The holidays are upon us and this means that there will be a lot of people coming to churches and various businesses looking for assistance. Most assistance will be for a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal and some will be for gifts for their children. And, yes, there are families out there who are in dire straits, who do need help. But, there will be those who will take advantage of the “system” that is in place in various churches and businesses.
I have heard the arguments that we need to just help whomever comes for help and leave their honesty or deception to the Lord. However, I see it a little bit differently, and this does not mean that my view is by necessity right. In fact, I will be the first one to admit that I do not share the view of many who give away so much during the holidays. Some have even said that I do not have very much compassion or mercy–and this may be true, but I have grown in these areas!
First, I think when we give and give and give it can actually hurt the people we are attempting to help, especially when they are constantly seeking help from others and not trying to make it on their own. There are those who need help; don’t get me wrong, I believe this to be true. However, there are many who simply use the system to get what they want. For instance, one church I served in kept a file of applications for help throughout the year. For over ten years, we learned who would come in and at what time of year they would come in for “help.” These were the same people year after year and they were still in the same situations in which they were in for the previous consecutive years. They used the system. This is not truly helpful, but it hurts when churches and businesses are not able to help others who truly need the help because their resources have been used improperly.
Second, I think that when we give and give and give it can actually hurt people who have entitlement mentalities. This is one of the problems with a society and culture that thinks that they are “owed” something when in reality no one owes them anything at all. Many in the United States thrive on entitlements given by the government and the government is gladly giving each of these entitlements away as it causes more and more people to depend on them. This hurts the entitled because it teaches them they can make more money sponging off the government than working for minimum wage or for less than adequate pay for their “lifestyles” whatever they might be. This hurts people who are truly in need, too. When the government gives entitlements away it hurts those who truly need assistance because of health issues or basic needs like food. Of course, the church should be there to help those who are truly in need of the basics of life–not the government.
Finally, I think that when we give and give and give and say that we will just leave it to the Lord to decide whether or not those who receive things are living rightly or not, we are not being good stewards of what He has provided our churches or businesses.
“But those churches and business make a lot of money!”
That’s not really the point! The point is that they should be good stewards of their resources and finances. We do not try to lose monies in churches and businesses by making poor decisions (although some do make poor choices), but both churches and businesses attempt to make the wisest of decisions to ensure that they are going to be able to be successful in whatever goals they have. So not only does giving and giving and giving hurt those who have an entitlement mentality and those who truly need help but cannot receive it, but it also hurts churches and businesses alike.
So what should we do? Remember what Jesus Christ said, “I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) We are going to be persecuted; we are going to face trials; we are going to face tribulations. All of these things will happen to us whether we give or we don’t. We just need to use wisdom as we give to those who are seeking help. And when we lack wisdom, God’s Word again says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given o him.” (James 1:5)
Now, again, I may be completely wrong with my thinking here. I also realize that my reasoning is not the deepest concerning these issues, but I do believe that I need to be wise with the resources and finances that God has given me personally let alone to the churches I serve and the businesses I have or frequent. So be cautious this “giving season.” Use wisdom as you give and seek to help others during the holidays.