taking the words of Jesus seriously

For years, I’ve resisted the TOMS Shoes craze. It wasn’t just because the early shoes look like slippers, but because it seemed to perpetuate an out-of-style paradigm of charity.

But today, the shoes I’m wearing proudly display the blue and white TOMS flag. I’ve finally joined the tribe and I have to admit, these shoes are really comfortable and way more stylish shoes than anything I’ve ever owned. More importantly, I finally feel good about supporting them. Here’s why.

The philosophy of TOMS Shoes—buy a pair of shoes and give one to a child overseas—sounds good.

Related: Time Share Charity and God’s Scandalous Grace – by Joy Bennett

But I’ve seen enough bad results in the wake of good intentions to know that giving stuff is never the solution to global poverty. We’ve seen how indiscriminate charity ends up hurting the local economy. It puts local producers and sellers out of business. And it creates unhealthy dependency.

And what happens when shoes wear out? You now have a community that no longer has local producers or sellers.

Simply stated, handouts tend to create dependency in the long term and can actually undermine a local economy (read Uncharity).

But now, TOMS Shoes is changing their approach. And I’m dancing in my new shoes.

TOMS Shoes will open a shoe-manufacturing business in Haiti this January. 100 Haitians will be on the payroll. It’s a small step. Yet it’s a huge change in the company’s approach.

Also by Peter: When Ministry Becomes Your Mistress

They recognize that the greatest good might not be the shoes they give away, but the jobs they create.

TOMS Shoes has pledged that one-third of their shoes will be produced locally by December 2015. For more of the story, read “TOMS Shoes rethinks its ‘buy one, give one’ model of helping the needy.”

So today I’m proudly wearing my TOMS and celebrating the jobs they’re creating.

About The Author


Peter Greer is President and CEO of HOPE International, a global Christ-centered microenterprise development organization serving throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Prior to joining HOPE, Peter worked internationally as a microfinance advisor in Cambodia, technical advisor for Self-Help Development Foundation in Zimbabwe, and managing director for Urwego Community Bank in Rwanda. He received a B.S. in international business from Messiah College, an MPP from Harvard’s Kennedy School, and an honorary doctorate from Erskine College. Peter has written The Poor Will Be Glad (with Phil Smith), The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good (with Anna Haggard), Mission Drift (with Chris Horst, and selected as a 2015 Book Award Winner from Christianity Today), Entrepreneurship for Human Flourishing (with Chris Horst), Watching Seeds Grow (with his son Keith), 40/40 Vision (with Greg Lafferty), and The Giver and the Gift (with David Weekley). Currently, Peter serves as the entrepreneur-in-residence at Messiah College and as a Praxis Venture Partner. Peter and his wife, Laurel, live in Lancaster, PA, with their three children, Keith, Lilianna, and Myles.

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