27 Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.
28 Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.
Prov 3:27-28 (KJV)
In Sunday school this past weekend we discussed a lot of topics. Compassion came up along the lines of when should we give to those we meet who are less fortunate? I said that if you had it to give, you should give it regardless of whether or not the person was trying to ‘take advantage’ of you, though that response did not fully sit well with me. This morning I came across the actual scripture that guides me in giving situations to offer what I have when asked, be it money or service. The Sunday school conversation came to mind and I pulled a new perspective out of this scripture in that light. It’s funny how the Word of God tends to enlarge the more we study it in community with good people.
Our class talked a lot about how sometimes those who ask seem disingenuous or perhaps are trying to take advantage of the generosity of Christians and how we should show them compassion, or if we even should? Discernment was discussed quite a bit as well. The new perspective I picked up this morning revolves around the first half of verse 27 above. Before I cover that, let me explain my basic understanding of this passage first.
If you can give when asked, give. It is that simple. It doesn’t matter what it is that is asked. It doesn’t matter if you think it is in your gifts or not. It doesn’t matter if you think they just don’t understand how bad you will be at it, give. Someone has a need and they think you can fill it, so fill it. Help out. Jump in, roll up your sleeves, and get after it. Sometimes it’s just giving money. Other times it will be giving of your talents or abilities. When you think it is asking something you’re just horrible at doing, perhaps God is offering a chance for improvement in that respect? Whatever the task is, there is growth that can be gleaned from it no matter what if you go into it with a heart for service.
Serving whenever asked doesn’t mean ALWAYS saying yes to requests. We all know people who can’t say ‘No’ to others who ask them to help out. They are bedraggled, tired, and overworked people who rarely turn in their best work because they are so overloaded. Temper your ‘Yes’ with the second half of both verses, “…when it is in the power of thine hand to do it,” and, “when thou hast it by thee.”
If you have too much on your plate already, it isn’t in your power to do it. If you are overworked and out of energy, you don’t have it by you, in this case meaning in you, to do it. Feel free in the Lord to say ‘No’.
Now, for the new perspective I picked up on the passage. All that above doesn’t tell me what to do when I think the person asking is trying to take advantage of me; should I give or not? Look at the first half of verse 27 again, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due…” To whom it is due.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are given a tool called discernment. It is more accurately likened to a muscle. Discernment gets better the more we use it. In the cases of our giving, we should apply discernment to the requester to see if we can figure out their motivations and see if they are someone, “To whom it is due…?” If you are not sure if they are someone to whom good is due then in a loving spirit perhaps we should assume they are due that good and give. However, just because we are Christians does not mean we are stupid. Perhaps also those who are trying to take advantage of us need to hear the word, ‘No’ in order that they should grow closer to God.
Your ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ to these requests should come from a heart of service. If you find you are running through an internal monologue of reasons why you can’t, shouldn’t, or they don’t deserve your help stop. Justifying is usually my weaker inner self trying to get out of doing something I am capable of doing but just don’t want to do. Say ‘Yes’ to those requests when you catch yourself justifying a ‘No’ because these requests have the maximum growth potential.
In the end, your compassion for the people around you through your service can be a better witness than anything you can say to them. Willingly giving of your self to others is a wonderful gift which should be exercised as much as possible. You may find the person that get’s the most out of your service isn’t the person who asked for the help in the first place.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
By Louise Docker from sydney, Australia (My heart in your hands) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons