3rd Quarter


Home Up 'Jesus Camp' Justice 'Long Walk Home' 'Boys of Baraka' ? Racism ?

A Parable about Charity and Justice

photo by Mary Patterson



One summer in the village, the people in the town gathered for a picnic. As they leisurely shared food and conversation, someone noticed a baby in the river, struggling and crying. The baby was going to drown!

Someone rushed to save the baby. Then, they noticed another screaming baby in the river, and they pulled that baby out. Soon, more babies were seen drowning in the river, and the townspeople were pulling them out as fast as they could. It took great effort, and they began to organize their activities in order to save the babies as they came down the river. As everyone else was busy in the rescue efforts to save the babies, two of the townspeople started to run away along the shore of the river.

"Where are you going?" shouted one of the rescuers. "We need you here to help us save these babies!"

"We are going upstream to stop whoever is throwing them in!"

~ ~ ~

The Difference between Charity and Justice:

Both of the approaches in this story were necessary.


The CHARITY approach (rescuing the babies) met an immediate need.

 The JUSTICE approach (stopping the babies from being put in the river in the first place) dealt with the root cause of the problem.


Neither approach would be enough on its own.




Charity                                         Justice

Direct                          Social

Service                        Change


   Band-aid Work:                          Advocacy Work:

            Direct response to suffering.                           Changing the root causes of suffering.


                        Individual                                  Systemic, Structural, Institutional


examples:                                                                                    examples:


                               Donating: food, clothing, shelter.                            Calling and writing elected officials, legislative advocacy, responsible

                   Serving in soup kitchens and homeless shelters,                purchasing and investing, changing corporate policies and practices,

    building houses, organizing benefits, providing                        boycotts, community organizing, non-violent vigils and direct

medical services, supporting charities, tutoring...                                    actions, prayer and fasting, civil disobedience...


Remember the River...


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