I was recently asked when giving is – and isn’t – appropriate. Here’s my answer.
But first, to prevent anyone from reading this post and thinking it discourages giving, let me be clear at the beginning that Scripture frequently commands, and therefore, we should be generous:
- Deuteronomy 16:17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.
- Proverbs 21:26b The righteous gives and does not spare.
- Luke 3:11 Jesus said, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.”
This post in no way is meant to discourage giving (you can read a recent post from me about the importance of giving).
It is a great blessing to be able to help those in need. As the saying goes, “It’s as much a gift to give as to receive.” Being able to come together as a family and tell your children, “This family is struggling. God has blessed us, and we’re going to help to them in this way. Let’s pray for the family and thank God for the opportunity He’s given us to give to them in their time of need.”
Giving in this way is part of following Christ and being a good steward of our finances. But it’s equally true that being a good steward also requires asking, “Is this an appropriate time to give?” Like many areas in Scripture, balance is required. As true as it is that giving makes us good stewards, it’s equally true that knowing when not to give is also part of being a good steward.
Here are four ways giving can actually make us poor stewards of our finances…
First, giving to every need that arises.
Some things sound good in theory while being completely impractical. Giving to every need is a good example. Common sense tells us this is impossible. Even the greatest philanthropists with millions of dollars available must decide where their money should (and shouldn’t) go, who truly should (and shouldn’t) have it. Saying “yes” to one need means saying “no” to another.
Second, sometimes giving hurts more than it helps.
Enabling is not loving. When people are terrible with their money no matter how much you give them it will only be a matter of time before they find themselves in the same situation. The best thing you could give is: instruction, counsel, a budget, probably some verses on self-control and contentment. The answer is teaching them to be wiser stewards of the money they have.
For many people they don’t have an income problem. They have a spending problem.
Third, sometimes giving permits laziness.
Before you buck against this point, consider Paul said it two thousand years before I did: 2 Thessalonians 3:10 We commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. Hunger can be a wonderful motivator.
Fourth, sometimes giving prevents change.
For some people it’s in their best interest not to be given anything so they make appropriate changes. Again, if you’re tempted to disagree with this point, consider the damage that would’ve been done to The Prodigal Son if any “loving” people had “helped” him. He repented in verse 17. The verse immediately before that says, “No one gave him anything” (Luke 15:16b).
DISCUSS: How do you determine when to give (or not give)? Share any thoughts or questions below.