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Is Your Giving Doing More Harm Than Good?

At the risk of raising an uncomfortable point, imagine what would happen if all the people flying to Mexico on mission trips to build houses used that money instead to partner with their own communities—or hire folks in Mexico who knew how to build houses.

So says Robert D. Lupton in his brave book Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, And How to Reverse It. How's that for a title? Lupton's work, which reads like an exposé, can inspire you to give more wisely and make your giving that much more enjoyable.

But all the kids come back hugging and crying!”

That's what a friend of mine said after his kids had come back from a mission trip, somewhere in the US. I didn’t want to rob him of his moment—and I didn't. But I couldn’t help thinking, “Is hugging and crying really the point?” That makes our giving about us.

Quick disclaimer: I realize not all mission trips are alike. And I've supported my share of them, with no regrets. Case in point: The Surest Way to Increase Your Luck.

3 Brave Questions to Optimize Your Generosity

You can apply these questions whether you’re supporting a nonprofit or deciding something more basic; for example, whether or not to let your son or daughter move back in with you for the summer, and on what terms.

  • Is my generosity creating a partnership or a dependency? The first draws other people out of their situation; the second has the unintended effect of making their situation worse.
  • Am I upholding the dignity, initiative, and work ethic of those in need—or without realizing it, am I destroying these qualities? Compromising them?
  • How can I help others develop long-term self-sufficiency?
Good questions, yes? What other questions would you add to Lupton's list?

On a Lighter Note

I learned a long time ago I’m a lousy carpenter. The summer I turned twelve, I helped my older brother sand his wooden boat, a bright red two-seater. As I sanded away, he kept telling me as only big brothers can, “Do a good job!”

I came close to sanding a hole in that boat. Maybe that’s why I’ve never (thankfully) been asked to help build houses.

Here’s the Takeaway

If you’re helping in ways that are not your strong suit, your true gifts are probably gathering dust. Please don't let that happen.

The world needs your contribution. Your contribution. Find out what you like and are good at. Usually it’s the activity that makes time disappear, the topic you never get tired of talking ab out, or the trait you never grow tired of getting complimented on.

Finally, the most joyful givers I know give radically but not recklessly. They also know when to take a break. God loves a cheerful giver, but sometimes we reach the end of what we can cheerfully give. When you reach that point, give yourself permission to pull back and let someone else take a turn. Amen?

Enjoy your week and enjoy the video!

The most joyful givers I know give radically but not recklessly.

Gina DeLapa

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Gina DeLapa is America's Ultimate Reminders® Coach, a sought-after speaker, and the proud creator of the Ultimate Reminders® book series. Her wise and witty reminders ("Beware the organization whose response to a burning building is to form a committee") will make you laugh, stir your soul, and inspire your best. If you're not already getting her free Monday-Morning Pep Talk, be sure to sign up now at