Why You Should Never Give to the Poor

Hard to swallow isn’t it? But before you burn me at the stake, allow me to present my beliefs in the form of a story.

A number of years ago a humanitarian organization went to Africa intending to alleviate pain and suffering. The group came upon a village (in a region I cannot recall) that suffered from an atrocious lack of sanitation services. There was no clean drinking water or sewage disposal. Children played freely in the stream of sewage that ran through the center of the village. Infectious disease claimed the lives of many villagers each month. Clearly, the people of this village needed help.

The humanitarian group, in accordance with their mission, set to rectify the situation. They paid many thousands of dollars to contractors to come to the village and build a modern water purification and waste disposal system. The contractors came, did their work, and within a few weeks the village was given a solution to their problems. The people had clean water, any trace of sewage disappeared, and the rate of disease decreased dramatically.

The humanitarian group commended themselves on a job well done (or so they believed), and left to give charity elsewhere while the villagers lived on happily ever after.

But the story does not end here. For while the humanitarians had given the villagers a great gift, they had not solved their problems.

Several months later, another humanitarian group came upon the village. They had heard about the great gift bestowed by the previous group, and wanted to see the effects of charity first hand. Much to their surprise, they found the village more squalid than ever. Once more children wallowed in sewage. Once more disease plagued the people. As before there was no clean water or sanitation to be found.

But how could this be true? The modern sanitation and water purification systems installed should have lasted for decades. Yet, in only a few months they had fallen into disrepair. The water stations were filthy and misused. A great act of charity had been for nothing!

The humanitarians, puzzled by the situation, sought the chief of the village, and asked him why his people had wasted such a gift. This was his reply.

“How can you blame us? We are simple people who know nothing of modern machinery. The others came and bestowed it upon us, and it was a great relief. But after they left, things began to break down. We do not possess the knowledge to repair these problems, and the result is before you.”

That may be true, said the humanitarians, but what about the water stations? They have clearly been abused. Have you not the common sense to protect your own assets?

At this the chief looked at them cockeyed and replied.

“And what did you expect? These people had been many years without clean water. Then you gave it to them for free in abundance. They took all they could use and more. The people did not work for those water stations. They do not own them, and they could not be persuaded to maintain them.”

The humanitarians were silent. The chief had spoken truth. The great gift alone had not been enough and the reasons could be clearly observed. Perhaps, it is human nature to abuse a gift. The humanitarians returned to their camp and thought long and hard about how they could help the villagers.

The next day the humanitarians returned, determined to rebuild the water and sanitation systems with the following conditions.

  1. The villagers would have to pay for water and sanitation. Not more than they could afford, but there would be no gift giving this time.
  2. A group of villagers would work with the contractors to build the system and would be taught how to repair every aspect of it. These villagers would in turn train others so the system would never fall into disrepair.

With these new conditions in place, the water and sanitation systems were stored. This time the people had respect for the systems because they owned them. This time they were able to repair the system when it broke down. To this day the villagers have plenty of clean water and live free of filth and disease.

The above story is grounded firmly in truth, though the details are mine. It was related to me by a college professor who was himself a member of the second group of humanitarians. Though I forget much of what he taught me, I do recall one very important saying.

Never give to the poor.
Help the poor.

Upon this fine statement, I cannot improve.

  • http://www.stevenaitchison.co.uk/blog/ Steven Aitchison

    John, I think you have covered a lot of aspects of life in this one story.

    It reminds me of an advert on TV shown last year and the heading was something like ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life’

  • http://maxkaizen.com Max Kaizen

    Damn right John.. and I am an African.
    Benjamin Disraeli once said: “The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to them their own”

    We see so much of the donor fatigue from exhausted efforts that come from people believing they are doing good for the poor starving Africans, with the best intentions. But a lack of understanding of how human brains function best (and isn’t that the premise of this site?) causes collapse.

    Africans, respond with learned helplessness & victimhood to charity. As we all do oddly enough. [Paradoxical & frustrating, but we human brains don't always operate logically]. We love healthy challenge and appreciate recognition. Struggling Africans need to have reminders that they too are human: that their skills, talents & products, music and creative endeavors are valuable.

    Getting attention for being in a wounded state, only perpetuates the reward cycle within the psyche, to stay a victim.
    This is why guys like Peter Gabriel (WOMAD) do more valuable than any charity offering to reviving Africa and offering dignity & beauty to fellow humans, through commerce.

    Africa doesn’t need socialism or charity. She needs rebranding, talent scouts and inspiring teachers! By helping others discover what is valuable within them we will regenerate our world, not just Africa.

    :-P oops.. comment almost as long as a post itself, but good job on the post John & a gr8 site in general!

    • Kevin

      Excellent comment

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Thanks for such great input Max, I really enjoyed reading. It really means a lot that someone who lives in Africa has similar sentiments. I believe this concept applies to the people of every nation.

  • http://jeffpack.vox.com/ jfpbookworm

    They’re still giving to the poor – they’re just no longer being stupid about it. The village is receiving the infrastructure and the training for less than it costs the humanitarian organization to provide it.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    The whole point was to stress the difference between GIVING and HELPING. If you can’t get past the technicality that helping is also a form of giving, you are missing the point entirely.

  • Maia

    I don’t think you should give OR help the poor, unless it benefits you. I don’t understand what logical reason someone would have for doing anything that didn’t benefit him or her.

    • Nii-Kootse

      You could HELP others to stay up themselves and still benefit you.
       But not at CUTTHROAT price.  Like even the developed and indutrial scientific nations live today.
      With Capitalism at its highest to be a Love Story.

    • Smith2000

      You say that like it’s a good thing.

    • Laurenfrances92

      It will always come back to you.

    • Sully

      you are a horrible person

    • Praveen_vkb

      There is no logical reason behind helping the poor, its just personal satisfication.

    • Praveen_vkb

      There is no logical reason behind helping the poor, its just personal satisfication.

    • Elijah Rawson

      Spoken like a true American.
      Love and compassion transcend logic.

    • mattbrent.

      true sister.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    I think you would feel different if you found yourself in unfortunate circumstances. Also, helping the poor can benefit you by improving social conditions i.e. reducing crime.

    • Nii-Kootse

      Good with crime you are not at peace with the so much that you have.

  • Nat

    Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day…

  • http://www.oluf.co.uk F0ul

    What a nice little story.
    There are a few charities that work like this, my favourite being Riders for health who give a motorbike and relevant training to ensure they get many years use out of it.
    Next thing for Africa is Free Trade with Europe and the USA. but until we open our borders to their goods, and stop hiding behind protective practices, Africa will remain poor!

  • http://goodnessgraciousness.blogspot.com jennifer

    Great story… thanks for the reminder. My hope is that we will be better and better at bringing goodness and healing to our world family. Your insight helps us to know how best to do this. Thanks a bunch! Jennifer

  • http://www.educatedbeing.com Rise

    John, this one piece of writing has made my day. Last week I was discussing about it with friends and thinking of writing about it and whoa.. you have already written it.

    ‘Don’t just give, but educate too’. Without education (not just the ‘formal’ school education), people will always be poor in action and thinking. This story confirms my beliefs that even we distribute all the money equally among the people, poverty will still remain. It requires more than donation.

  • Mike

    I have worked for many years in social services among the poor and homeless in the United States and can personally attest to the premise of your article. I have come to believe the charitable, “giveaway” mentality is the primary reason why the homeless problem has not gotten better in most US cities. It is far easier for the gov’t and non profit orgs to swoop down upon the masses and essentially air drop goods and services gratis, than it is for them to role up their sleeves and actually TEACH people how to live. The latter is a far more daunting and sacrificial task and perhaps that is why most groups never do it. It will sound coarse and very un-PC, but the absolute truth is : POOR PEOPLE CANNOT HANDLE FREE SHIT. (those who work in this field will know exactly what i mean) This all stems from the false notion that an individuals lack of personal belongings or money is their real “problem”.

  • Vic

    Many of the governments and other organizations that deliver aid have no interest in making people self-sufficient because then they would lose control of them and be out of a job.

    Their real goal is to convince us that we need to give them money to help other people when in reality its used to line their own pockets and back political agendas that are not self-sustaining.

    First, the exploitive governments must be removed instead of supported by the UN. Until then, it doesn’t matter how much aid to send to places like Nigeria or North Korea, the government will just take it.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Mike, I can’t tell you how I honored I am that my article resonated with someone who has personal experience dealing with the poor.

  • voice of reason

    Unless you can provide me with the exact village, and the exact organizations and files providing details, I’ll file this under “Bull-S***”. (I edited out the expletive. No one swears on this site but me.)

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    All bravest commenters are anonymous.

  • http://hipordangerous.blogspot.com chris l

    voice of reason,

    does it matter what village or the details? this story illustrates an all too common scenario in humanitarianism, and I believe that John shows the point with his story.

    I was in a small fishing town in Mexico that had been given a cannery and processing plant by an NGO. Workers were trained, and after a year the ownership and operations were turned over to the town. However these people do not have the same sense of property as gifters from the NGO had intended – it was the Communities plant, not the companies. When something was needed in the town, it could be taken from the plant. Within a few years half of the corrugated metal siding had been appropriated to make roofs for their shacks. Also, all of a sudden subsistence fisherman had quotas to meet. Soon the cannery was losing money and had to close. Now it sits abandoned, falling apart on the beach. Behind it is a small fishermans market, where the daily catch is brought in and traded for beans, rice and other necessities. The fisherman formed a co-op, and even with the declining fish stock in the region they are making more money and have a better quality of life than ever before.

  • Levi

    Good article, stupid title.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    I partly agree with you Levi. I made the title a controversial to get people to read. I don’t like it much either, but that’s how the internet works. “Helping the Poor is Different from Giving to the Poor” or something along those lines doesn’t compel people.

  • Kitai Ðào

    “I don’t think you should give OR help the poor, unless it benefits you. I don’t understand what logical reason someone would have for doing anything that didn’t benefit him or her.”
    The logical reason is because some have big hearts.

    “Many of the governments and other organizations that deliver aid have no interest in making people self-sufficient because then they would lose control of them and be out of a job.

    “Their real goal is to convince us that we need to give them money to help other people when in reality its used to line their own pockets and back political agendas that are not self-sustaining.

    “First, the exploitive governments must be removed instead of supported by the UN. Until then, it doesn’t matter how much aid to send to places like Nigeria or North Korea, the government will just take it.”
    Well, John is talking about humanitarians.

  • xFredx

    This story is total bullshit.

    • http://MSN sall7

      they are poor because they got kicked out of there land idiots

  • http://www.steve-olson.com Steve Olson

    John,

    You are right. It’s the teach a man to fish thing.

    I couldn’t agree more.

  • Justin

    Thanks for the post John. I think it alludes to some extremely important credos about the exacerbation of crises in Africa and other third world nations. Though others have critisized your article’s validity, I choose to look at it from both sides, and I was touched by the article either way.

  • http://intercodes.org Venkatesh

    Wonderful post! I was formulating lot of points to attack when I saw the title at reddit , but then after reading the post, I gave up. Good article.

  • jack

    I know a similar saying…

    Give a man a fire
    and he will be warm for the rest of the night.

    Set a man on fire
    and he will be warm for the rest of his life.

  • tenbucks

    Oh, yeah, it’s true. I know a college professor whose sister was one of the villagers.

    My arse. If you don’t have the facts to back it up it’s a pile of bulls***(no one swears on this site but me).

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  • Levi

    Who cares if it’s true or not? There is a lesson to be shared and that’s all that matters. Go back to calling every video fake on YouTube.

  • Ricky Dhatt

    The problem I have with this story is that is obviously has retold and retold (note the lack of any specific details of date and place). In retelling this story all the details have been stripped and the “lesson” is quite distilled. Too black/white. Unfortunately, the real world is complicated.

    Now take the story I heard on PRI (see URL at the bottom of my comment). Now the story is similar to yours — a project to give the poorest what the don’t have failed (in this case it was housing, not a water plant). At first glance, this article seems like a concrete example of the story you told. But look closer:

    -They planned a self-sustaining community
    -Many residents were taught new skills
    -The poor were given ownership of their houses

    And contrary to what your story would predict — it failed.

    My point isn’t to disagree to your admittedly controversial title, but to disagree with the notion with the simple “teach a man to fish” solution.

    http://www.theworld.org/?q=node/6709
    (I’d add that even though this project was not a success, we can benefit from examining the shortcomings.)

  • http://liberialedger.blogspot.com/ josh

    Because of stories like this one, the concepts of capacity building and local ownership are the two pillars of humanitarian assistance today.

  • http://djomama.blogspot.com jomama

    Fine article, John.

    A good example of the Tragedy of the Commons
    and something few want to admit to, preferring to
    live with that ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling.

  • Matt S

    Wow, some anonymous group did something somewhere so I should *never* give *anything* to the poor. I heard that someone once bought a lemon, so we should never buy cars. Oh, and didn’t someone get sick from food? Ok, never eat either.

    Or, just maybe, the lesson from this unreferenced event is to give the right things. Maybe that will make us smatter.

  • Anon

    Believe in Charity
    ==================

    The best charity is not giving, but not taking more than fair profits.

    We see many of the richest people giving charity, but instead what they should do is sell their products/services at fair price, so that they don’t accumulate unnecessary wealth.

  • anthonyberet

    Stupid title. Racist/elitest undertones to story. Story not particularly interesting. *Of course* if you give technology to people not trained to maintain it, it might fail. *Of course* if you provide training for maintainers this is less likely.
    I doubt the truth of the story, but if true, the first charity organisation simply acted stupidly.

  • JLCnorthcarolina

    The idea that we should help instead of give may be a good one, but resides in a realm of idealism ignoring the realistic forces of greed, power, and self-gain in the world. Do you really think that Europe, America, China will REALLY, SERIOUSLY conjure up and discover a real, true desire to teach Africa and other countries how to be self-sufficient when so many of its raw materials come from these regions? They would be shooting themselves in the economic foot. From diamonds to lumber, Africa and other 3rd world regions are being raped blind. I don’t mean to be a breathing bag of negativity here, but i do consider myself a realist and i do believe that “helping” just isn’t going to be realistically done by those who CAN help (or in many cases, SHOULD help, due to Europe’s terrible history in Africa). Prime Example: Did you know that America, of all the G8 countries, helped the least in African Aid to help build those wells, etc. – the Netherlands were the biggest donor of aid, funds, and volunteer help – that’s right, the Netherlands. Look it up. My point is, We have to give AND help those who are in need because many who have the most in power, funds, and ability won’t do either. I’m all about self-empowerment – but is the rest of the world? Thoughts? Thanks for listening.

  • http://musicontherocks.blogspot.com The eternal misift

    As many of those above have said, everything cannot be looked in black and white. There are always shades of gray in the real life. So, regardless of whether the story is true or not, it is rather harsh to belittle the utility of aid in the form of direct giving. For every such incident , I am sure someone can look up or cook up a counter incident that would disprove your claim.
    So what point do I want to make from all this? I think you are looking too deep in a single incident. Though, personally I belive in the philosophy you are prescribing, I would rather look up at some hard facts and actual reserach before making such claims

  • http://socialinquisitor.blogspot.com Samuel Chen

    Wow what an interesting comment on the idea of giving. Coming from Singapore, I remebered going to Cambodia to do community work. There we were told by the Humanitarian groups not to give money to the poor. If anything we should just give them food. The reason is due to possible syndicates that exploit the begger children and that giving to them would imped the work of the NGOs who are trying to provide a sustainable means of livlihood to the previously war torn country under Pol Pot. The logic of course was so as to prevent the poor from becoming dependent on foreign aid and begging instead of forging a livelihood for themselves.
    This is made more pertinent because of foreign exchange rates. Where tourist who seemingly small amounts of money like $2-$5 USD are actually providing them with a heckload of money in a country where Teachers only earn $20 USD a month.

    Of course stating a catch all rule of not ever giving to the poor may be a little extreme as there are cases where specific economic, social and political context needs to be considered before applying such a statement broadly. But yet the point is well noted, that wisdom and discernment are key in giving to the poor. Especially to the extreme poor.

  • http://www.biggandyy.com BA

    One word summary: Capitalsim

  • http://www.merlinstower.com DigitalAlan
  • “A Friend”

    Had a long conversation about this topic already, so in short…”Band-Aide effect” clearly does not help rectify the umbrella issue of poverty, it only temnporarily relieves impoverish conditions- as your story makes good point of…I have to say, I was turned off initially from reading the story heading, but I see where you where you were going with it now and can certainly appreciate its seemingly controversial title. It pulled me in!

    Look fowward to researching the rest of your site! Well done Johnathon!

  • Harvey C. Kimmey

    Eight Common Reasons we don’t help the poor

    1. They don’t deserve it. They got thm selfs into poverty.
    2. God’s call to help the poor appiles to another time.
    3. We don’t know any people like this.
    4. I have my own needs.
    5. Any money I give will be wasted, stolen, or spent.
    6. I may become a victim myself.
    7. I don’t know where to start, I don’t have the time.
    Instead of making excuses, ask what can be done to help the poor. Does your church have programs to work in the community group that fight poverty? As one individual you may not be able to accomplish much, join with similar motivated people and watch mountains begin be move.

  • ik

    yes but don’t forget that this poor african have this situation after being robbed during year by the now very rich and high techonlogical humanitarians

  • http://yeast-infection.natural-remedies-for-you.com/blog/ Jason

    Great post.

    Just wrote a nice long reply only to be told I left a field empty, and came back to an empty comment box.

  • Helen

    A bit late to the debate I see. Having had my conscience truly marked by reading my bible, I just logged on to the web and typed in “give to the poor” and this site came up in the first ten. Horrified by it’s title I decided to see what excuse someone could come up with for not giving to the poor.
    Having now read (most of) the posts I conclude all the excuses are made up by hard and selfish hearts, much like my own. Once I have decided where to direct what I “give” to the poor I will need to decide what to give and I am rather uncomfortable because I am recalling the Widow’s mite and know that Jesus commended it because it was significant in comparison to everything she had. How is it when God has blessed me so greatly that I want to hold onto what I have instead of sharing it?
    God have mercy on me, a sinner.

  • Ian

    This story has all the earmarks of an urban legend. You’re telling me that any group would build water filtration and sewage systems and then just leave without ensuring the infrastructure would be maintained? That’s not the way I’ve seen it done, and I’ve been involved with organizations doing just this in poor communities in Asia. We ALWAYS involve the local people with the construction, educate them on maintenance, and follow up the project to make sure it worked, and that problems are taken care of. I agree, I call BS unless someone gives the name of the village, or the charity, or any source at all.

  • Jonathan

    In response to Ian… you’re so right on the money. What group could possibly spend time and money building structures for needy people, and then not involve the locals in construction, maintenance and upkeep?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/29/world/middleeast/29reconstruct.html?_r=2&hp&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

  • bob dylan

    Don’t tell an anecdotal story or ever use a provactive title.

    People will pointlessly cloud the point and debate over the niggling details, ignoring the fact that the overall lesson of the story is sometimes true, sometimes, false.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Haha, I can’t argue about that one. I’ve been enjoying your comments.

  • http://helpthehungry.blogspot.com Chandan Patralekh

    Hi All,

    I know I am going against the sentiments of the most of you when I am asking to visit the blog. But if i can’t help them directly I would certainly like them to be helped if two clicks of mine can do it. Yes all I need is two click of mouse to feed a hungry stomach.

    Please visit the blog
    http://helpthehungry.blogspot.com

    It will surely help.

    Regards,
    Chandan

  • Decheron

    I do not know if this is an American site, but I do know I lived there for two years and never understood the attitude to poverty or the State benefits system.

    The American people’s generousity to those less fortunate was boundless but tainted by the attitude that the poor did this to themselves and could do no better. This article smacks of that attitude.

    Americans constantly told me how they envied the British welfare system, with permanent support for the poor and free health care. Those rights were fought for hard and long, over many years and the system remains a harsh, imperfect one. However, at least it’s recognised that poverty is created by neglect and greed and it is our duty to support the poor.

    I’ve read and seen many success stories as a result of charity and they all began by giving something for nothing, backed up by education and continuous support. What does it matter about the few who waste such help, when the rest benefit greatly from the giving?

    My father always said never pass a tramp in the street without giving him something, if you have it to give – one day it could be you standing in rags and hungry. I have and will always act upon that advice.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/dragonwaregames JL

    That is why big rich corporations shouldn’t be giving homeless people money, they should be giving them a job.

    99 time out of 100 homeless people are homeless because they don’t understand how to spend money wisely. I remember a few months ago a big charity organization gave this homeless guy $10,000. A couple of months later the money was gone and he was homeless again, he obviously doesn’t know what priorities are.

    If I ever get filty rich I’ll remember this post, when I want to help the poor I’ll start an organization that teaches them how to budget money instead of givining them money.

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  • Joe

    Why help them at all? They’re weak people. Let nature take it’s course and weed out the genetically inferior.

  • http://None Jack

    They are only weak because thay are deprived of our help and support, they do not choose this route of life. The story had meaning and if we don’t act upon poverty now it will grow and become a large issue. We should’nt GIVE to the poor we should TEACH and give with strings attached e.g. Instead of giving a homeless man money, you should give him vouchers which can be redeemed for food and utilities only, so he can’t spend it unwisely.

  • Robert Hillman

    I am fourty one and poor

    I raised four children alone for 13 years as a single parent

    and then i got sick

    and no one cared IT DESTROYED MY WHOLE FAMILY

    the bible says give NOT JUDGE

    the bible says GIVE to everyone that asks of thee
    and from him that would borrow from thee turn not away

    NICE STORY sure but its full of holes

    they were the stupid ones not to teach them how to look after things

    and as far as taking the water for granted
    DONT WE DO THAT IN THIS COUNTRY ????????
    give me a break

    I do everything i can we heat with wood
    lights with kerosene

    we grow our own meat eggs and a pig once a year
    but that does nothing for the teeth that rotted out of my childrens heads
    for the teeth that rotted out of my own

    the van we could no longer afford to fix

    you go ahead and feel superior all you want
    but GOD WILL JUDGE You LUKE CHAPTER SIX

    there are rich in this world that get everything handed to them on a silver platter

    the beef farmers and pork farmers that only work three hours a day

    and you think you have the right to judge

    I LOST MY WIFE because she thought she could have sex with anyone she wanted
    I raised four children alone for thirteen years

    and the thing that would have prevented the destruction of my family is simply some money

    so heres what the bible says YOU HIPPOCRITES

    THE STRENGTH OF THE RICH IS THEIR WEALTH

    and the DESTRUCTION OF THE POOR IS THEIR POVERTY

    I cant wait till JESUS COMES BACK
    and you try to argue with him

    try to justify why you had to have a 50 thousand dollar vehicle and 200 thousand dollar house

    while you told the single moms and the poor

    and the so called lazy that you had a right to all those things
    while they had only a right to be judged by you

    I am poor I am fourty one and sick

    and you can judge me all you want
    thats great cause then I KNOW THAT GOD WILL JUDGE YOU

    and I WANT HIM TO JUDGE YOU with the same measure you use to judge me

    singledad in ontario

    Robert Hillman
    R R # 2 Monkton Ontario
    Canada
    N0K1P0

  • Titus

    Giving for the sake of feeling good as presented in the scriptures can never get Africa out of Poverty. In Africa there is actually greater happiness in receiving for we got tired of giving in the past!

  • Sara

    Okay. So what about humanitarian crises and natural disasters? What about countries that are struggling because of these events’ shaking their economy, even if it is years in the past?

    Certainly, the idea of sustainability in charity is good, but when there is an immediate need, it is not only callous but short-sighted. There is a time to step in and intervene, and a time to plan and work out details for the future.

  • http://www.hongkongaugustaga.org butch palmer

    Welfare to single mothers who have one baby right after another to stay on welfare and section 8 housing is just like this story. They do not affriciate what they do not work for.

  • http://www.hongkongaugustaga.org butch palmer

    Charity begans at home.

  • Carol

    What about giving hungry people food? I can’t teach the people on the streets how to cook and buy their food if they don’t have money. But I can give them a meal because Jesus told us to give, not out of self-glorification. And I don’t think they would be stupid and not know how to handle free food. It’s pretty obvious – you put it in your mouth and chew…mmmm…nutrition!

  • Nasdaq7

    The solution then it seems is to invest in the poor, but never to give or to help the poor. Anyone for that matter.

  • michael b

    basecally, there was a bad middle man.

    find a good middle man if you guys realy care.
    but never make the statement that you should not give to the poor.

    all you need to do is find a charity which genuinly helps people in need/povety. i think christian aid is a reliable one.

    GIVE TO THE POOR.
    many of them cannot get out of it, even if they work 5 times harder than we do. we have the ticket to get many people out.

  • AlanRaj

    GIVE A MAN A FISH AND YOU FEED HIM FOR A DAY, TEACH A MAN HOW TO FISH AND HE FEEDS HIMSELF FOREVER.

  • http://happymommy.com momof5

    I think human nature has been wonderfully presented in all the comments. I have enjoyed reading some, others have saddened me. The article itself was thought-provoking, I have decided this based on what I have read:

    a. I will continue to give to the poor, whether my gift is in vain or not. I am not responsible for their actions, but I am responsible for mine.

    b. I will give of my time and energy into helping the poor, to make them see themselves as worthy of riches as I think I am, to help them out of the place they are in, or to help comfort them where they are.

  • lopezt5

    I completely disagree with your story. Jesus said, “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.” Jesus did not qualify this man’s giving to the poor in any way. God made provision for the poor when he instructed farmers, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.”
    I think that is good enough for me. Jesus also said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Everything else is just a rationalization and a hard heart to show no mercy to others. You can always find a reason why someone is not ‘ready’ to receive your great beneficence. Who can honestly say they are ready to recieve anything from God or always use what God has given them properly. How about our lives? Has no one squandered their time or possessions? Everyone at sometime or another has done just that, and yet, God does not keep his gifts from us, what makes us think we should do so???

    • Anonymous

      Yes, but the poor still had to go to the fields and gather those crops that were left.

  • Iyundhu

    This is fascinating. Here is my two cents.

    I have a question: did the humanitarian organisation consult with the villagers about their need for water and sanitary revampment? Or was the decision entirely foreign to them? It might sound unreasonable but, if the poor person is not involved, two things happen: first he thinks how nice the one who does things for him is. But secondly the poor person sinks deeper in self-pity. If other people have to help him, then what good is he? If, on the other hand, the poor person is involved in decision making about his own situation, it is more likely they will protect the investment the first time around. Western wealthy nations need to learn this: do not do for people what they can do for themselves. Suggest it. Ask them if they want it. Encourage them. But NEVER decide for them, particularly without their consent. That is taking over their place – which is neo-colonialism. However good your intentions are, displacing people without consent is disrespectful of them.

    The answer therefore is not to refrain from giving to the poor. The answer is to involve them. If they want it they will keep it. If they receive it for your sake they will take care of it in your presence – just to please you, but will let it rot in your absence. It is a call to respect the poor.

  • Iyundhu

    Before you teach people how to live you need to let them teach you what they really need. I am afraid your comment sounds a little condescending to the poor. What will you teach them? How much do you know about their lives that they do not know already? It is more a partnership than a teacher-pupil relationship.

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  • Nabak

    I agree to this message, there’s this universal phrase “Lo que se da de gratis no se valora”, “What is given for free is not valued”, there’s other examples and we just can’t oppose the unbreakable laws of this universe, i think is sympathy what makes this kinds of things, but we can’t have sympathy for the weak or else we’re weaker.

  • Anonymous

    I’d like to burn you at the stake.

  • Von

    This is such a great story, and I strongly agree with your concept. It reminded me of the old chinese proverb “give a man a fish feed him for a day, teach a man a fish feed him for a lifetime. Then i thought what would christ say in response if he had read this passage by you. So i looked at the characteristics of jesus, and i believe he would say ” Thou fool, did i not say give unto the poor, for that is in what ever form.Whether by WISDOM or by SCRAP, Why burden the minds of others in confusion.Let your yes be yes and your no be no”. Giving is giving. does not matter what form. So that being said – GIVE TO THE POOR is equivalent to helping the poor. the difference between the groups was in the form.

  • Millie

    Okay, first of all, giving is in God’s hands after it is complete. Honestly, what did they expect?? Of course they did not know how to fix the new machinery. You cannot give a two-year-old a car and expect him/her to know how to start it, drive it, or change the oil. It is my belief (and has always been my belief) that giving is simply a test. Before I give to the needy (whether it be money, food, clothing, etc.), I say to myself “this is a test from God; am I helping his people, even though I do not know what they do with these gifts? Yes, I am. And that is what counts.” How can you even say “don’t give to the needy.”?????? What kind of a person refuses to give things to others when they are SO FORTUNATE? SO BLESSED? Wake up, man. I will pray that you find your heart again. The Lord wants you to help his people. Helping people blesses you more than it blesses the needy. I am so upset at the small minded and negative people in this world… it makes me very sad. Give to the less fortunate; help them. Do whatever you need to do to assure that you have been a good disciple and to know that you have changed a life, even if just for a moment. Do not call yourself a fully devoted disciple of Jesus Christ if you do not know how to give to others. In your acts of kindness, give them a few words from the Lord and let them see how a Christian truly acts. This may change their lives in many big ways! Once you have given, it is in God’s hands. Once you have given, HE will decide what to do with it. It will make you a stronger and more loving person. Every time I help those in need, my heart grows a little more… I can feel it. Sometimes it feels like it just might stretch outside of my chest and explode. And I love it. So please, do give. Give and GO BACK; HELP THEM MORE THAN ONCE IF YOU CAN! Love unconditionally… and most of all- GROW, LEARN, CARE, and be POSITIVE!

  • Monkey

    I have no problem with anyone helping anyone in need be it from africa or any other part of the world, but i have issues with those who take to be a continent for beggers. The problem we as africans have is our leader who steal of resources which end up outside africa. We do not need anyone’s handouts; we need good governance not wars that keep us in camps.

  • Dan

    I cannot believe this!!!!!!!
    Sorry man but you are dumb! You cannot expect a group of teenagers to give people something totally alien to them and then bail. That’s what’s wrong with north America we are so used to getting everything as soon as we want it done.
    Change takes time inthe real world( out side of both America ). We need more people fully dedicated to devote their lives to these people! Not some kids looking for a cool experience!

    Everyone wants revolution but nobody wats to do the dishes!

  • jill

    here’s a real story from my own life that is more disturbing at least only because it is real.

    i lived temporarily in an abused women’s shelter in san antonio. (the abuse is all behind me now, thanks.) this was a very large facility supported by donations from major charity organizations and a local chain of supermarkets.

    at the time they were putting additions on the building. there was plumbing with running water for showers and toilets, a drinking fountain. apart from the fountain or bathroom sinks there was no accessible source of drinking water. there was a kitchen but the ‘guests’ were not permitted to enter that area. Instead there was a large mechanical coffee dispenser filled with water and an ice bucket with scoop. kids would put their hand in the ice bucket and people were sick left and right. one night i could not sleep and was quietly sitting alone out of sight in an area without cameras and witnessed two of the interns pouring the melted water from the ice bucket into the water dispenser.

    • http://www.facebook.com/zach26276 Zachary DeBoer

      You are the type of person who will never think people are doing enough for you.  You didn’t make a single statement about what you appreciated about the women’s shelter.  You didn’t mention that you appreciate that they pulled you out of an unfortunate abusive life.  All you mentioned is that you didn’t get to have an ice maker and a better source of drinking water (for some reason the drinking fountain wasn’t good enough).  

      Try appreciating the help that was given to you, not the resources that weren’t given to you.  Wow…

  • http://negativevacuum.wordpress.com @negativevacuum

    So, sometimes if you ask the right questions, you get the right answers.

    If all you do is give a man a fish, he will be hungry again. But teaching a man to fish is not quite enough, either.

    There are situations in this world where human beings have been forcibly removed from their lands, or where disease or disability has kept people in a position where they are unable to fend for themselves.

    But the deal is; poverty is two different things. One is a lack a material necessities. The second is a lack of the liberty to improve on circumstances. There are many reasons for both.

    Yes it’s sometimes true that giving someone something gratis might mean they don’t appreciate it. But that’s neither always true, nor true for everyone. Sometimes there are people who really do need help, and who are very grateful and truly appreciative for whatever help they can get.

    But it takes more than just teaching a man to fish. Sometimes you also need to make sure he’s got a fishing pole, and more, a place where there are fish to begin with where it is also legal and safe for him to fish.

    As for “weeding out the gene pool,” the only inferior branches of genetics that exist might be evident in those beings who don’t care, or in other words those who can ascribe philosophies of natural selection and “survival of the fittest” to fellow human beings. Even those who are entirely incapable, or diseased or disabled, have a spark of the divine in them. The only times I have observed that divine spark go out was when it was manifest in the attitude of the few that talk blithely about weeding out the gene pool, and even then, all that those people need is to be morally awakened.

    In my opinion, the only real and central purpose of organized government is to administer charity.

    Let’s solve problems. In order to find answers, we first need to ask the right questions. Let’s take a step back and look at what the problem really is. If you ask the question “why” enough, eventually you may get to a reasonable root of the problem. It’s in layers. If you can still ask another round of “why,” you probably haven’t stepped back far enough.

    Let’s face it. We’re all beggars in one way or another.

    • http://www.facebook.com/zach26276 Zachary DeBoer


      In my opinion, the only real and central purpose of organized government is to administer charity” ~  Really?  Is it charity if you are forced to give?  No, that is theft.

      You are not good because you have a government force you and other people to “give” or help the needy.  A good person does it on their own, BY THEIR OWN LIBERTY!

      Yikes, you said so much that I agreed with and then you had to say that… I feel betrayed by you, my fellow human.

  • Becca

    First of all, Joe’s comment is DISGUSTING.
    Secondly, very good story. Giving is very good, and Jesus does want us to give to others that are not as well off as we are, but notice in the passage when the reapers were ordered to not get the grain from the corners of the field…the grain was never HANDED to the poor people; they poor people had to get it themselves. Teach responsibility, not just accepting handouts.

  • Zlatko

    Becca, Jesus does not exist! Nobody told you that?

  • JLM

    Have you ever read The Satanic Bible? What you are saying about natural selection is in there. It’s not Christian or loving or even sane. It’s Libertarian, Ayn Rand garbage! How dare you and your mad tea party friends use such vile hate and call it of Christ!
    How come most poor people I know would give you the shirt off there back but give a fool a little cash and he turns into a loud mouthed snob? I feel very sorry for you! If there is a Jesus he is not happy with this choice of yours.
    FYI Rand did not believe in God. She called the poor lice and useless. What you said reminds me of a story she told back in the day. Its not biblical!
    How would you feel if in a weeks time there was a huge storm that knocked your house down and left you unable to work. Lets say you had to move to a place nobody knew you and all of the people in your new town thought you did something to make yourself sick. They would call you names and spread rumors. Well guess what, that sort of thing happens to people every day!
    Nobody likes a hand out but some people have no choice. How come none of you Christians said anything about the single dad in that post? Is it because you do not know his whole story? Did you judge him like you judge single moms? Jesus comes from the line of Lot and his own daughters that got him drunk to have sex with him! If a messed up family like that can be healed then how come you judge a man or woman who as a single parent does there best to do what is right? Do you like abortion? Should the fetus find a job?

  • http://www.nextstarfish.com Next Starfish

    Always happy to see the issue of giving and personal responsibility for others being debated.

    Pete Singer put it well when he asked ‘would you save a young child you saw drowning in a pond on your way to work’ ? Most people would say yes, even if it meant they ruined their new shoes. By extension, he argues, we should also consider our response to children (and lets not forget the adults) dying from poverty in the developing world – we can save real lives by giving, perhaps for only the cost of a pair of shoes.

    Obviously how and where we give is important, and I struggle with the issue of how much should we give.

    If you’re the kind of person who simply wouldn’t help the drowning child, then enjoy your life, and if you’re ever faced with a similar situation I hope your selflessness actually takes you by surprise and you save the kid after all.

  • Olivia Carter

    I don’t care if u think all that crap OK??? poor people need to live don’t they? so who ever wrote all that crap about never give money to the poor well your wrong!!!!! what about poor people who have children all the parents want is the child to stay alive but there are people like you who are stopping people living there live and do you know what i call those people?? BASTARDS!!! THAT’S WHO YOU FUCKING ARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! like if you agree with me!!

    • lina

      yup i agree with you. 
      We should not help them because they are poor, we should
      help them because we share are wealth because we care and because we want to.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chloe.koala.lim Chloe Lam

      … did you or did you not just read the whole thing cause i’m pretty sure what he said was right. we should not give to the poor, but help. If we just give, do you think they will know what to do after what you give dies. For example, if you give food and water to the poor. GOOD! but if you help the poor, TEACH them how to grow food, or in the relation to this blog, teach the poor how to operate the water purification and water disposal system. isnt that better? and as it says near the end of this blog, they didn’t want to operate it in the first place. so before you go giving and helping, you must listen to what they want to do, and to what they want to achieve before anything else.

      • Cindy

        It seems like Olivia will not hear you at this time, when the student is ready ……

  • Nick T

    I wonder if anyone who is against giving to the poor has ever been poor. If you have you wouldn’t say this. Obviously you haven’t been poor. You can both give and help.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zach26276 Zachary DeBoer

    None of you get it…. 

    This person is suggesting HELPING the poor forever!  You are all suggesting temporarily helping a poor person get through the day.  If I was poor, I would prefer the help that lasts forever.  If I was rich, I would prefer to help people for a lifetime, not just to get through the day.

    Take this story for example.  Do you think the villagers are happier with a lifetime of water or do you think they would have preferred what the first group gave them?  Think about it objectively and get your heads out of your asses.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zach26276 Zachary DeBoer

    None of you get it…. 

    This person is suggesting HELPING the poor forever!  You are all suggesting temporarily helping a poor person get through the day.  If I was poor, I would prefer the help that lasts forever.  If I was rich, I would prefer to help people for a lifetime, not just to get through the day.

    Take this story for example.  Do you think the villagers are happier with a lifetime of water or do you think they would have preferred what the first group gave them?  Think about it objectively and get your heads out of your asses.

  • Maoricet

    Ha…Ha… Ha…  It is gracious. What a grace!

  • Maoricet

    It is a waste of money. Yeah,  we should not give the poor.

  • Ccdickenjr

    I believe most people, at least those who are genuinely in need, are not looking for a handout, instead they are looking for a helping hand. The famous saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him day, but show a man how to fish and you’ll feed him a lifetime,” holds true in this story described.
    There are some who genuinely need a handout, but the vast majority of people do not want it and are offended by it. What is desired more, is that someone lend them a helping hand. I always thought that it would be an excellent Christian ministry in any Church, for business leaders who attend their, would teach others in the Church on how to start and run a business. Now that I’m unemployed and no way to feed my family, I would love to have someone show me how, I do not want a handout. I am more than capable of working for myself, it is just that with no job, I can’t.

  • mercy

    This is obviously written by someone who has never seen poverty. Children living in conditions your dogs don’t live in. If you are born in this side of the world, I suggest be quiet and thankful instead of writing these things. The bible has already given us the model in Matthew 25 verse 31-46. Read it, I know that no one is wiser than God and he says give to the poor, Did you know that people die of hunger, of malaria and so many needless diseases, what do you say to them? Life is not black and white. It is better to do something than nothing but writing an article, that is very easy.

    • Equinox_solstice92

       You’re obviously missing the point of this article. He’s saying that you shouldn’t just give to the poor but help them and let them help themselves. Honestly, some of the poor will take advantage of the gifts that are given to them so therefore, they’ll take advantage of you and will DEPEND on you. So if you give giving, they’ll keep waiting for a miracle.

      I will give money to charity but there’s nothing wrong with saving some for myself and it’s NOT selfish to because then I earned that money after all.

  • Matt Brent.

    i dont care about poor people. i believe everyones entitled to their own opinion and that is mine, unless you really wana give up the money you work so hard for and donate it to a bunch of slums.

    • t

      the poor can pick themselves up and help themselves like I did.

  • Rajyeshua

    Bummer that God got it wrong in scripture when he said to “give to the poor”.
    Maybe the giving is for the giver not the poor?

  • Graigy

    Could you not do them both at the same time?  You could feed them the fish while you are teaching them to fish.

  • Anumakonda Jagadeesh

    Very true. The same case for water pumping windmills in India. Under National Demonstration programme in 80s Water Pumping windmills (about 2500) were put up across the country free of cost. None of them could be seen after a couple of years. The reason, as they are free nobody cared to look after them. Unless beneficiary share is there,he will never bother to take care of the equipment.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh  Nellore(AP),India
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

  • Sexyjus101

    I am in agreement with this story. Charity is often taken for granted take for example the food stamp system  in america. Most persons decide not to work and live off the government when they are able bodied. Giving to the poor only promotes laziness and a sense of dependency as they will always be waiting for the next person to give. Helping them is much better, when you help them you empower them and allow them to become independent and work for what they want in life. Too much charity is distorting our society. Life is there for everyone you just have to make use of it. 

  • The Batman

    It’s true that people suffer and die every second due to preventable causes. It’s true that it doesn’t cost, relatively speaking, to help them. When it is necessary, when it can be the difference between life and death, giving aid is definitely appropriate. However, the point of this story is to show that simply giving, though it may be a great thing to do, is only a piece of the puzzle. I too am a Christian, and God calls us to give. Thus, we should give. But doesn’t he also call us to go the extra mile(literally)? Give when necessary, but help always. If a homeless man asks you for money for food, buy him food. Jesus didn’t always give money to people who asked. He gave blind beggars sight, and lame beggars legs to walk. He didn’t give them money, which would last only so long. He gave them the means to earn a living. That being said, I ask you this: Who grows stronger: the man that faces adversity and pushes through to success, or the man that sees adversity and is given an escape route(ie. gifts of financial support, etc.)?

    It’s not something that can be absolutely determined via a rule of sorts. What to do in each situation in which you may find yourself placed should be determined with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

  • Layla

    Oh alright the last sentence made sense. But before that I thought he was a horrible person….

  • lisa

    yea i dont believe the story .. i need names of the two organizations. name of the country and village .. then we can talk … to easy to make up demogogary type stories .. straw man argument ..

  • defman

    This is common sense! Give by itself doesn’t work. HELPING, those who needs helps to pull themselves up UNTIL they’re able to maintain a better state of life, then that works!
    Plain common sense.
    Giving all the time and seeing no results, that’s dumber than my hind end!