Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When Helping Others Is No Longer Helping... Or Loving

There is A LOT in the bible about helping others... and/or thinking of others first...

"Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." (Hebrews 13:16)

"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Phil. 2:4)

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal. 6:2)

Here's the hardest exhortation from Christ on helping others:

"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 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. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:27-36)

Yowzers. If that's all you read in the bible well by golly you would be straight up wrong to not help EVERY SINGLE PERSON THAT WANTED SOMETHING. And who can forget the "Good Samaritan"?!

Here's the important part though, there are other scriptures that give insight into the fact that sometimes helping people is really no longer helping them. And as always, look at Scripture in light of Scripture.

"For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed." (2 Thess. 3:10-15)

Let's dissect these verses a bit...

First, notice how Paul says it is a COMMAND to not help those who are unwilling to work. Food is one of the bare necessities of life and yet Paul says if someone won't work don't even give them food. That doesn't seem very helpful! Why would Paul command that? Well, hunger is a great motivator :) God designed us to work. Work is a good thing. God instituted work BEFORE the fall, it is not part of the curse. It is no longer helping someone when you give to those who are not willing to work. It is in fact unloving to continue to give to them because you are taking away an opportunity for God to work through trials to bring them to Himself and get them to work.

Secondly, notice toward the end that Paul says if someone is not willing to obey this command (along with whatever else he commands in the letter) to have NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM. Well geez Paul, that doesn't seem very loving at all either! But if the Word of God commands it then it is the loving thing to do! When people are shut out, or not provided for, God can often use that in their lives to cry out to Him and to seek to do right. But if people keep enabling then they see no need for God and don't experience His work in their life through suffering.

Let's look at another verse: "For each will have to bear his own load." (Gal.6:5) It is good for each of us to bear our own load. We should be responsible hard working adults enjoying the lot the Lord has given us. What is my load? My home, my husband and my children. But right before verse 5 in verse 2 it instructs us to bear one another burdens... what is the difference between a burden and our load? A burden may be when someone in the family is very ill and I need extra help. Or when I have a brand new baby and I am pulled in many directions. You get the idea. We SHOULD carry one another's burdens but we should each bear our own load. When we take another's load and put it on our back as if it were a burden, we are taking on something we don't need to or are called to and we could even be taking away from potential growth and opportunity for that person!

I have seen many well meaning parents take on their children's loads only to regret it big time.
Their children get to be in there thirties, forties.... etc. and they are still children because they never learned how to carry their own load! This also happens in friendships and with other family members. God designed us (within reason because I know there are legitimate/difficult handicaps) to grow in our ability to take care of ourselves and bear our own load. When others come and "rescue" us from this process they stunt our growth.

The book of proverbs is full of principles that are almost always true. For example: "A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich." (Prov. 10:4) 

Often times, people are in poverty because of a bad decision or many bad decisions (ie. buying what you can't afford over and over or in the case of this verse laziness). I know that sounds harsh... but I think it's often the case (not always). You would not believe the sense of entitlement we get from so many as a pastor and pastor's wife. People often call the church expecting us to bail them out of bad decisions and all we ask is that they come to a church service so we can meet them, most aren't even willing to do that!

Proverbs is full of warnings of dealing with fools and often promotes staying away from them. Sometimes the best thing for a fool is to find himself alone and desperate so that He can cry out to his Maker and find out why he is in the mess he is in. Sometimes the very best thing for a fool to do is "hit rock bottom" so that he is motivated enough to change. If people constantly rescue fools why should they change?

"Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge." (Prov. 14:7)

There are actually many places in Scripture (including the verses from 2 Thess. above) that encourage us to avoid/have nothing to do with someone and if we are called to have nothing to do with them then surely we are not to help them.

"For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. " (2 Tim. 3:2-5)

"Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them." Titus 3:10

"Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds." (2 John 1:9-11)

Now since God is love we must believe His instructions here are loving. The best thing for people like this, described in these verses, is to stay away because hopefully they come to their senses. Think of the prodigal son, it would have been bad if someone chased him or helped him when he was down and out! Read this: "he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything." (Luke 15:16) The very next verse says: "he came to himself..." Imagine if someone would have given him what he wanted? Maybe he never would have came to himself and returned to the Father!

My husband does a good job at helping when God would have him help or not helping when that is what God would have him do. That doesn't mean we have done it perfectly. There is one time in particular where we helped a woman over and over only to have it thrown in our face (we were warned). In the long run, us helping her did not benefit her at all... it actually only made things worse. Now we have no relationship with her and she is bitter. 

One of my very favorite non-enabling stories is about a mom and a son. This young man was doing drugs and when he came to his mom's house to try and get "help" she said: "I'm going to do this because I love you." And then she shut the door in his face and locked the door. Her son said: "She wouldn't even give me a taco!" :) And then, she called the cops on him and had him arrested! His testimony was that that was the most loving thing she could have done. He came to truly know Christ in jail! The best way for her to help him was to not. The best way for her to love him was to call the cops.

Which reminds me, ladies, don't buck against your husbands leading in these matters. Present your side and let him lead. Even if he made the wrong decision, God will honor your submission to your husband. There may be times you really want to help someone (and it may even be a wonderful, biblical time to do so) but your husband doesn't, explain to your husband your thoughts and move on, allowing him to make the final decision and not throwing it in his face later if he was wrong. 

Lastly, mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13) More often than not, we should probably help. Pray for discernment! Pray for wisdom! Ask God: would helping this person shortchange the growth you would like to see in their life? He delights in His children seeking His leading in all things.