I think most of us have been in this position. We have a friend that is hurting financially, and we want to help. They are deep in debt, have bills piled high, and creditors are ringing their phones off the hook. Do we give them money, advice, or do we keep quiet and hope for the best?
The Three Types of the Financially-Troubled
To truly help the financially-troubled, we have to be extra aware of their situation and if we can/should help. I believe there are three types of people we need to differentiate in these types of situations. Keep in mind that people can float in-between these definitions at different points in their lives, so be careful not to permanently label someone.
Person 1: Needs help, doesn’t know it, and doesn’t ask for it.
We need to respect others by not offering advice if they don’t ask for it. However, if they don’t know they are in for a financial mess, we have to make the determination of whether or not to warn them. They might not know why we should pay attention to finances in the first place. Every situation is different, but here are a few examples:
- Let’s say you have a teenager who just got their first job. They take their money and spend it all on fast food and video games. Obviously, they need to save some of their money and invest in their future. But instead, they just waste it away on short-term satisfaction. They don’t know that they are doing anything wrong. After all, they earned the money and can just go out and spend it, right? The last thing they want or would think of is to ask their parents for advice. What do you do in this situation? You warn them! Demonstrate how they can save, spend, and give their money appropriately so that they have a prosperous financial future.
- Perhaps you have a friend that you hang out with on the weekends. They are in a world of financial hurt: debt up to their eyeballs and proud of their expensive new home. They are delinquent on a few bills yet say that it’s no big deal. Your friend is contemplating buying a fancy new sports car, and says he’s going to go out next week to look over a few models. What do you do in this situation? Well, if you’re close to your friend, you might sit down with him and kindly say that you are concerned. If your friend denies an issue, still be there for them! You never know if someday they will wake up to the reality that they need a financial transformation.
- Maybe you have an acquaintance at work that mentioned they are thinking about bankruptcy which would “help them start fresh” with a new life. They make loads of money, but are living large in a mansion down the road. You don’t know this person too well, and they certainly would never ask for your advice because they think bankruptcy is the only answer. In this type of situation it can be difficult to speak into their life. It might be best to keep quiet and be an example to them in how you live your life. Everything you do influences others. People notice when you live differently. Be a great example!
These types of people should not receive financial gifts yet. There are several reasons why: (1) they are not ready to manage extra money, (2) they might see a financial gift as offensive, and (3) they might be terribly confused on why you gave them money in the first place, they “don’t need” extra money!
Person 2: Needs help, knows it, and doesn’t ask for it.
At this stage, the person is starting to figure out that they have a problem. They realize that the way they’ve been living hasn’t been very beneficial – in fact, it’s been outright wrong. They should’ve never bought that home they can’t afford, eat out as if they were royalty, and waste money on things they should’ve waited for until they had an emergency fund in place.
Oftentimes, they are stressed to the point that they isolate themselves from others and frantically look for solutions. I’ve been in this position. I remember realizing that my investment strategy wasn’t working, my spending was through the roof, and I needed help! Instead of asking for help from those who have been successful with money, I started a quest for coming up with my own brilliant financial plan. I created flow charts and graphs to discover the “answer” to all my financial troubles. I wasn’t ready to listen to other opinions.
As in the examples from Person 1, it is important to determine your relationship with those who need help, know it, and doesn’t ask for help. Do you think they would be willing to talk with you about what’s working for you? Only you can make that determination. Many of these people are self-obsorbed in their determination to figure it out themselves, that they don’t want to hear other methodologies.
If it turns out that they are willing to listen – even if they didn’t ask for help – teach them a few budgeting truths. There’s nothing like showing them some foundational principles to get them started on the right track. If you take a loving, caring approach, they’re often more likely to be receptive.
It is not wise to gift these people money – yet. But be encouraged! They are seeking. And I think we know what happens with those who seek . . . they find!
Person 3: Needs help, knows it, and asks for it.
Ah, the last type of person. They know that need help. They ask you for help. But the question is, what are they exactly asking you for? Most likely, it’s either advice or money. When do we know which to give?
- We should give advice when they don’t know what to do and ask for solutions. Without fail, we should be prepared to offer resources and wisdom to those in need. Point people to the Bible as the ultimate resource on money. Share a few Bible verses about money with them. Make sure that you listen more than speak. You’ll discover a lot about their specific situation and be able to better help them. Teach them how success is something you talk yourself into.
- We should give money after much prayer and thought. Determine if the person is headed in the right direction – if they are, support them with a financial gift! But don’t forget, you need to take care of your own household FIRST. Never lend them money, that can break family and friends apart for life. Be wise and GIVE money if led by the Lord to do so.
Keeping Everything in Perspective
If we’re going to help others, we have to keep ourselves in check. Are we practicing what we preach? Are we living financially healthy lives? There’s always room for improvement! In humility, we can offer solid help for those in need.
Don’t forget that every situation is different. Don’t put someone in a box! Remember that people can change. By listening, being available, and genuinely caring for those in need, we can reflect God’s love in a seemingly hopeless situation. Amen?