When to say no to giving?

The other day I received this email from a reader…

Hi Bob,

When is it ok to say no in your giving? It seems through my giving I have gained a reputation of being a bank to some needy people. I myself am in debt and seem to give more than take care of my own needs. These same people have come to expect me to give and some have even demanded that I give more than I have to give. I admit I am becoming irritated and have told some of them in irritation that I am not their personal piggy bank. However, I feel guilty for turning them away. Is my limit to giving a sin? I know Jesus implores us to have compassion on those less fortunate, especially when we have huge financial needs. I am understanding His Kingdom economics and ask His forgiveness if my giving is done out of duty and irritation.

While this is a touchy subject, I wanted to share this because I think it is something that many Christians need help with. If you have been around this site a bit, you know that the whole mission is improve as stewards in order that we will be able to give more. To reiterate, I strongly advocate giving and think that it is one of the best things we can do with our lives. But, I believe there is a wrong and right way to give.

Personally, I have seen a few too many people give under compulsion – which scripture clearly tells us to avoid…

“But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary” Philemon 14

“Each of you must give what you have decided in your heart, not with regret or under compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Cor 9:7

Also, I don’t get too excited when I see people go in debt in order to give to someone. While the intentions are probably good, is it really giving if you don’t have it to give?

So, I want to open this up to you (the readers) and get your opinion on this…

How do you know when to say no to giving?

  1. Paul @ FiscalGeek

    I know for my wife this was a big issue, any phone call asking for help she would be inclined to donate. We are faithful tithers and support children and friends all over the world but this additional charities started to tax our budget or rather our lack of budget. Now that we are actively watching our money and managing ourselves out of debt it’s a much easier decision for us. We still tithe and we do provide extra support, but it’s an active decision that we prayerfully consider for each and every one. It is working for us at least.

  2. atexasgirl

    My pastor once gave a sermon on load vs. burden. A load is like a backpack people carry around with them that includes their daily life/expenses/interactions/feelings. They have control over their load, and if they over-pack (credit card debt, buying a house/car/toy you can’t afford, bad decisions, etc.), it’s their responsibility. We are not responsible for another person’s load.

    A burden, however, is something that is out of a person’s control—car accident, major medical expenses, death in the family, job loss (from downsizing rather than attitude or poor performance), etc. These are temporary situations that we can and should help others with until they can handle it themselves.

  3. CoolHappyGuy

    The bible has some guidelines that definitely apply to these situations. Bob gave a great one with II Corinthians 9:7. If you’re heart is not in it, forget it! (I wrote a post about this.) In this same chapter, Paul differentiates seed and bread (see II Corinthians 9:10). One implication is that you don’t sow bread — that is for your sustenance.

    If you are giving to the point in which you are jeopardizing your own family’s welfare, you are on treacherous ground — even unbelievers may be better off than you!. (1 Timothy 5:8)

    We are expected to work for our substance. The Apostle Paul pulled no punches (“If you don’t work … don’t eat.) when it came to freeloaders exploiting the Body of Christ. (see II Thessalonians 3:-10)

    While we are expected to be generous, we are not expected to impede our own livelihood in the process. We are expected truly give out of our heart and not out of guilt or any other form of compulsion. And we are discouraged from subsidizing non-productive (i.e. lazy) lifestyles (vs. helping someone who’s in need until he get’s back on his feet. And He’s required to TRY to get back on his feet.).

  4. Gaurav

    This is a great explanation, thanks.

  5. Jamericanspice

    I understand this post.

    I do think there is a wrong and right way of giving. We should always have compassion, but I think too that you must be careful in taking care of your family’s financial needs before giving away what is needed. If you aren’t wise in financial matters in regards to yourself, how then will you have what’s needed to help others?
    Of course this does not include tithing, which I think should always be done.

    You did work hard for this reason to take care of yourself and your family and you should.

    In giving, there will always be people who will want/need and you wont be able to help, so you must choose whom you think you can make a commitment to and stick to it. Of course you can rotate your giving depending on the situation. My husband will give to 3 different companies than he did the last paycheck, because there are so many causes and you cannot do them all.

    There are many books on how to learn the right way for being financially wise when it comes to your giving and it also should be a matter that you do joyfully. If it’s becoming a resentment then you need to re evaluate why you are doing it etc.

  6. Tammy

    I, too, have a hard time saying no. I’m learning, however, that there are times when we’re not supposed to “help” because in fact, we’re hindering the people that are asking for money. God has a plan … sometimes He uses people to give that money … sometimes that person needs to learn for themselves how to get the money. A good gauge is that if giving the person money is going to be a hardship, say no. If there is no hardship for you, then it’s probably meant for you to do. God will ALWAYS provide if it is His will.

  7. Beth

    I agree with “atexasgirl.” This example is also given in the book Boundaries, a book I recommend to anyone. Enabling others in their self-defeating behavior is not our calling as Christians. We are actually hurting them by interfering with the consequences of their irresponsibility. I have known people who were good at describing their “knapsacks” as “boulders,” and we need to think clearly even though they make an emotional appeal.

  8. Greg

    I think that as Christians we need to understand the different types/ways of giving. If you believe in the principle of the tithe, then the first 10% goes to the church. This amount is designed to support the ministries of that local body of Christ. Hopefully, the church (being a wise steward) will be providing services to those in the community that need help. If so, you will, indirectly, be helping others.

    Above the tithe, any giving should be done only if you can afford it. Some Christians will read Matthew 5:42 and feel that they have to give to every organization/telemarketer and friend that asks. When you compare that verse to other verses, you will see that there is more to giving that just being an ATM. If you are going into debt because of your giving, then that is wrong. If your giving is enabling others to not be wise stewards, that is wrong.

    The last thing I will say is that often the most generous gift we can give others is to help them be better stewards. Take an hour and show them how to set up a budget. If they don’t want to receive the help, then they probably don’t ‘need’ the money.

  9. Of course as Christians we all want to give or to help those who are needy. But of course, there is a limit. If you are still giving to other people but yourself is being drowned in debt, then stop giving for the meantime. Try first to fix your finances and then if it is settled, you can continue in helping other people. Remember that God does not want us to have sin because of irritation and other feelings about giving what we do not have.