MarGivi 11-02-014

Giving Wisely

Killing with Kindness or Empowering Lasting Transformation?


Jonathan Martin

Last Chapter Publishing, 2008, 199 pp.  ISBN 978-0-9816514-0-8



Martin worked ten years in Asia and now oversees the Global Outreach Ministry at Good Shepherd Community Church in Portland, OR.  In this book he gives numerous examples of how giving can cause harm.  He says we must give and suggests four principles for churches to give wisely for missions and compassion.


American dollars were not needed to spread the Gospel in the first century or in China in the 20th century.  "No one is poor just because he lives simply." (39)  Generous Americans too often create dependency by modeling the kind of ministry that requires outside dollars.  But the good news is spread by people in relationships.  We need to be concerned about people who cannot take care of themselves, the widows, orphans, refugees, and oppressed. 


People are not poor just because they don't have everything Americans have.  "Perhaps the most dehumanizing thing you can do to a person is take away his need to work." (52)  Money spent on giving things to the poor isn't nearly as well spent as money that empowers people to take care of themselves and their households - with their dignity intact. 


The four foundational principles of true generosity are Relationships, Accountability, Indigenous Sustainability, and Equity (RAISE).  A working and viable relationship of mutual trust and respect is the foundation for wise giving.  Giving to an individual usually isn't wise.  Ask, "Will the project I give to require ongoing and continual foreign funds to keep it alive….?"  (64)  The gift should not set some people on a lifestyle above others. 


It's better to give to a relief organization with whom you have a personal connection and relationship.  Relationships provide opportunity for reciprocity, accountability, transparency and communication.  Churches can respond first through building a working relationship and then deploy money into the proven relationships.  This takes time, work, and energy.  It's more biblical to send a few of your own missionaries than to support many you don't know.  If you support nationals, support them through an organization with a reputation for fiscal responsibility. 


Every believer must learn to give, so don't destroy local ownership.  Money is better spent training locals to be self-sufficient.  Help them build and manage their own orphanages rather than rely long-term on foreign dollars.  Supporting foreign national workers cuts the legs out from the local church, setting up a model of ministry that leads to paralysis.  And it makes the worker a foreigner to his own culture.  Ask yourself if this ministry will continue if the outside money dries up.


"Money dropped on someone never creates initiative in that person." (102)  "When we partner with someone who's already in motion, our money can serve to empower the already active ministry." (103)  We are better off to come alongside of others rather than come in place of them. 


What would happen if Bill Gates came to your church and began to tithe?  What would it do to the tithing and generosity of your congregation?  "If the early missionaries in a culture are all full-time, paid evangelists, then that will be the model they've learned." (115)


If Americans take a trip to Mexico and build a church or give away a load of clothes, will it do any good?  Yes - it will change the hearts of the Americans.  To do good in another culture the church needs cultural expertise to bridge the two cultures, most likely long-term missionaries on the ground who know both cultures.  Someone who has made several mission trips does not qualify.  "We are destined to make a mess--unless we are teachable and look to the counsel of a cultural expert." (125)  Take only the love and the Gospel.  Let the expert distribute any money or gifts. 


Some childhood sponsorship organizations and projects do a good job of building sustainability but many don't.  Ask questions about how it gets children out of the cycle of dependency, how it encourages work, how it keeps responsibility on the parents and society, and how it is working to get the community on its own feet to care for their own.  Many childhood sponsorship programs have the same problems as the US welfare system.  They discourage active fathers and work.


Relief and Development.  "What kind of Christian would I be to feed someone their whole life long and yet never present the gospel to him?  Keep them alive so they simply could experience an eternal death away from the presence of their Creator?  If the reason we're there is because of Jesus, we'd better be honest and say so." (145)  "If an organization is ashamed to proclaim the name of Christ, then I personally am ashamed to give to that organization.  If I exist to bring glory to His name, then I should give to an organization that does so." (145)


Relief and development should be done by working with local churches.  We can help empower them and their presence and impact will be there after we're gone.  But it needs to be done through an expert who understands a) the different cultures and b) sustainable and empowering relief and development work.  (157)


"Whenever we bring a foreign student to the United States, we should look at it as 'immigration' -- not as a step to equip him to minister to his own culture." (163)  Don't expect him to go back, and if he does, don't expect him to fit in.  "If you want a person to reach his or her own culture, don't take him out of it." (165) 



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