There were a dozen reasons to say no. The family asking for help with their bill was well-known around town. They didn’t make wise use of money, often asked for handouts, and were generally looked upon with suspicion. People didn’t trust them, and for good reason. Besides, it’s not good to enable people, right? Let them learn from the consequences of their actions. You don’t want to risk them coming back to you again and again. It’s best not to get involved at all.
Have you ever been in this type of uncomfortable position before, when someone asks you for money or help, and you have good reason to suspect they won’t use it appropriately? Perhaps you’ve given assistance before, only to see your gift squandered. When it comes to giving, this is a tricky area. Sure, we’ll give to friends who are struggling with underemployment. It’s easy to take a meal to a new mom or a family dealing with the death of a loved one. People in general love to support benefit dinners and auctions, willingly paying far more than the meal or items are worth to help pay off medical expenses. We’ll rally behind a good cause or good friends, but that lady in town who’s always asking for help? Eh, not so much.
True, there are people who abuse the generosity of others. There are those who sit on street corners to ask for money only to go spend it on alcohol. Some people just don’t know how to manage their finances and are always scrambling to scrape together enough for rent at the end of the month. What about people with that sort of reputation? Like I said, there are a dozen reasons to say no in these circumstances.
The timing of this family’s visit could hardly be a coincidence. I’ve been working through a Bible study by Sharla Fritz called Enough for Now: Unpacking God’s Sufficiency. It’s a fabulous Bible study; one of the best I’ve done. And the chapter I was working through that week was “Enough Money.” The verse of the week was Luke 12:33-34, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I’d done a verse mapping—an in-depth study—of those verses just a day or two before. It’s pretty hard to ignore or explain away God’s clear command to “sell your possessions and give to the needy,” especially when God sends just such a person right to my front door.
Okay, God. Point taken.
The thing is, had you asked me before reading that chapter whether or not I had a problem with money, I would have said no. I don’t consider money to be an idol in my life, and for crying out loud, we’re solidly middle class. It’s not like we’re out there buying mansions and yachts. And we faithfully tithe and give money to charities and organizations we support. But reading the chapter opened my eyes to the fact that I do have a problem with greed. I struggle with my attitude toward money because I find security in it, rather than in the God of sufficiency. The more we have in our bank account, the more secure I believe us to be. But if I’m being completely honest, we could afford to live on a whole lot less than we do now.
I’m not going to lie to you. It wasn’t an easy decision about whether or not to help this family. We debated the pros and cons. Yes, we could easily absorb the cost with no ill effects, but the family’s reputation bothered us a lot. We didn’t want to be taken advantage of, plain and simple. Sometimes it’s easier not to know the people asking for help. Support Hurricane Dorian victims? Sure! Sign me up! But please don’t get too personal. I almost don’t want to know how my money is being spent, especially if it’s not used wisely. Let my conscience rest easy knowing I’m helping without getting too close or too involved.
I encourage you to examine your own attitude about money. Do you place more importance upon it than you should? Are you wrongly placing your security in it rather than in God? Are you being a good steward of the money God has entrusted to you? I’m not suggesting we all go out and give money to people who will misuse it. But prayerfully consider where God might be nudging you to loosen your grip on your own finances and use them instead to further His kingdom.
2 Corinthians 8:9 reminds us, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Live with this eternal perspective, that in Christ, you are already rich beyond measure. Don’t let money get in the way of true riches. Remember, in Christ, you have more than enough.
September 9, 2019 at 10:47 am
I could understand your struggle with money, I really could. We too were ‘solidly middle class’ like you once.
But we followed God in faith. As we waited on Him we became poor…then destitute…then homeless. 40 months He allowed our family of 4 with a bird and dog to wander around trusting Him for our daily bread.
We saw our own attitudes about money, like yours, as the idols they were. We saw people refuse to help simply because we were poor. We were judged and hated because we were following Jesus in faith and they couldn’t understand it. We never asked for money. Never begged, pan handled or anything like that. What little money we did get went to food or shelter. Some helped with goods, money and food and we were thankful for that.
God rubbed our noses into homelessness as we followed Him until we finally understood what is in the heart of man. As said at the beginning I really could really understand your struggle. Not now. Now we know better. When we see people being so consumed about how ‘their’ money is being spent when they give it to others it is not a gift, it’s a loan. When we got something like that we did everything we could to pay the person back, Why? because it isn’t given freely. It is given with strings of control and manipulation attached where they want the recipient to live according to their rules. Doing that would have destroyed our walk of faith.
‘Being used wisely’? Really? Where is the ‘self’less giving that Jesus taught us.
I admire your honesty here in admitting that it is a struggle. I know it is. But coming from the other side I have less tolerance than I once did. I once was so tied to ‘self’ and fear of poverty that I couldn’t see straight. God burned that out of me in the wilderness. Now I see money as only a tool to serve Him. A few days ago we had $200 in the bank (which is a lot more than most). We found our neighbor here at the motel we live at needed a winter coat and was saving up for one. We took half our money and bought him one. Money is a tool to bless others. It becomes an idol when we look to it for security. That is dangerous for when it fails (and God will let it fail if you trust in it) you will be in the same situation we were, broke and homeless.
Our family is thankful for our journey for it taught us money will never save us, only drag us down. Only when we trust Him will we be safe.
September 9, 2019 at 11:00 am
Thank you for sharing this so openly. It’s a message many people (myself included!) need to hear to keep things in perspective. Seeing things from the “other side” is often painful and indicting. Money is indeed a tool given to us by God to serve His purposes, and that’s something God needs to remind us of again and again. In the ESV Bible, there are 129 verses about money, 433 that mention gold, 283 that talk about silver, and 169 that contain the word “rich,” for a total of 1014 Bible verses that talk about wealth. Clearly, this is an issue God knows many people will struggle with!
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