As followers of Jesus, being generous isn’t a suggested activity isolated to Sundays or church events, but how we’re supposed to live our everyday lives.
And it’s not just about our money.
We’re also called to be generous with our talents, skills, and time.
But what about those circumstances where generosity evolves into enabling?
A few years ago, I heard about a family that was struggling. The husband lost his job, the wife couldn’t find a job, and they were on the verge of eviction. With three children to feed, they panicked when the food ran out and the lights were turned off.
Their church began raising money to keep a roof over their head.
My husband and I felt the Holy Spirit asking us to help with their children.
We bought them groceries, school supplies, and other household items like toilet paper.
A few months later, the husband and wife had found jobs, were up to date on their rent, and were able to buy food and pay bills on their own.
Although they were now able to fully care for themselves, money was still tight and they asked if my family could help again.
We prayed about it for days. Supporting them forever wasn’t the answer, but it broke our hearts to see them struggle.
Then we realized: If we continued helping them it wouldn’t be generosity, it would be enabling.
In the past, a steady stream of well-meaning people willing to pay their bills (without an end date) had discouraged any motivation on their part to focus on advancing skills to seek higher employment.
They even began spending money beyond their budget assuming someone would be there to bail them out.
11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. ~Hebrews 12:11(NIV)
Sometimes generosity means giving someone the opportunity to deal with the consequences of their actions.
Keeping the couple comfortable in their irresponsibility would be enabling.
Helping was saying, “no,” forcing them to live within their budget.
How do we know when to say “no?”
We start by praying for wisdom and discernment from the Holy Spirit.
- Is our help actually needed or is it creating a stumbling block for the person to care for themselves?
- Are they abusing the help they already have?
- Is what we’re doing encouraging the person to make better decisions, seek professional help, or learn new skills to change their situation?
Truly helping someone requires making decisions, not out of emotion, but out of reality.
Tough, I know.
But if we begin adding to the problem, we’re not really helping them, we’re creating codependency.
Pray for them. Love them. Don’t become part of the problem.