If you look up verses about Jesus and compassion, you will find that many times Jesus was motivated by compassion to heal the sick, feed the hungry, teach people, and cast out demons. To be compassionate is to share a quality that Jesus has. And that's a good thing. Many times our own giving is done because of compassion. We see pictures of kids who cannot go to school- so we donate to an organization that pays for kids to be educated because of the compassion we feel. Needy kids are fed, clothed, educated, trained, and taken care of all over the world because people have compassion.
But I want to tell you some more effects of giving on the mission field- effects that shock us!
Some friends of mine in Mozambique told me this story about a friend of theirs. He came to Africa and lived in a small town for a short time. He watched how hard the women worked- going to the river to get water and washing their clothes by hand. He had compassion on them. So he went back to his country, and was able to raise the funds to buy simple washing machines for the families.
...And just to add some personal experience of washing by hand- I spent 5 months washing my clothes by hand while I was in Africa. It takes a really long time just to wash my own clothes- and is a multiple day process to wash sheets, curtains, etc. Washing by hand is a really big job.
Anyways, the man was pleased that he was able to give the washing machines and let the women's work load be lighter. He returned a few years later to that same town and was shocked to find the majority of women drinking heavily at a local bar.
He was shocked. What had happened?
He discovered that the "local hang out" was the river. The women would gather there to wash clothes, but it was also where they would socialize. They would spend hours and hours each day washing, talking, and sharing life with one another. But with a washing machine, there was no longer a need to go to the river. The place where they socialized was gone. So they found a new one: the bar.
When we give we have great intentions. We believe that our gifts will better the lives of the people we give to. And many times it does- when we give clothes to those who wear rags, when we fix the homes of those who live in shacks, when we feed the hungry and when we give to the poor we help them leave their current level of poverty and provide for real needs in their lives.
But so often, because we sometimes give without asking the people what their needs are (assuming we already know) we can negatively change a culture, waste money, and create opposite effects than what we intended.
Lets keep on giving, but lets ask the community we are giving to and let them tell us what their needs are.