It’s been a while since I’ve written anything but it’s not as long as I had originally thought.
Last night I encountered one of my least favorite things in ministry – someone asking for money. The story I was told was vague and had to do with a pregnant wife and the hospital and no money for gas. I really wasn’t sure if they were on their way to the hospital or coming home or what. I never have any cash on me and gave the guy the only dollar I had. My guess is that he left cursing me because my dogs had probably made him soil himself and it wasn’t worth the effort.
Whenever I am asked for money, the story is almost always the same. It’s vague and usually it is money for gas. There’s usually some kind of urgent emergency tied with it, the hospital in most cases. Have I believed any story that I’ve been told? No. And that’s the first problem. I have to believe that any person who would have approached Jesus with a lie would have left empty handed. They might have received a valuable lesson from Jesus, but not what they wanted. I do not have the benefit on knowing with 100% accuracy that a person is lying nor am I bold enough to flat out tell the person that I don’t believe their story. I once had the opportunity to try to verify a person’s story by asking for more details and wasn’t surprised to not get a return call. If your wife’s uncle is really in the hospital in NC, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for his name and the name of the hospital so I can call and verify that he’s really there.
This brings me to problem number 2. If the people are lying, what are they using the money on? I’m not going to assume that everyone who asks for money is going to use it on drugs, but let’s say that they need money simply because they were careless with it. On one hand, I’m not responsible for what a person does with the money. If they use it wrongly that’s not my decision. On the other hand, if I give money when I have a strong feeling that it will be misused, this could be wrong on my part because I am enabling a lifestyle where that money will be poorly spent. Even if it’s not on drugs or alcohol, by bailing out someone who has mismanaged their money I allow them and even encourage to misbehave again. I’ve proven that someone will always bail them out from their poor decisions rather than help teach that all decisions have consequences.
And of course there is a matter of finances. Like last night, I have limited finances and the church has limited finances. I strongly believe that it is part of my duty to wisely use what God has blessed me with. Enabling someone to continue to make poor life choices doesn’t seem like a good use of my finite resources.
I know that more compassionate people will counter that there are legitimate problems in the world and I understand that and believe it. It’s a thousand times worse when children are involved and live in poverty because of the poor decisions of a parent. It would be an easy decision to make if I knew that the problem was legitimate and that it would go to directly help the one in need but I have to believe this is rarely the case.
I will bend over backwards to help someone with a legitimate need. Particularly if there is someone connected with the church, I will do everything within my power to help a person. I am not compassionless or enjoy seeing people suffer for poor decisions. But I want to know that my money is actually going toward a need.
If Jesus were in my shoes and had limited knowledge and finances to help, I don’t know what He would do. I’d like to believe that He could handle these issues better than I but I don’t really know how to handle them any better than I already am. And I hope that’s good enough.