One of the downsides of being a Christian is that people may try to take advantage of you. This happens not only to Christians, but any nice person in general. Some people in this world are selfish, lovers of money, or simply greedy. When they see someone nice, they place a target on their back and hope to milk whatever they can out of them. This abuse may be in the form of asking for money, asking for help in other tasks, or even asking for your time.
This brings up an interesting question: How should a Christian respond to people who are constantly taking advantage of them? Should a Christian simply give in to their every desire? If people ask us for money, are we always required to give? Is it a sin against God to refuse helping someone, or refuse giving money to a person? What does the Bible have to say about this issue?
How Christians Should Respond to People Taking Advantage
The Bible has much to say about how we are to manage our financial resources, and respond to people who are in need. Not all people who ask are in need, however, and some people try to take advantage due to greed or laziness. The Bible has much to say about that too. This article will discuss the following points:
- Christians are called to be generous and help others
- Christians do not have to give in all circumstances
- Christians should rebuke those who sinfully take advantage of people, or mismanage their resources
The Bible Commands Us to Be Generous
Generally speaking, we Christians are called to be givers, and generous with the blessings God gives us. The Bible teaches that we are to die to self:
Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
The Bible also teaches that, contrary to common sense, the person who generously gives will gain more, while the person who holds back will come to poverty:
There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.
The Bible says that if we do have material resources, and we see a Christian brother or sister in need, we should help them. There are many good people in the world who may fall on hard times. Perhaps they get cancer, or some illness. Or perhaps they get sued out of the blue for a ton of money, or whatever. This does happen in life. The Bible says that if we can help someone in need like this, we should. Notice it says “need” not “want.” We have no obligation to help anyone live in luxury, and if someone asks for some flashy material possession, there is nothing wrong with denying that request.
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
1 John 3:17
Jesus taught that when people ask of us, we should try to accommodate their requests if possible:
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
Notice that we are to love our enemies, and even lend to them if we have to. This is not an easy teaching to follow, but it does contain blessings if you obey it. The Bible also says:
Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head.
By being kind to an enemy, or filling a need they have, we show the love of Christ. This does not mean we must shower our enemies with material possessions. But rather, if we see an enemy hungry, let’s feed them. If they are thirsty, offer them a drink. If you find them on the side of the road broken down, offer to let them borrow your cell phone or give them a lift. Be prepared to do an act of kindness, and in doing so, you’ll fulfill the law of Christ.
The Bible also teaches we should give to everyone who asks. Furthermore, if we agree to let someone have some of our possessions, we should never demand them back. Even if we let someone borrow an item and they lost it, we should try to overlook that offense. Obviously we don’t have to go bankrupt in helping others, but the general principle is that if someone has a need and begs us to help, we ought to help that person as much as we can.
Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.
Christians Do Not Have To Give In All Circumstances
Even though the Bible commands us to be generous, we are not called to give all we have, or become poor or needy ourselves in the process. If someone asks us to do something that could harm our own financial health, we should deny that request in a loving way.
We must use discernment and be cautious about giving beyond our means. The Bible calls us to be good stewards of our resources, and if we overspend or help so many people that we become poor ourselves, we can actually fall into sin. For the Bible plainly teaches that if we cannot take care of our own family’s needs, we are worse than an unbeliever:
But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
1 Timonthy 5:8
So the first principle to keep in mind when helping others is that Christians have an obligation from God to manage their resources in a way so that they can continue to provide well for their own families. For this reason, we have a right to turn down requests for large sums of money, or to deny excessive requests to donate money when it could go beyond our own means to provide for our own family.
Even the disciples turned down some requests:
Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
Sometimes we must look past what a person is asking of us, and see what they truly need. Many people think they need a new car, but they really only need reliable transportation. Some people think they need money to pay bills, but what they really need is to learn financial stewardship, and to be more responsible with their income. Is it better to give a man a fish, or teach him to fish? If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.
Another situation in which a Christian should not give is when they will become an accomplice to sin. Imagine if a bank robber came to your house, and planned to rob a bank. You loan them your car, and they go off and do it. The police would likely bring charges against you as an accomplice to the crime.
In the same way, we should never loan money to someone who intends to use the funds for sin. If someone wants to borrow money so they can smoke pot, buy other drugs or alcohol, or any kind of sin, you should not be an accomplice to their sin. In other words, by loaning them money, you are providing a means for them to sin, and may yourself be guilty of sin. Jesus had sharp words for anyone who contributes to another person’s sin, especially if that person is a believer:
And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.
Christians Should Rebuke Those Who Take Advantage in a Sinful Way
Even though the Bible commands that we be generous, and that we help those in need (especially our Christian brothers and sisters), there are some occasions when a person trying to take advantage should be rebuked.
Some people, when they realize a person is nice, wealthy, or whatever, will make a decision to try to milk a person for what they can get out of them. They will ask to borrow money, ask you to fix their car or do home repairs, ask you to babysit daily, and so forth. The more you do, they more they will ask you to do. Meanwhile, they will be living a life of sin. They may be slothful, doing drugs, living in sexual immorality, or other such activity.
While all people may go through periods of need, God commands us to work and provide for our own families. In fact, the Apostle Paul did not put up with people who tried to take advantage of others, and gave a strong warning for those who were lazy:
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
2 Thessalonians 3:10
This is a bold command, as we all need food. Yet the Apostle Paul didn’t put up with idle people who didn’t want to work. He said that if you want to be lazy, fine. But your belly will burn.
We are not commanded to be accomplices to slothfulness/laziness. We are not commanded to be accomplices to help drug seekers. We are not commanded to lather people in riches.
We live in an age where people who are genuinely hungry can get on food stamps. We live in a world where people with severe disabilities can now draw a government paycheck. Many poor people can get free healthcare through government insurance programs. Times have changed quite a bit since the Bible was written, and many of the taxes we pay go towards these programs.
This does not mean people do not have needs today. But it does mean that Christians should be aware that there are ample resources available for those in need, and should use discernment when people ask for things. Going on food stamps is not a sin if a person really needs help while they get on their feet. But many people have abused them.
If a person is sitting on the street corner of a busy shopping center with a sign asking for money, should a Christian give? It’s a hard question. We don’t always know what the person will do with the money (buy drugs, etc.), and we do know they can easily get food stamps and other similar programs. In these cases, it is best to pray to God and ask Him to lay on your heart what you should do. I rarely give money, but I may offer to buy food or share the gospel if the spirit moves me to do so.
If we find that a person begins to take advantage of us in a way that becomes sinful, we should rebuke them and teach them God’s principles of work:
Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
1 Timothy 5:20
Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
Conclusion: Give to the Needy, But Use Discernment
If you are walking in obedience to God, the Holy Spirit will move you and let you know when you should give and when you shouldn’t. A Christian should always be generally generous. You should be prepared to help a fellow Christian in need, or even an enemy who has a need.
We should be prepared to give to those who ask, so long as it does not interfere with our financial well-being. God commands we take care of our family and provide for their needs first, to be faithful in tithing to the Kingdom of God, and more.
We should also be on guard against sinful greed or laziness. Some people want to take advantage because it is easier than getting a job, giving up a luxury, or other similar behavior. When I’m asked to help, I try to listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling me.
I’ve had people ask me for money so they can buy a video game system. My reply? Nope, but I’ll give you a study Bible if you want it. Some people have asked me for money for drugs (or I knew the money would go to drugs). My reply? Nope, but I’ll help you find a rehab place. Some people ask for money to pay their cable bill. My reply? Cable is a luxury, some people are starving.
The senior pastor of my church says that a lot of people drop in asking for money. Sometimes he replies, “Well, we have a lot of jobs around here if you guys want to come back and help us out in a couple of days, and we’d love to pay you.” Sadly, most never return.
On the other hand, there are times I’ve seen a brother or sister in Christ in need, and they didn’t even have to ask for help. I jumped at the chance because the Holy Spirit moved me to do so. Giving is not always black and white. We must yield to the Spirit, and obey Christ’s commands. We must use discernment when making the choice of whether to give, or how much to give. We must walk a delicate line in obeying God, yet resist being an accomplice to sin.