Marvin Olasky: Individualized approach

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Marvin Olasky: Individualized approach

No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. 1 Timothy 5:9-10

“The individualized approach of effective compassion recognizes that two persons in exactly the same material circumstances but with different histories, abilities, and values may need different treatment—ranging from material help to new skills to a spiritual challenge and a push. Historically, this approach is one that produced results. Those who were orphaned, elderly, or disabled received aid. Jobless adults who were “able and willing to work” received help in job finding. And “those who prefer to live on alms” and those of “confirmed intemperance” were not entitled to material assistance.”

Marvin Olasky in Renewing American Compassion (New York: The Free Press, 1996), 156.

If your church or ministry gives mass handouts to all comers, I want to encourage you to stop that work altogether.

The research of Olasky and others reveals that such programs look great, but they do more harm than good. They don’t address the deeper issues that each individual has, but allow them to continue. Alternatively, today’s Scripture reveals that the early church took what Olasky calls an “individualized approach” to effective compassion.

In Ephesus, the context for 1 Timothy, they had a list with criteria for those for those who were to receive aid.

But this was not a localized response. Elsewhere to the church in Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul reminded them that those who can work, must work. He adds that they were not willing to work, they should not be able to eat. This reveals that they had criteria to determine if people should be added to a “list” to receive aid or not.

Right now they are building lists in Malawi related to Palmful of Maize.

As children (and Sunday School teachers, pastors, and church members) across 12 of 28 districts give maize, 100% of it stays in the district. 80% is shared with the poor who make it on to a list showing they comply with biblical standards to receive aid, 10% is sold for advancing the vision in Malawi, and 10% is sold for spreading the vision to other countries.

This Christmas, give to GTP to help the poorest of poor solve their own hunger problems with in individualist approach.

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Marvin Olasky: Point them to God

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. Mark 6:34

“Some people think of poverty fighting like they think of dinner table discussions: it is a violation of etiquette to emphasize the importance of religious beliefs. But the facts leave us no choice: successful antipoverty work, past and present, has allowed the poor to earn authentic self-esteem not by offering easy, feel-good praise, but by pointing them to God.”

Marvin Olasky in Renewing American Compassion (New York: The Free Press, 1996), 161.

Olasky’s research has made positive contributions to American compassion for three decades.

In the seventh of his seven marks of compassion in this classic book, he offers today’s quote. His research reveals that the best way to fight poverty is to point the poor to God.

I am learning this first-hand across the majority world, and especially in my GTP work in Malawi with Palmful of Maize. People don’t want a hand out. They want a hand up. They just want some help.

Broadly speaking, I wonder if people who find it uncomfortable to talk about how to really help the poor, feel that way because they themselves do not want to do the work, the hard work of pointing them in the way of Jesus.

I am learning that we must look at people not with judgment but compassion, as sheep without a shepherd, as lost and needing help. From there, we combine compassion with biblical teaching, like Jesus.

We point them to God.

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Stephen Humphreys Gurteen: Charity with Judgment

Whoever heard me spoke well of me, and those who saw me commended me, because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist them. Job 29:11-12

“It is possible to do an immense amount of harm by charity, so-called. It is possible to reduce a fellow-being to the condition of a willing pauper by fostering habits of indolence…if charity is not tempered by judgment, the poor will learn to be dependent, till at last, though by degrees, every vestige of manliness and ambition will have been destroyed, and they will come back as skilled beggars, to torment and curse the very people whose so-called charity has made them what they are.”

Stephen Humphreys Gurteen in The Tragedy of American Compassion by Marvin Olasky (Washington DC: Regnery, 2022) 90. This book just came out and sketches the realities of charity and so-called charity in America.

In today’s Scripture, notice Job is not commended for giving charity without judgment to use Gurteen’s words, but rather for rescuing those in need and providing them assistance. The biblical language here is not insignificant.

To “assist them” implies that he gave them the hand up they needed in crisis, not to create a dependency but to show love of neighbor. I invite you to do the same thing with me at GTP.

If you have not watched the Palmful of Maize video, watch it here and ponder the discussion questions. Do it for this reason: people want help to shift from receiving to giving.

They don’t want to become skilled beggars. But the only way to deliver them from indolence is to rescue and assist them. Join me in providing such assistance.

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Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert: Voice for the voiceless

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9

“While poor people mention having a lack of material things, they tend to describe their condition in far more psychological and social terms than our North American audiences. Poor people typically talk in terms of shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness. North American audiences tend to emphasize a lack of material things such as food, money, clean water, medicine, housing, etc.”

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert in When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself (Chicago: Moody 2014) 51.

The poor, as I get to know them, actually don’t want a handout that creates a dependency. If you ask them, they don’e want white knights to ride in and do things for them. They want a hand up. They don’t want to be voiceless. They want a voice.

As you may recall, when I was in Ukraine before the war, 11 out of 11 groups testified, “Teach us how to get free of dependency on Western support. We love Jesus but no one taught us how to be self-sufficient.” I hear similar messages all over the world.

Part of the reason I believe God led us at GTP to roll out the Palmful of Maize vision was to give them this voice. To have the poorest of the poor send a message to planet earth: “We don’t need your handouts, we need a hand up.”

It reminds me of the Macedonian man in the vision in Acts 16:6-10. He did not say, “Send us money.” He did not say, “Come do it for us.” He was standing and begging, “Come over and help us.”

Your giving to GTP sends help, gives the poor a voice, and results in self-sufficiency and generosity. Want to learn more about this important topic related to generosity, read my CLA blog that released on Wednesday: Turn Dependency into Discipleship.

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Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert: Dependency to Discipleship

“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.” Mark 6:38

“Needs-based development focuses on what is lacking in the life of a community or a person. The assumption in this approach is that the solutions to poverty are dependent upon outside human and financial resources…When the church or ministry stops the flow of resources, it can leave behind individuals and communities that are more disempowered than ever before.

Asset-based approach to poverty alleviation should not be seen as denying the fact that low-income people — like all of us — have glaring needs…What’s wrong will come out soon enough; but by starting with what’s right, we can change the dynamics that have marred the self-image of the low-income people and that have created a sense of superiority in ourselves.

Once the assets have been identified, it is appropriate to then ask the poor individual or community the questions: “What needs can you identify that must be addressed? What problems do you see that must be solved? How can you use your assets to address those needs and to solve those problems?”

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert in When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself (Chicago: Moody 2014) 120-121.

It’s important to avoid giving a handout that creates dependency, but rather to give a hand up that builds disciples. We do this by avoiding a needs-based approach which relies on outside resources.

In the face of real need (the feeding of the five thousand), notice in today’s Scripture that Jesus urged the disciples not to assess the need but to see what they had. When they did this, their situation changed.

When we take an asset-based approach, which is using what we have, we encourage people to use what they have faithfully as well. In so doing, over time, we see people in a setting empowered to bring about real change.

Want to learn more about this important topic related to generosity, read my CLA blog that released yesterday: Turn Dependency into Discipleship.

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Travis Shelton: Choose Gratitude

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that openly profess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:15-16

“The act of being thankful focuses our eyes on what we do have, not what we don’t have. When we’re thankful, we think of the friends and family we do have, not the ones we don’t have. When we’re thankful, we think of the job and opportunities we do have, not the ones we don’t have. When we’re thankful, we think of the house, vehicle, and possessions we do have, not the ones we don’t have. When we’re thankful, we think of the gifts, skills, and passions we do have, not the ones we don’t have.

It’s so easy to set our minds on all the things we don’t have, which causes us to lose perspective of what we do have. Whenever we walk with a posture of gratitude, we can think less about what we don’t have, and more about what we do have. Doing so breeds humility and contentment. I’m grateful for what I have, every bit of it. But it’s those selfish days or moments when I think about what I don’t have that can sour me. Today, I choose gratitude. Tomorrow, I hope to choose gratitude as well. Each day we have a choice. Let’s choose gratitude every day.”

Travis Shelton in “The Daily Meaning” post on 24 November 2022.

This is a great blog. I subscribe as Travis is a trusted friend who inspires me to think Christianly. Check it out here.

Why do you think the author of Hebrews urges readers to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise?” After reading this post from Travis I think I understand the answer.

Daily we need to choose gratitude. It helps us keep the right perspective. It breeds “humility and contentment” and reminds us that we are blessed to be a blessing.

No wonder the author of Hebrews connects this attitude of praise and gratitude with not forgetting to do good. When we fail to choose gratitude, our generosity tanks.

Alternatively, when we live contented and grateful lives, our generosity flourishes. With Travis, let’s choose gratitude today, tomorrow, the next day, and the next day…

And if you want to hear more from Travis and me, download COMMUNITY a 30-day devotional we wrote together and released a few months ago. Enjoy and share it freely.

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Mary Lederleitner: Help the weak

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:35

“It is easy to give money naively, never understanding that your gift made a difficult situation worse. It is also easy to decide that it is best to never give, justified by the idea that outside funding harms people and leads to dependency. The more challenging space is to remain open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and discerning regarding the character of leaders, the viability of financial processes and ministry strategies, and the impact of cultural realities and expectations, to know how to share God’s resources in God’s mission in ways that truly further His purposes and foster ever-deepening growth and spiritual maturity for everyone involved.”

Mary Lederleitner, author of Cross-Cultural Partnership: Navigating the Complexities of Money and Mission in When Money Goes on Mission: Fundraising and Giving in the 21st Century by Rob Martin (Chicago: Moody, 2019).

Lederleitner is a good friend of GTP. She shines light on a huge issue: the danger that our giving might foster dependency. And not giving is not the answer for avoiding it.

She also offers great advice for us on Giving Tuesday about following the Spirit’s leading with discernment. Firstly, let’s look at the dependency issue.

Giving money naively can actually make a bad situation worse. Handouts create unhealthy dependency. Instead, when we aim at giving a hand up, or “help the weak,” we build disciples.

Sadly, most international giving promotes dependency. Charities overseas cry for money. But when the funds are expended, have they built local capacity or just consumed them?

What should we do to avoid continuing the problem and to be part of the solution? This leads well into the second idea: follow the leading of the Spirit and exercise discernment.

Give to ministries that don’t just consume the resources but rather use them grow people, to multiply disciples. Consider using that as your measure and follow the Spirit’s leading from there.

And on this Giving Tuesday, I ask every reader to consider a gift to GTP today.

The video is called Palmful of Maize, and it’s a vision spreading across Malawi. Click here to watch the video and to make a gift. Giving to GTP is turning dependency into discipleship.

Rather than depend on outsiders, which has been the pattern in Malawi for years, your giving deploys a team to train national workers how solve local hunger problems and show God’s love through generosity.

And, it’s and drawing many to Christ. I was there in Malawi in October when we shot the video. And I heard the testimonies of pastors talking about how children were bringing new families to the church.

I saw the impact of training this one teacher (see her the header photo). Watch her passion come to life in the video. See for yourself. Yet, this impact has reached 12 of 28 districts (or states) in Malawi.

It costs only about $5,000 to send the team to reach every church in a district or state. Imagine shaping the future of an entire districts (or states) in Malawi for that small amount.

Your support to GTP helps the weak. And, as it’s better to give than receive, please consider making a gift today. Pray and follow God’s leading about giving to GTP and other ministries.

And pray with me for about $200,000 by year end to spread this vision in the other 16 states and take it to neighboring Zambia and Zimbabwe in 2023.

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John Climacus: Scatters

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:21-24

“He who has attained to love scatters his money. But he who says that he lives for love and for money has deceived himself. He who mourns for himself has also renounced his body; and at the appropriate time he does not spare it.

Do not say that you are collecting money for the poor; with two mites the Kingdom was purchased. A hospitable man and a money-lover met one another, and the latter called the former unintelligible. He who has conquered this passion has cut out care; but he who is bound by it never attains to pure prayer.

The beginning of love of money is the pretext of almsgiving, and the end of it is hatred of the poor. So long as he is collecting he is charitable, but when the money is in hand he tightens his hold.”

John Climacus (579-649) in The Ladder of Divine Ascent, translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (Harper & Brothers, 1959) Step 16 “On love of money or avarice” 3-8.

How do we press on to maturity? What is the path to attain to pure prayer?

Climacus would echo Jesus (and Paul) and say to give God what you have. Remember “with two mites the Kingdom was purchased.” Specifically give the poor a hand up rather than a hand out. Aid them as Christ has aided you.

You can do that today by supporting the Palmful of Maize vision spreading across Malawi. Click here to watch the video and to make a gift.

Giving to GTP is turning dependency into discipleship in Malawi. Rather than depend on outsiders, the generosity is solving local hunger problems and drawing many to Christ. This impact has reached 12 of 28 districts (or states) in Malawi.

Your continued support will help GTP train the teachers to spread this vision in the other 16 states and take it to neighboring Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Don’t tighten your hold. Or let money tighten it’s hold on you. Give God what you have! Include GTP in the list of ministries to which you scatter your generosity on Giving Tuesday.

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Jeremiah Burroughs: Great Benefits

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

“Consider all the experience that you have had of God’s doing good to you in the want of many comforts. When God crosses you, have you never had experience of abundance of good in afflictions? It is true, when ministers only tell men that God will work good out of their afflictions, they hear them speak, and think they speak like good men, but they feel little or no good; they feel nothing but pain. But when we cannot only say to you that God has said He will work good out of your afflictions, but we can say to you, that you yourselves have found it so by experience, that God has made former afflictions to be great benefits to you, and that you would not have been without them, or without the good that came by them for a world, such experiences will exceedingly quiet the heart and bring it to contentment.”

Jeremiah Burroughs (1600-1646) in The Rare Jewel Of Christian Contentment (Preach the Word) 131.

I am thankful for the goodness and generosity that comes to us from God both in our afflictions and out of afflictions. These gifts quiet our hearts and bring our hearts to contentment.

As I rest this weekend I give thanks for “God’s doing good” to me “in the want of many comforts.” In other words, in His goodness, He does not always relieve my pain or answer because He wants me to grow in different areas.

For example, I learn patience. I grow in faith. I find joy. And all this experience forms in me perseverance so I mature and am not lacking in anything I need in my service to God. Think about it.

That’s generosity: God not giving us what we want when we want it but allowing us to suffer to quiet our hearts and bring them to maturity and contentment. Thanks God. You are so good.

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Jean-Pierre de Caussade: Infinite Benefits and Priceless Advantage

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. Matthew 16:25

“Submission a free gift to God. Every soul is called to enjoy the infinite benefits contained in this state.

Therefore do I preach abandonment, and not any particular state. Every state in which souls are placed by Your grace is the same to me. I teach a general method by which all can attain the state which You have marked out for them. I do not exact more than the will to abandon themselves to Your guidance. You will make them arrive infallibly at the state which is best for them.

It is faith that I preach; abandonment, confidence, and faith; the will to be subject to, and to be the tool of the divine action, and to believe that at every moment this action is working in every circumstance, provided that the soul has more or less good-will. This is the faith that I preach. It is not a special kind of faith, nor of charity, but a general state by which all souls can find God under the different conditions which He assumes; and can take that form which divine grace has marked out for them.

I have spoken to souls in trouble, and now I am speaking to all kinds of souls. It is the genuine instinct of my heart to care for all, to announce the saving secret far and wide, and to make myself all to all. In this happy disposition I make it a duty which I fulfill without difficulty, to weep with those who weep, to rejoice with those who rejoice, to speak foolishly with the foolish, and with the learned to make use of more learned and more scholastic terms. I wish to make all understand that although they cannot aspire to the same distinct favors, they can attain to the same love, the same abnegation, the same God and His work, and thence it follows naturally, to the highest sanctity.

Those graces which are called extraordinary and are given as privileges to certain souls, are only so called because there are so few sufficiently faithful to become worthy of receiving them. This will be made manifest at the day of judgment. Alas! it will then be seen that instead of these divine favors having been withheld by God, it has been entirely by their own fault that these souls have been deprived of them. What untold blessings they would have received through the complete submission of a steadfast goodwill.

It is the same with regard to Jesus as with the divine action. If those who have no confidence in Him, nor respect for Him, do not receive any of the favors He offers to all, they have only their own bad disposition to thank for it. It is true that all cannot aspire to the same sublime states, to the same gifts, to the same degree of perfection; yet, if faithful to grace, they corresponded to it, each according to his degree, they would all be satisfied because they would all attain that degree of grace and of perfection which would fully satisfy their desires. They would be happy according to nature, and according to grace, because nature and grace share equally in the ardent desire for this priceless advantage.”

Jean-Pierre de Caussade in Abandonment to Divine Providence (Grand Rapids: CCEL, 1751) 55.

As I rest this weekend, I find refreshment in abandonment.

We get weary when we strive thinking it is our job to sort life’s challenges. Or at least I do! Alternatively, Jean-Pierre points the way to infinite benefits and priceless advantage.

It’s the pathway Jesus marked out for us: lose your life for His sake and find it.

I appreciate the connection Jean-Pierre makes between “abandonment, confidence, and faith” for the Christian. When we choose abandonment, we experience His benefits in exchange for what our own efforts can muster.

We gain confidence and grow in faith, and we receive favors as gifts of mercy and grace in the process.

So, what’s the lesson for those who want to grow in generosity? Realize that letting go is the way to life. Submit to abandonment. Experience infinite benefits, not for selfish gain but for empowered service.

Allow God to shape you on the way of perfection and grasp untold grace on the way.

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