Helping Others Help Themselves is the Best Charity   

Today's Guest Post By Boyd Bailey was inspired by our trip to see community economic development in Nicaragua and Honduras. 

We worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat. 

2 Thessalonians 8-11

Pete, David and Bob my friends of over 20 years model not only a personal work ethic that empowers their employees, but have also elevated the conversation of how to best help the poor by providing productive work environments that facilitate replicable and sustainable business models that radically increase a person’s potential to care for their families. Rita and I heard from two joyful recipients of this holistic approach to charity: a mom beamed of her ability to daily have a physically clean child and a farmer proudly told us of his capacity to pay for the education of his entire family. Indeed, responsible ways to help people help them grow more responsible.

Paul encountered a group of believers who had grown idle in their work efforts. But instead of berating them and moving on or just giving them a temporary handout—he lived among them and modeled a better way of diligent and ongoing industry. He wisely earned the right to influence their underachievement by first working among them to better understand how to best help them. The dignity of doing work brings out the best in everyone and increases opportunities for long term economic evangelism. Once a man can physically care for his family, he is open to the spiritual care of his soul. Evangelistic opportunities flow from social sustainability.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:35-36).

Does this mean there is no room for classic charity that meets immediate needs? No, it is a both/and of immediate help, but uttermost to collaborate with the community on their most pressing needs and empower them to develop a plan that attracts charitable capital to sustain their food, water, shelter, clothing, education and churches. When we prayerfully help the poor assess their assets we learn how the Lord has blessed them in a way that invites an abundant life. We help others best by facilitating for them how to best work together for the good of the community.  Economic and eternal rewards come, as we invest our lives—in other lives—over a lifetime. 

You may ask, “Where can I start in helping others best help themselves?” First, ask the Lord to break your heart for what breaks His—for out of your brokenness are you able to best serve broken people. Secondly, look for poverty around you and begin to build relationships, so you can discover their highest felt needs. Thirdly, wisely assess with the poor their assets and begin to grow its value. Lastly, find a business you respect who already models building sustainable economic models and learn from them. Helping others help themselves is the best kind of help. 

Psalm 147:3,6 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds…The Lord sustains the humble.” (NIV)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, break my heart for what breaks Your’s—for out of my brokenness I long to best serve broken people.

Application: What impact investing business can I engage to learn first hand how to help others well?

Related Readings: Acts 18:3; 1 Corinthians 7:20, 24; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 1 Timothy 5:13


For daily guidance and words of wisdom in an encouraging and easy-to-read format, don’t miss Boyd Bailey’s free Wisdom for Living 30 day devotional book. 

Bob Lupton’s very helpful book Charity Detox. What would charity look like if we measured it by its ability to alleviate poverty and needs?

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© 2017 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

Impact Investing Foundation thanksWisdom Hunters for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.