Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Messianic Largresse

My friend Cindy Harris sent me this convicting quote from the great book Walking with the Poor by Bryant L. Myers.
If poverty is the absence of things, then the solution is to provide them. This often leads to the outside becoming the development “Santa Claus” bringing all good things: food, well drilling, education, and proclamation. The poor are seen as passive recipients, incomplete human beings we make complete and whole through our largesse.

This unwitting attitude has two very negative consequences. First, this attitude demeans and devalues the poor. Our view of them, which quickly becomes their view of themselves, is that they are defective and inadequate. We do not treat them as human beings made in the image of God. We act as if God’s gifts were given to us and none to the poor. This attitude increases their poverty and tempts us to play god in the lives of the poor.

Second, our attitude about ourselves can become messianic. We are tempted to believe that we are the deliverers of the poor, that we make their lives complete. We can inadvertently harbor a belief that we are the ones who save. Such an attitude is not good for our souls.
What are your thoughts? Is there a right way to help? What is it?


thaberean said...

Love the quote. Encourages me to watch my attitude tow. others and self. Also reminds me of book I read about Julius Rosenwald (the Sears magnate) who teamed w. Booker T. Wash. to build over 5K schools for Blacks at the turn of the century. What was interesting was the req'mnt that communities raise part of the bldg funds themselves (sweat equity counted) B4 rec'vg donated funds (matching grant). Came from BTW and JR's self help belief. Today these men would be in hot water for suggesting this of poor folks (though we do it all the time w. non profits), but it makes me think how in some cases (tho' not all) giving should involve letting receivers participate in helping themselves. Sense of ownership and accomplishment formed in the process is phenomenal.

Chris Brooks said...


Interesting post. I love the depth of reflection - and to include drilling wells with handing out food - wow.

I agree wholeheartedly that all give and no equip is bad Kingdom methodology. What did you encounter while in Africa? Please share!