Should I Give to Everyone Who Asks?

Corey —  May 6, 2010 — 22 Comments

       A few weeks ago, Michael Covington and I had an email conversation about giving. Michael had been thinking about how we should respond to solicitations from charities, but we ended up discussing giving to everyone who asks as well.

       Jesus was quite clear that we should give generously. He taught us to give to the poor & needy – even if they are our enemies. And in Luke 6:30, Jesus tells us to give to everyone who asks:

       Give to everyone who asks you, and don’t ask him who takes away your goods to give them back again.

Luke 6:30 (WEB)
Also found in Matthew 5:42.

       Note: “Ask” can also be translated as “beg” and it often is translated that way.



       It’s quite clear that we should give to everyone who asks. The question, then, is how do we apply this in our lives as we seek to follow Jesus? Does He mean that we should give to every charity organization that sends us a postcard or letter or calls us on the phone? Does He mean that we should give exactly what a person asks from us? These are important questions.

Charities & Organizations

       We do not have a special and clear Biblical obligation to give to every charity or organization that writes to us, calls us, or otherwise asks us for support. While many charities are indeed doing great work to alleviate the suffering of the poor and the injustice of the oppressed, we must not feel guilty for refusing to support some charities and not others. In fact, many of the fundraising phone calls you may receive are run by telemarketers who take a cut of your donation (sometimes up to 80%!). Your donations can be more effective by diligently searching for responsible organizations and giving directly to them.

       Neither should we ignore requests from charities or organizations. God could be using that opportunity to raise our awareness to a need He wants us to meet. When it comes to charities and organizations, our approach should be one of prayerful, intentional, planned, and Spirit-led giving. Following such a pattern can help us remain confident that we are fulfilling God’s will for our giving and allow us to refuse giving to those organizations God has not laid on our hearts.

       However, we should remain open to new or different needs and revisit our giving to organizations often. When you are presented with a need from a charity, tell them you will consider their request and pray about God’s desire for your giving. Let them know you will contact them if you feel God calling you to give to their organization. Then seek God in prayer for wisdom and discernment.

Individuals

       In stark contrast, the Bible is quite clear that those who wish to follow Jesus and honor God must always be ready to help a person in need. Jesus’ teachings revolved around compassion and care for each other – but especially for the poor. The Old Testament clearly lays out that even under the Law Jews were to give to the poor & needy, the orphans, the widows, and strangers (foreigners in the land). We should not be surprised that Jesus requires the same from His disciples. Compassion and mercy are trademarks of God’s love.

       So when individuals ask us to give to them, our first response must be one of generosity and compassion. However, there may be times when it is not wise to give exactly what someone requests. In those cases, we must seek discernment through the Spirit. A few examples will illustrate my point.

       1. The person is not needy. Should we give to the rich? The Bible is clear that giving to the poor is commendable – not the rich. Those who are not truly in need should not be given whatever they ask. A simple scenario makes this point clear. Your teenager asks you for a new iPod. Should you give it to them based solely on Jesus’ words in Luke 6:30? Or someone who has all his needs met asks you for $100. Should you give it to him even when you know there are others who need it more?

       2. The person will cause harm to themselves. Should we give money to an alcoholic or drug addict who will very likely use it to fuel their addiction? This does not mean we should not give. It merely means that money may not be the best gift. Which is more compassionate? To give $20, or to give 2 hours? We can give our time by becoming the person’s friend, meeting their needs directly (taking them to eat, getting them a place to stay, etc.), or taking them to a ministry specializing in breaking their addiction and helping them recover. Compassion doesn’t blindly throw money at those who ask. Compassion seeks to alleviate suffering.

       3. The person is being dishonest. While there are dishonest people out there panhandling and begging for money, we must be very cautious about refusing to give based on this idea. However, it is often easy to separate the honest from the liars. Simply ask a few questions about what the person needs. If they’re asking for money, what do they need it for? Then see if they’ll let you fill that need directly (buying gas at the gas station, eating a meal with them, taking them to a shelter or ministry, etc.). The con men will not let you do this (most times). They want cash and cash only. Those who are truly in need will not refuse your help.

Your Take

       I know I may sound like I’m ignoring Jesus’ teaching. He said to give to anyone who asks. He did not give us any qualifiers. However, to ignore the rest of Scripture and the rest of Jesus’ teaching would be quite foolish. I fully understand the idea that we should err on the side of generosity, and that is the approach I try to take. But we must not trade feelings of righteousness and being good with our responsibility to carefully handle what God has given us. By blindly giving to those who are not in need we steal from those who truly need help. Wisdom, discernment, and generosity can work together quite well – and they must.

       Giving does not always mean money. But when we refuse to give (for one of the reasons above or others), we must ask ourselves “What is my motive/reason for not giving to this person?” If we are refusing out of selfishness or greed, we are clearly at fault. If we are refusing because of a Biblical teaching, we must consider whether love and mercy should triumph in this case.

       What are your thoughts on the issue? Am I just stingy? Did I miss the point of Jesus’ teaching? Bonus: I’ll even give you some ammo for opposing my ideas. In Luke 6:35, Jesus says to do all these things because God is kind toward the unthankful and the evil. Does that mean we should give without any “qualifications” at all? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Corey

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Corey is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in religion. While he enjoys learning and writing about Christianity, another one of his new passions is writing about personal finances in order to help others make wise decisions with their money.

22 responses to Should I Give to Everyone Who Asks?

  1. “Compassion seeks to alleviate suffering.” That says it all.

    When saying “No” I think we should ask ourselves, “Am I saying no to this request because I’m attached to what they’re asking me to give?”
    .-= Kevin´s last blog ..Hello world! =-.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Kevin. Your question to test your motive is a good way to measure why you’re saying no. If giving to the person won’t truly relieve suffering (and I don’t mean permanently) but may actually prolong it or increase it, then just giving them money probably isn’t a good thing to do – for you or them. That doesn’t mean you should not give them your time and love though, and that’s actually a much more difficult gift to give in most cases.

  3. There are so many people in need, so many charities, that it’s entirely possible we could end up giving ourselves right to the poor farm–then we’ll be in need of charity.

    I think we need to use discretion in all that we do, including giving. The Bible doesn’t always give us clear directives on everything, instead leaving much to our own interpretations and leanings. Somehow I think this is where the state of our hearts is shaped and influenced.

    It’s important to realize that Jesus was surrounded by suffering, yet he didn’t alleviate all of it. We need to help where we can, but also to realize we can’t help everyone, certainly not with money.

    Sometimes people need our time, prayers, company, contacts, patience, mercy, talents or listening ears more than they need our money, and this is another area where discretion is important. Not all problems can be solved by writing a check or opening the wallet.
    .-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Some Jobs Are NOT Worth Having =-.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kevin. I think your last paragraph was spot on. We think money can fix everything, but in many cases it will only make things worse.

  5. Very often, people who beg on the street are not availing themselves of services already available to them that would meet the need they claim to have. This may be dishonesty, or it may be lack of intelligence on their part — hard to say.

  6. Thanks for your comment, Michael. I think both of those could be factors, but it could also be general unawareness or possibly stigmas associated with such services (in certain cases). I’ve also read that many people who have been homeless for quite some time come to prefer it that way – even making it a conscious choice.

    I think it’s wise for us to be aware of what services are available in our communities. Then, when we’re presented with a need we’ll have a good idea of the best way to meet it. If the person refuses, I’m not sure what else we can do.

  7. I came across your blog looking for ways folks approach Luke 6:30, trying to find a wiggle solution. :) Ultimately, I think Jesus intended that we do so without qualification, even more so when one reads that verse in context.

    On the other hand, if someone is blessed with fingers that turn things to gold, one could argue it would be good stewardship to hold onto something so as to leverage such for the greater good. Yet, the parable of the rich farmer seemingly shoots that full of holes too.

    I do like your framing of things in a time/money aspect, albeit time for most of us in the US is more of a issue than money, even for likely the poorest US citizen.

    That verse is one of those hard core things, where we fall into the perpetual sin arena.

  8. Thanks for your comment, Ron! I hope you understand my intent was not to find a “wiggle solution”. I believe we should give to individuals who ask of us, but I do not believe that means we always give money or exactly what they ask. In many cases, we can do more harm than good. Our ultimate goal should not be to just give and get it over with. We should be looking at how we can truly alleviate the suffering and bring restoration – get to the root of the problem. Generosity, love, mercy, and forgiveness must always be our primary concerns, but we should not neglect justice and healing either.

  9. Did Jesus give to everyone who asked? Yes. Did He give them what they asked for? Not necessarily!

  10. We need to be mindful that the spiritual atmosphere is always changing and the context does not remain the same – there are dynamics involved. That’s the reason God wants us to be discerning. Now, In order to discern accurately at all times, according to the word of God, we need to have our (spiritual) senses exercised. We must be led by the Spirit of God. It is the Spirit that gives us the ability to apply discretion. Being led by the Spirit qualifies us to be called the sons of God

    We should always bear in mind that Christ Himself commanded us not to give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast our pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn around and tear us to pieces – this is a commandement, which must be balanced with the commandement to give to all who ask!

    Accordingly, There are no hard and fast rules about giving other than being led by the Spirit of God to give or not to give. We must walk in the Spirit and be in the Spirit ALWAYS

  11. Thank you for your comments, Awele. I agree that discernment in the Spirit is a key issue for many of the situations we encounter as Christians. I think that’s especially true in giving.

    I always took the verses about dogs and swine to refer to reproof and correction given the context of the previous verses. I’m not completely comfortable applying it to giving, but I do see how the implications could be similar. However, Jesus also told us to give even to our enemies (whom many might consider dogs or swine), so we should be cautious in using these verses in that way.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  12. Thanks for your reaction Paul. I quite agree with you that Christ’s teachings should NOT be taken out of context and I am beginning to understand this because I have observed that Christ NEVER spoke or taught out of context. He always maintained a flow and whatever he taught was always in line with the issues He set out to address.

    After reading your response, I went back to study more closely what He taught about giving in Luke 6:30 and the Spirit revealed to me that Christ was actually referring to our enemies! When you consider Matthew’s account, you would discover that the thrust and context is consistent with Luke’s.

    Whereas in Matthew’s account, Christ was setting the records straight and fulfilling the law by dispelling old fables and presumptions of old……..He began each teaching with the statement…”You have heard that it was said….” in Matthew 5: Verses 21, 27, 31, 33, 38 and 43;
    Luke’s account of “Give to everyone who asks of you”, falls within the same context as Matthew’s account in Matthew 5:38-48.

    Both accounts had one thing in common.

    Both accounts dwelt on our enemies and on those who may have spitefully used us – generally those who are NOT favourably disposed to us. I believe the idea here is to make a mark and to shine as true light of the world. It would make a lot more impact if we gave to everyone of our enemies who asked of us.

    If Christ indeed meant we should give to everyone, then this teaching would in some way conflict with Proverbs 6:1-3. I believe He wants us to touch those who are NOT favourably disposed to us because they would, quite naturally, not expect us to respond favourably to them.

    Regarding the scripture about giving what is holy to dogs and casting pearls before swine, contextually I beleieve, the Spirit of God expects us to exercise sound judgement and gain His perspective.

    I would therefore like to conclude by saying that we as believers must give everyone of our enemies who asks of us but to exercise very sound judgement based on accurate spiritual discernment while doing so.

    If we take Christ’s teaching out of context, then we would be heading into bondage and perpetual guilt as we would be striving to be justified by works and not by faith

  13. I appreciate the time you put into your comment, Awele. I think you’re right about the context of giving to our enemies and the power that comes from such an action.

    I’m not sure how you think that teaching would go against Proverbs 6:1-3. I don’t think cosigning a loan (putting up security for someone else) is the same as giving to them. You could just give/loan them the money yourself.

    I agree with you regarding your conclusion. We ought to give to our enemies, but in all things we should exercise spiritual discernment. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  14. Thanks Paul. I sincerely appreciate you giving time and attention to all our comments. You are a brother. I stumbled on this site but it has been very edifying for me and I’ll be in touch.

    God bless you Paul………real good!

  15. Thanks, Awele! I appreciate the time people take to leave a comment here, so I think they deserve my time for a response. I’ve grown through my interactions with readers, and I’m glad to hear that you were built up by the resources on the site. God’s blessings to you as well!

  16. I am very glad I came upon this website; I have been battling with this question for quite sometime in my head. Where I live (Seattle region), people are always asking for money when I am walking the streets. Long story short, I used to work with drugs addicts and alcoholics that were mostly homeless. In doing so, I had the impression that most people that asked for money would use it to fuel their addictions.

    So for the longest time, I would refuse to give money to people that asked; with the idea, that most people would spend it on feeding their evil desires. As mentioned earlier in the comments, I believe you need to be cautious about how you give your money to people that ask. I think simply asking them a question like, “What do you need the money for?” would be a valid question to ask. In doing so, you can determine that next step you would like to take.

    So I am trying to make it a rule for myself; that if anyone asks me for money, I will simply ask why the money is needed and then I can make a decision if I should feed their need. In light of scripture, I try to follow Jesus example where he says in Matthew 25:35-36, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’

    As I meditate on topic verse, I try to help in a way that is more on a human interaction level, then simply giving a homeless person a buck and going about my busy day. Just wanted to say thank you Paul for having this question posted and very helpful comments and feedback.

  17. Thanks for commenting, Daniel. I think you’re on the right track with your approach. It seems to me that actually spending time to get to know the poor and needy is more Christ-like than just giving them money blindly. We must still be ready to part with what we have to help the poor and needy, but we should be even more willing to be a loving neighbor to them as well. We would do more to show them the love of God through a relationship than a gift of money. Hope to hear from you again soon!

  18. I found this website while trying to answer my own question which was:

    I am in the Bahamas. A young man who washes my car, asked me for $130 today. He’s a bit of a vagabond. Says he is really having a hard time financially and wants the money to travel to a family island (Andros) to fish and get some native fruit to sell.

    He is an alcoholic and I’ve been told that he is on drugs. In spite of that, I’ve allowed him to wash my car once or twice a week for more than a year now. He has never removed any valuables from the car during that time. I have left my cell phone and wallet in the car on more than one occasion and he has brought them to me as soon as he found them.

    I have no idea whether he is lying about the money or not. I had the money. I read Luke 6:30. Do I give it to him or not?

    Well, I felt impressed to give it to him so I gave him not only the $130, but $10 for washing the car. A total of $140. I also prayed with him and asked the Lord to open his mind and heart for spiritual things. I also asked God that the money be used to his name’s honor and glory.

    After the prayer, he walked away. I thought he was going to get some water to wash my car. I went into my office. After work, I came back out. He never even came back to clean the car!!

    I was really disappointed. I truly do not have the gift of disernment, which I have prayed for many many times.

    However, I am still not sure what the final outcome will be. He promised to bring me some fruit and fish when he gets back in five days…If he brings it, I will probably refuse it, but if he does that, I’d feel inclined TO believe that the $140 was put to good use.

    I’ve always felt as if God does not expect us to figure out whether someone is lying to us or not. He said GIVE, so I give, because if they are lying or if they are going to abuse the money, its not me they have to answer to. Its God. My reward will still come, because it comes from GOD and not from man!

    NOW CHECK THIS OUT..before the day was out, I got a phone call. Someone I do some extra work for had deposited $1000 into my bank account. It was totally unexpected!! Above and beyond what they pay me to do the work on a monthly basis. So the guy left with $140 and didn’t wash my car, but I give it to him in good faith, with a good heart, and God blessed me with almost 10 times the amount that I had given him!! TO GOD BE THE GLORY!!! THANK YOU JESUS!

  19. Hi, Barbara! Well, I think you certainly did the right thing based on what you told me. I think it’s better to err on the side of generosity. That doesn’t mean we should be foolish with our giving, but we should not withhold help from those who need it. It just might be that the help they need is not what they ask for or what we really want to give. Blessings to you!

  20. When I read Luke 6:27-31 and Matthew 5:38-42 in context the verse “give to everyone who asks” seems out of context.

    In both cases Jesus is talking about resisting an evil person and adhering to Roman law. Then it’s almost a random “give to everyone who asks.

    I did a little research on the word. http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G154&t=KJV

    In the AV it’s translated
    ask 48 times
    desire 17
    beg 2
    require 2
    crave 1
    call for 1

    For me, in context “require” seems more appropriate. I need to do more research, but “require” seems a better choice.

    I’m required to give to government. It makes me a bad parent to give everything my kids want.

    What are your thoughts about that?

  21. Right, Trevor. I don’t think Jesus is talking here about just giving someone everything they always ask for. God certainly doesn’t do that with us and for good reasons.

    I think require might be a good choice there, but I’m no translation expert. My feeling is that Jesus is describing a life where you do not hold on so tightly to “your” things and “your” rights but are willing to lay those down – either to help someone or to be a witness to them that you are secure in God. Thanks for commenting!

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