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August 2, 2011 / Daniel

Giving vs. Enabling

beggar

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matt. 5:42). This statement is an development of Jesus’ words in v. 39, “Do not resist the evil-doer.”

V. 42 is an illustration of a character shaped by God’s kingdom.  This is the behavior of someone who has self-sacrificial love for others.  But how should we understand Jesus’ words?  Is this a command that applies in all circumstances?     Should you give a gun to a murderer?  Should you give drugs to an addict?  Of course, not.  That’s  not what Jesus is suggesting.

The danger is the problem of “enabling.”   If I have a friend who is a drug addict and he asks for rent money and I give it to him, what is the likelihood that money goes to pay his rent?  Maybe it would be better for me to give my friend some of my time in order to help him with his problem.

Augustine gives this helpful interpretation of the text.   He points out that Jesus says, “Give to the one who asks.”   He doesn’t say, “Give him everything he asks for.”

Consider the example of Peter and John in Acts 3.  As they approached the temple, a  crippled beggar asked Peter for money.  Peter’s response is memorable.  “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6).   The man wanted money.  Peter gave him the blessings of Jesus’ inaugurated kingdom.

We need to be wise in our giving.   Sure, give self-sacrificially, but exercise wisdom when you give to those who ask.  Most of all, share the blessings of the kingdom with people.  Share King Jesus.

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