As believers in Christ, it is one of our God-given responsibilities to care for the poor. Over 2,000 verses in the Bible illustrate this. But, how do we effectively serve the poor?
One way to ensure that you’re serving your homeless neighbors appropriately is by making sure to practice smart charity instead of toxic charity.
Toxic charity prevents any or all contributions from the homeless individual in their journey toward healing and getting back on their feet. It enables them to continue in a dependent state, rather than empowering them to change their situation. Toxic charity erodes the God-given dignity that each of us has, putting someone in the backseat of their own recovery journey.
On the contrary, smart charity takes the approach of empowerment–which means not doing something for others that we can empower them to do for themselves. Thus, smart charity works in a way that partners with the homeless in our community, including them in the recovery process, and allows them to be part of their own solution.
An example of toxic charity could be handing out money to an individual who is holding a sign on the side of the road. This action could discourage them from participating in their recovery because it continues the dependence on financial support. Thus, in the long run, their financial dependency may help keep them in their homeless state rather than encourage them to initiate steps towards finding long-term help in a place like the Lighthouse Mission. It’s also possible that giving someone cash will fuel a substance abuse disorder.
Instead, you can practice smart charity by giving to local organizations that can offer practical help to this individual—ensuring that your generosity is effective. Other examples of smart charity are handing out food and water, or serving at local shelters that can provide the homeless community with long-term help.
At the Lighthouse Mission, practicing smart charity allows us to focus on the process of our guest’s healing. We do this by creating a healing, grace-filled environment that encourages our guests to move toward a sense of personal responsibility and to find long-term restoration.
When serving our homeless neighbors, it is important to remember that God is always working in the lives of his children. Matthew 25 illustrates that through serving “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matt. 25:50).