Should You Help Everyone?

Last month I preached about spending every day in 2014 being ready to help those God brings across our path.  For me, that means that at 8:30 AM each day my smartphone alerts me to pray.  I say something like this, “Lord give me the eyes to see those in need around me today, and make me willing to help whether I think I have the time or not.”

When Betty and I were on a walk on the streets of Virginia Beach last week, a well-shaven 30-something man in a sportcoat, ballcap and sneakers approached us asking for money.  “Man, I hate to bother you,” he began.  “My sister and daughter are here with me and our car got towed by the Affordable Towing Company.  They want $145 to release it and I’m still short $38.  I’m out of answers, I don’t know anyone here, and I’m down to asking total strangers for help.”

I shook my head and said, “No.”  As we walked away Betty looked at me with those eyes I can’t resist and I knew what was coming.  “Honey, maybe we should have…”

When  asked, “Did you believe him?”  She admitted that his story did seem pretty well rehearsed.  Two days later we saw him 10 blocks downtown.  He walked towards us and started, “Man, I hate…”  I interrupted him, “You already talked to us.”

Isn’t it easy to decide, “Everyone’s exploiting me so I’m not going to help anyone”, or “I’ll just help anyone who asks of me”?  Both decisions are black and white and either one keeps me from having to think, pray–even love.

Here’s the thing: do I really want to be complicit in helping someone buy some more weed or crack?  Do I really want to enable someone to live a worthless life always taking but never giving?  The Bible says “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat” (2 Thes.3:10, NLT).  On the other hand, Jesus says we’re to give to those who ask and not turn away from people who want to borrow our stuff (Matt.5:42).  And James 2:13 points out, “…if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you”.

Here are some suggestions for deciding whether or not to help someone who’s asking:

  • Love people.  Which won’t automatically prompt you to give away your money or time.  I used to give away money for me: it got rid of the person and made me feel generous.  Love asks, what’s really in his/her best interests: Handouts?  Time?  Prayer?  A relationship? Something more?
  • Pray.  Ask the Holy Spirit to tell you what to do.
  • Be OK with mistakes.  None of us hears God perfectly so sometimes we’ll do things we regret, or fail to help when later we wish we would have.  Go with what God seems to be saying.
  • Be willing to get more deeply involved.  Giving someone $20 or $50 is easy and doesn’t take much time.  Maybe Betty and I should have said, “Let’s go meet your daughter and sister.”  In this case I think the outcome would have been the same but sometimes more information (which takes time and/or phone calls) may make the situation less murky–and may give you an opportunity to bless in more ways than just money.

30 Things You Won’t Hear God Say…

  1. When I was a boy…
  2. Have you seen my keys?
  3. I forgot
  4. I’m a little behind in my work
  5. I screwed up
  6. Whatever
  7. I give up
  8. You’re annoying
  9. Yeah, I struggle with that too
  10. Uh-oh
  11. I need a vacation
  12. It’s not you, it’s me; I just don’t love you anymore
  13. That caught me by surprise
  14. I can’t believe it
  15. I’m looking for another job
  16. The devil made me do it
  17. That’s me in the picture
  18. I could be wrong
  19. I can’t get online
  20. Wait for me
  21. I’m tired
  22. Hey, to each his own
  23. My Son is going through a stage
  24. Finances are tight right now
  25. I’m going to bed
  26. If only…
  27. I wish I’d have thought of that
  28. I don’t care
  29. I’m afraid
  30. Leave me alone

Today, 127 years ago: Fearless Generosity

“C.T. Studd” is not a brand of smokeless tobacco, but a British cricket star from the 1800’s.  In 1878 a preacher visiting in his home led the 18 year-old athlete to faith in Christ.  Subsequent years were unimpressive.  A spiritual apathy left him unconcerned about those apart from Christ.  His love for Christ cooled while his love for the world warmed.

6 years later he was convicted and affected by D.L. Moody’s preaching.  Renewing his commitment to Christ he began leading others to faith.  He admitted, “I cannot tell you what joy it gave me to bring the first soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have tasted almost all the pleasures that this world can give … but those pleasures were as nothing compared to the joy that the saving of that one soul gave me.”

God sent him to China to serve with mission pioneer J. Hudson Taylor.  While there he turned 25 at which age his father’s will stipulated that his son would receive his sizable inheritance.  After much prayer and studying Scripture, Studd became convinced he should give all the money away and trust God to provide.  “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him,” he insisted.  So January 13, 1887–before knowing just how much money he would receive, he wrote large checks to ministries like Mr. Moody’s evangelistic work and George Mueller’s orphan work.  Upon learning just how much he had coming to him, he wrote other checks, keeping only the 3400 pounds he planned to give his fiance Priscilla as a wedding gift.

To which she responded, “Charlie, what did the Lord tell the rich young man to do?”

“Sell all.”

“Well then, we will start clear with the Lord at our wedding.”  They gave that remaining amount away to the Lord’s work too.  Uhh, nope, don’t think I’d have done that!  But how glorious the faith in–and passion for–Christ that was behind it.  We could do worse that emulate such people.

Last week Betty and I first met with Keystone’s young adult group.  We’re teaching for 8 weeks on a “Lifelong Mission Passion” and the first two weeks we’re talking about some key obstacles to such a passion.  Guess what the first one was?  Worldly desires: including wealth, entertainment, and pleasure (watched this David Platt sermon:  Generosity is a great way to loosen the stranglehold that money and what it can buy can have on well-meaning Christians.

I my January 5 sermon on “Fearless Generosity”, I urged us all to give away just a little bit more money in 2014.  I suggested that believers who are generous with their money and wealth have an underlying trust in God to meet their own needs–rather than live in worry and fear that they’ll run short.  Their generosity comes from a love for people rooted in an even more enduring love for God and His glory.  C.T. Studd once wrote, “Funds are low again, hallelujah! That means God trusts us and is willing to leave His reputation in our hands!”