This article profiles social welfare in the Lebanon based upon the perceptions of a group of expert observers and practitioners there. It proposes that welfare is primarily a charitable initiative that springs from the private sphere but becomes politicized once it assumes a public role. The conceptualization of welfare, however, is in no way rudimentary; indeed, the actors concerned are actively engaging with the developmental discourses of our times thereby building bridges between `traditional' and `modern' visions of social justice. The Lebanese case is interesting for social development policy since it illustrates the dynamism of non-state welfare actors. A key issue is religious welfare (particularly Islamic), which continues to receive little attention in the social development literature. To this extent, the article reviews poverty and social dynamics in Lebanon and questions the universal relevance of social exclusion as an analytical tool for understanding processes of human impoverishment.