Being Charitable vs. Being a Sucker. Here’s the difference.

So here’s a scenario.  Your relative comes to you and wants to borrow money, but if you give them the money they ask for,  you will be putting yourself into financial distress. Should you give it to them?  If you don’t, are you being hard hearted?  How far should our charity go when it comes to this kind of thing?

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I have personally witnessed this sort of thing on more than one occasion, and I’ve seen people put themselves into a financial bind trying to help family or friends that ask for money.

Accusations sometimes arise when the person refuses to help, even after they state that they can’t afford to help right now.  A woman may even be called a hypocrite and her Christianity called into question because in the eyes of her needy relative or friend, she’s not being a good Christian because she won’t give.  So, where’s the line?  When is it okay to say NO to such requests?  What can you do?

I firmly believe in being charitable.  I believe that we are here to help one another.  If you look at the commandments that God gave the Children of Israel and also the commandments that Jesus gave the Church, they all have to do with two areas:

  • How we act toward God.
  • How we act toward one another.

It’s very important to help one another. The Bible says in Proverbs 19:17 that when you have pity on the poor, you are lending to the Lord, and the Lord will repay you.  The Bible points out in a number of places that it’s God’s will for his people to be benevolent.

Creditors have better memories than debtors. (- Proverb)

When you are asked for help, look at the condition of the one asking for it.  I try to ask myself a couple of questions before I make any decision at all concerning this.

A.  Where are they financially?

  1. Are they able to work?
  2. Do they actually have an income, that if used correctly, can meet the need?
  3. Do they have any income at all?
  4. Do they have any savings that can help them through the tough time?
  5. Do they have things of value that they can sell?

B.  Why are they where they are?

  1. Are they normally quite stable and an explosion of bad circumstances just rocked them to the point where they need help?
  2. Maybe they have recently become unemployed and they need help just bridging the gap between the old job and the next step.
  3. They may also be at the other end of this spectrum where they have had plenty of excellent opportunities to develop a strong financial life, but instead have habitually made bad choices.  I have known some that would spend money on cigarettes and beer and not have any left over for gas to get back & forth to work.  Is their Modus Operandi to live off of the charity of others? Have they gone a long time and never seemed to get it together? These people may ask for help on an ongoing basis and some may attempt to shame you if you don’t help them.  I have found that with many of these people, they believe their financial hardship is never their fault.  They are always the helpless victims of people and forces outside of their control.  They don’t take personal responsibility for where they are.

What should you do?  To find our answers we look to scripture.  2 Corinthians 9:7 (Darby) says “each according as he is purposed in his heart; not grievingly, or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver”.  Notice that the giving is to be done “as he has purposed in his heart”.  Your charity should be planned and thought out.  Look also at “not grievingly, or of necessity”.  If you can’t give by faith with a cheerful heart, you should think twice about it.  Consider the promise though, from verses 8-10 (KJV). “And God is able to make ALL grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work”.

I don’t think people should be stingy, cheap, or fearful concerning money.  I am personally convinced of how much God loves me and helps me in this area. I remember the day that Romans 8:31 – 39 became real to me.  I wept with joy when I realized that God was more “for me” than I was, and that he was actively looking for ways to get past my unbelief to help me.   Rom 8:31 & 32 says “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”  Allow Him to build this same confidence in you.  He’s on your side.  He really is.

Practical things that you can do.

  1. Be deliberate about your giving.  Plan your giving and don’t be ruled by emotion.  Christians in general have a heart for wanting to help.  Thieves, lazy relatives and con artists take advantage of this and play to your heart.  Rev. Keith Moore said it this way: “If you show up with a fish symbol on your truck, talking about how you’re a Christian and I should trust you, bring two more references with you when you come”.  Why?  Because in reality, they may not really be Christians.  For this reason we are very deliberate in our giving. We personally have just a few organizations that we support unwaveringly.  These are planned and included in our monthly budget.
  2. Set up a benevolence fund in your budget.  Determine how much you are going to put into it every payday.  Make sure it’s an amount that you can afford but trust God to help you grow it.  It will build up over time. This will be the fund that you can use to help people with.  This should be in addition to your consistent support of your church.  In our budgeted giving we have flagged an amount each month that I sometimes call “Grass Seed”.  It’s the money that we budget for giving but doesn’t have a stated purpose.  It’s just for when situations arise and it seems like we should give.  In addition, we always make it a matter of prayer before we give.  If we don’t have peace about it, we don’t give.
  3. Set your limits.  When the fund is empty, you don’t give until you have more to give.  Don’t borrow from some other area in your budget to cover this.  That is not being a good steward of your money.
  4. Develop a resource list specific to your area. You will be able to refer people to known charities in your area that can give them the help they need. You can have everything from financial assistance to free clothing on your list. See this Resource List link for the list I use.

Your personal responsibility.  When you commit to a service or purchase something over time, you have committed your money in advance to that.  When you allow yourself to be pushed into giving money to a friend or family member when it was tagged for a payment that you owe, you’re giving away someone else’s money.  You need to keep in mind your own Christian witness to your creditors when it comes to how you give and how much you can afford.  God is not pleased, and the Gospel becomes evil spoken of when Christians poorly represent themselves and God.  When it comes to finances be wise.

Before borrowing money from a friend it’s best to decide which you need most. (Quote by – Joe Moore)

When you find yourself in a situation described by the Lord in Luke 6, obey the bible.  If your face gets smacked, turn the other cheek. Very often though, the Lord will lead you away from situations where people beat you and steal your clothes.  The bottom line in all of this is simply BE LED.  God directs his people and He will steer you. Trust Him to do it.

These are guidelines that I use and I hope they help you too.  What creative ways have you found to help others that you would like to share?  I would be glad to add them to my own tool box.  Please join the conversation by leaving your comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

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