all eating the same food, going to the same schools, living in the same house and one or two of them turn out remarkably different from the others?  One or two of them get into a lot of trouble???

Answer honestly!  Are you a bad parent???

Did your troublemaker ever surprise you and become the hero unexpectedly?

Probably there is a lot of complexity in all that.  (Did I just say “probably”?)  Probably you had a few really rotten days as a parent.  Maybe you had a lot of them.  Probably your kids are mostly pretty good, and in fact better than you deserve!  Probably some of your best days were when you coddled them, when you gave them food and maybe even money.  When you wasted time with them smiling and laughing.  And you don’t need a seminar to tell you that.  Books and seminars might have some value, but I don’t want to just insult your parenting here.

Parenting is a long process.  In fact, in some ways, it never really ends.  Over time, it involves less and less intensive care and more and more freedom and a longer and longer leash, but it never dreams of some hermetically sealed outcome where the children just go away become completely independent and have all their problems completely solved with no more interest from the parents.  A disciplined maturity – YES, but total independence – no.

And though you might read some books, consult some experts, take your child to a doctor and professional educators, you never for one moment let the tail wag the dog.  Both as a matter of foundation and built-in all through the substructure of this parenting phenom is LOVE.  Sloppy, mistake-making LOVE.  Inefficient, clumsy, needy and sometimes embarrassing, but never independent… LOVE.  Probably you will leave your money to your kids as inheritance, like a free gift to be squandered and lost forever because YOU LOVE THEM.

Love is how humans are made.

All that other stuff is supplemental at most.

Playing Peek-a-Boo

Let’s talk a moment about where peek a boo comes in to this.

I’m sitting here today playing with my 10-month old who is on the cusp of learning to walk.  For several months now, we have played millions of peek a boo games.  It just never gets old.  My ugly mug popping out from behind my hands to give a friendly gasp and say “boo” just lights up his life every time!  It’s universal, really.  It worked like this for every single kid who ever came to this house.

I began to see the image of God imprinting on both of us (to borrow a term from developmental psychologists and employ it for theological purposes).  The sheer joy of it is divine!  The universality of it is providential design.  And it is pure love, stripped down to it’s bare essence.  You can’t bottle it, sell it, store it up for later.  You can’t eat it.  It won’t keep you warm at night.  It doesn’t secure your home from burglars.

What good is it?  It has no market value!

And yet, it is as important as your next breath of air!

How mysterious is that???

And the child is on the floor as I sit leaned over in my chair.  From his perspective, my face disappears behind my knees and then reappears like the sun breaking over the horizon.  But this child of 10 months is just starting to develop enough strength and balance to pull himself up to his feet and peek over my knees at my face!  And the sheer joy of the experience compels him to do it.

Suddenly, I see practical benefit to his maturity in this otherwise dumb little game.

I didn’t read about this little exercise in a parenting manual.  It might actually appear in one, and probably should, but I didn’t come across it that way.  I found it by LOVING the kid.  We wasted TIME together looking at each other.  We discovered primitive language that doesn’t use real words even – baby talk.  And we learned to share smiles and laughter as we did this stuff, and over time a bond has developed that encourages dependence, not independence.

There is no outcome-based interest in peek a boo, other than a smile and a laugh.  But there is a very mysterious sense in which the outcome of a lot of it is a bond of love and the development of humanity.  There is healing for those prenatal months of destruction and neglect.

It turns out, this stuff is the difference between life and death.

Beggars, Bums, and The Homeless

Let’s talk about the homeless a minute.

Did you know that one of the biggest segments of the homeless population is kids of 18-19 years old “aging out” of the foster system after being bounced around from home to home throughout their formative years?  It’s not the only kind of damage that puts people out on the streets, but it is a major one.  War vets, abused children, mental illness, substance abuse and more (to name a few) all factor in to the “root causes” of homelessness.

Did laziness make the list?

Perhaps it should have.  But I am thinking any laziness (the only factor that MIGHT legitimately warrant contempt) is almost always complicated by these other factors.

I am also thinking, and this is where my thoughts tend to roost, that our churches are spending too much effort and energy reading all the manuals, taking all the seminars, and consulting all the experts for their outcome-based, solution-oriented, “effective” charity models – AND doing so while abdicating the responsibility to LOVE needy people on the one hand, and passing them off to the parachurch ministries on the other.

Look, I am talking to the CHURCH here… and to Christian people.  All that outcome-based stuff is fine for the professionals, the secular charities, government programs and all those doing that kind of work, but the church is something else entirely.  The church is FAMILY, the body of Christ no less.

As far as I know, The United Way and the Homeless Vet Project, government welfare and SNAP all want solutions to the homeless problem so that it will go away, so that the people suffering such problems will find outcomes where they go away, and thus they measure the efficacy of their programs on how well they achieve this going away goal.  But you, church, it shall not be so among you.

We treat our care for the poor like it’s something wholly other than our worship, than our evangelism where we bring outsiders in to become insiders partaking in our worship.  We treat our worship like it’s a decoration on our lives, like it’s an addendum to who we are and all we do, and not like it is the central point of our very lives.

No.  We treat the American Dream like that, and church is this private, personal piety we tack on to the weekends mostly, and to the extent it fills up our off hours from work we divide our piety and “Bible study” from our ministry and outreach which shows almost no desire to integrate poor, needy people into our lives and worship.

Does your church open the doors to homeless people on cold winter nights?

Does your town have a “homeless church” where “homeless people” will be “more comfortable” anyway?

We have so many layers and boundaries separating us from the needy built in to the structure of our church assembly so pervasively that we don’t even notice.  But we do notice if the same bum keeps coming back to the handout line over and over, year after year, without getting better and finally going away!

And of course, the church never actually claims that phrase “go away” as a stated goal, but we have layers of boundaries built in so we never have to face that fact.  We have a church for “them” on the other side of town.  We pat ourselves on the back for purchasing a latte at the coffee shop that supports that church on the other side of town.  We are well insulated from actually caring ourselves or even as a church.  We employ parachurch ministries to do the work for us, and if any of us individually want to go put in the time and help there, we will be welcome, but we will also be trained not to help too much, not to be too available, not to get too involved, but rather to maintain those boundaries and NEVER, NEVER, NEVER give a bum your phone number or your money because that violates the “effective,” outcome-based solutions we learn from secular professionals or from best-selling, Christian ministers whose expertise is in economic development (a discipline outlined no where in the Bible).

Gone is the divine peek-a-boo.

The Apocalypse

“Creation eagerly awaits,” as we are told in Romans 8:19, “the apocalypse of the sons of God.”

That is church business.  It is not the business of The United Way, Homeless Vet Relief, government welfare assistance or food stamps.  It is not the business of anyone else except the church.  God wants to play peek a boo with creation, and he is doing so through the body of Christ!

He played peek a boo with Moses at the cleft of the rock.  He played peek a boo with the disciples at Emmaus.  (These are just two very handy examples among many, many, many more which typically require more explaining.)

God wants to be seen in you.  He wants to be seen in his church.  He was seen in Jesus who had beggars, bums, and needy people thronging to him everywhere he went.  He taught his disciples, not to fish so they would go away and feed themselves for life, but to be fishers of men!  And he fed them a fish for a day!  He did so as the bread which came down from heaven, recalling the manna our fathers ate in the wilderness – manna they were instructed not to gather too much of, but rather to learn to become dependent upon.

Eucharist is church business.

Eucharist is not the business of The United Way or of the parachurch charities.  It is strictly the business of the church.  There is an outcome it seeks, but it is too mysterious for our engineering.  On the other hand, it is also the holy peek a boo of God!  The revelation of God is so thoroughly associated with the meal time and again all through Scripture that you should be embarrassed not to know this!

We come to the table and find the presence of God, the healing presence of Jesus.  We are loved there even more intimately than a nursing mother loves her baby.

And yet when I go to my church to discuss our outreach to the needy, to the homeless, our concern is always that our charity be “effective” in that go-away sense.

Creation waits for the revelation of the sons of God.  We need to bear his image in the world.  We need to help form his image in each other.  We need to see his image in each other – especially in the poor.  (Matt. 25:31-46 anyone?)  This apocalypse is the outcome we as the church really want, and playing peek a boo is part of the mysterious process leading to it.

It is church business.

Think about it.





Oh no!  I washed my hands all thoroughly with soap and water, but the infection control nurse was hiding with a stop watch outside the bathroom and estimated I fell short in proper handwashing.  What do I do?


Facing the secret police of handwashing is no fun.  Words like “Nazi” quickly come to mind.  But I have worked in healthcare facilities several times in my career, and this scenario is entirely realistic.

I will never forget Nurse Jan, the inspector who periodically came around with her special glow-in-the-dark lotion to test your effectiveness.  I rarely ever passed the test the first time.  It was irritating.  Maybe not as irritating as catching C. diff., but probably the most irritating of irritations up to that point!

The other day, I needed to run over to my dad’s place for a quick errand like I have done hundreds of times over the years.  Yet, it wasn’t until I was stopped at the corner that I remembered my mask.  I felt torn about going back to get it.  I wanted to excuse myself this inconvenience with the very hifalutin rationalization that to go back and get it means I want to convert to Islam.  But then of course after giving my best thought to it, I realized that loving my dad and going back to get my mask is just good discipline – even Christian disciipline.

I love my dad, someone who has added risk from this virus, and I would feel so terrible if I found my carelessness exposed him to infection.  My love for him is more important than my minor frustration about returning home for the mask.

Over the years, I have thought a lot about Nurse Jan and her secret police measures.  As I recall it, Nurse Jan was normally a very sweet person.  She was one of the best gift-givers at the annual Christmas party.  She expressed an abiding faith in Christ.  She upheld standards of excellence and professionalism.  In those moments of confrontation, my kneejerk gut feeling had me thinking she took some malicious joy from it, that she was on a power trip.

In the big picture, that characterization was an anomaly, but in that moment, it seemed to be the hard truth of the matter.

In my view, there is an oversaturation of antibiotics and germaphobia.  Many in our culture, including me at points, have become too fearful of such things.  I, like many of my neighbors, believe a little dirt and a little exposure is actually good for us.

But where is that line?

I think about how unrealistic Nurse Jan’s glow-in-the-dark lotion was.  I mean, if I had smeared infected diarrhea all over my hands until most of it dried, then I don’t think there is any way 20 seconds of handwashing with soap and water will do.  But if I paused in the middle of preparing a ham sandwich to change the channel on my TV using the remote control (which studies have shown is more filthy than my toilet handle), then I am pretty sure a quick scrub with soap and water for 20 seconds is far more than adequate.  In fact, 19 seconds is more than adequate.

But we need to set some standards which cover the majority of circumstances, and we need to adhere to those standards – especially – in professional settings.  But even more than that, I think hospital settings should warrant more strict adherence since they are more often hotspots for infection.

My rule of thumb is that there are times and places where this stuff is more important than others.  Most of those times and places are fairly easily matters of “common sense.”  I want my surgeon to wash far more thoroughly for my surgery than for his lunch, and I think antibacterial soap in the surgery setting is entirely appropriate.  So is his mask.

Let’s call “pandemic” a time when these concerns come up in all places.

I see nothing wrong with adhering to stricter discipline during this TIME of increased and legitimate concern.  I see nothing wrong, once this time has passed, with purposely relaxing that discipline.  The over-saturation of antibiotics is not appropriate for all times and all places, and in fact presents new problems- or more accurately the same/similar problems.

We live between these pendulum swings.  We die out past them.

Nurse Jan was a good lady doing a good job.  Perhaps she could have shown a bit more charity in her work on some occasions, but she was doing a job for which the very nature of it dictates that it be an inherent difficulty.  I needed to be mature enough to not think of her as a “Nazi.”  She was not pushing some Islamic agenda.  That kind of thought represents frustration, but when left unchecked is actually fearmongering.  I needed to be mature enough to appreciate her taking on a tough job.

As I recall it, I fell under her tough scrutiny a few times, but I found her eager to share her sweetness at other times.  She was a good friend.  She had my best interest at heart.  She was good at her job.  And I did a little growing up knowing her.