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When Helping Hurts


Nearly all of us have been approached by a friend, family member or a member of our church for “a loan.” Sometimes their need is obvious, worthy and we are able to respond with real joy because generosity to the poor is so highly valued by God.

However, there are times when we are asked for help, almost immediately our guard is up. How do we know when it’s wise to help someone, or when helping actually hurts and enables the person we are being asked to assist?

Let’s start with Jesus’ words.

“Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:30-38

Choosing how to help others is not always easy. The following are a number of great questions, edited from Ronald Blue and Company, for serious followers of Jesus to ask of themselves to make better decisions in regard to helping others: Personal Questions

  1. Am I helping or enabling? Is the potential beneficiary in need because of laziness or fantasy, matters of their own accord, or due to factors outside of their control?

  2. What is the least favorable, or most favorable outcome if I err on the side of giving less/more? How serious is that? How likely is it to occur?

  3. Is my response to this need an extension or expression of God’s generous and merciful nature? Is God using this circumstance to teach me about His nature?

  4. Is my response out of guilt or love?

  5. Have I been given excess for such a time as this? What is His purpose for my abundance?

  6. Is my reluctance to respond a reflection of greed or self-righteousness, or is it truly what I believe to be best for the potential beneficiary?

  7. Am I too close to the situation? Should I seek some wise outside counsel?

  8. How will my response affect my relationship with the recipient?

  9. Would my assistance prevent or help what God is trying to accomplish in the recipient’s life?

  10. How am I evaluating success? Is success my desired outcome, or being obedient to God?

  11. What have I done, if anything, to facilitate this struggle?

  12. How can I accelerate the growth and the development of the recipient?

  13. Am I consciously seeking out and responding to opportunities God may be placing in my path to serve and provide for others? Do I say “no” more often than “yes”? If so, why?

  14. What are my reasonable expectations for the recipient? Where might this lead the recipient 3-5 years from now?

Practical Questions

  1. Can I afford to provide the assistance?

  2. Is this assistance best structured as a gift or a loan?

  3. If a loan, are the repayment terms realistic?

  4. If a loan, am I ready to forgive it in the event of default and treat the assistance as a gift? How would I feel if I was never repaid?

  5. How do I feel about charging interest? What rate is appropriate?

Question: What other questions do you ask yourself or others?

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

How following Jesus works in real life.

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