-Rev Melissa Fain-
This is part of a series. Check out the other two:
Charity is a Double-Edged Sword
Greed the Ultimate Deadly Sin
Other-Centered vs Selfless and why it matters
Okay Church, gird up your loins. It's time for a reckoning.
We, as an entire institution, really suck at seeing the danger to other-centered people. As our numbers dwindle we care less and less about where our help is coming from, as long as it comes. Last week I explained the difference between self-centered, and selfish. Basically, self-centered people are only able to see themselves. They do not understand or see the world around them. Meanwhile, selfish people see the world, but choose to act in a self-serving way. Often bad, but not always.
Other-centered people are incapable of seeing their own needs beyond the needs of others. They are self-sacrificing, while not realizing that's what they are being. They are the easiest people to take advantage of. One negative comment can reel them into a state where they think they need to self-correct into being more self-sacrificing. They are targets of gas-lighters and generally narcissistic individuals. Even self-centered individuals will unknowingly take advantage of someone who is other-centered.
Churches all over the world abuse these people. Yes, I wrote abuse. Other-centered people are generally natural caregivers, and are drawn to social service organizations and projects. Because of their inability to see their own needs, it's super easy to overburden their lives with projects. These people burnout and then they think it's their fault they burned out. The Church then isn't there to help them when they are the one in need. They find other other-centered people to take the burned out person's place and the cycle begins again.
Selfless people, conversely, are people who see and know their own needs and still give of themselves for the sake of others. These people know when to stop being selfless to meet their personal needs and keep going later. Churches get uptight and angry when a selfless person finally says no, and a healthy selfless person will see those uptight and angry reactions as the unhealthy situation it is.
Am I laying this out clear enough? This is how Churches all over the world have broken: By taking advantage of other-centered people, and attempting to take advantage of selfless people. It very dangerous because it looks righteous, when it's only taking a righteous cause and uses it like a weapon.
Charity When Weaponized
Yes, it is completely possible to do the right think in the wrong way.
Bach wrote epic music on an ivory keyed piano, but that black rhino still died to make those keys.
Yes, it's good to give stockings to lower income families during Christmas, but those stockings are still filled with toys made overseas by slave labor.
And finally Church. Food pantries, clothes closets, and mission fields are filled with other-centered people who burnout and hurt all the time.
We've got a problem church! A much bigger problem than can be solved by simply trying worship around a kitchen table instead of a sanctuary. No one trusts us anymore, and for good reason. I feel like Alice having entered Crazy Town Wonderland, and everyone is talking nonsense and patting themselves on the back like it all makes sense when it doesn't!
Charity is weaponized when other-centered people are abused into working to meet the need, or the need itself is not really met to make people outside that need feel good about themselves. Either it's selfish people taking advantage of other-centered people, or it's selfish people making themselves feel good instead of really meeting the need. In any case, no matter how charity has been weaponized, selfish takes the place of selfless. Selfish is always the culprit.
A Note On The Giving Tree
I have been witness to multiple churches pulling out The Giving Tree to discuss charity. This is the story about a boy and a tree. By the end of the story the boy takes everything from this tree, even her trunk. The point is to see Christ as the tree, and the boy as us. Yet, it usually turns to us needing to be more like the tree.
Don't be the tree.
Don't be the boy.
Don't be this book. This book is a pretty depiction of an abusive relationship. If Christ is truly the Giving Tree, than no wonder we are dying as a Church! We've taken, and taken and taken. We need to start asking, "How can we help you, Christ?" This is an important question to our future, because taking from Christ is literally taking from ourselves. We are the Body of Christ. We are destroying ourselves every time we pull out the hacksaw.
I'm going to wrap this all up with one more post. What does healthy and just charity look like?