Monday, June 15, 2009

Should Christians Enable?

Nancy brought up an exquisitely interesting point the other day. The Bible does not appear to say anything about enabling. One could make an argument, of course, that enabling is unhealthy and hence we should obviously steer clear of it. But I wonder if things are at all that simple.

Is the wisdom that says we should withhold from those who lean on us because giving to their detriment an earthly wisdom or a heavenly one? Might it be that we conjure up this notion of enabling as an excuse for ourselves so we can determine who is "really" in need and whom we can in good conscience ignore?

Labeling a particular charitable act as "enabling" essentially calls on us to become judge over whether someone "deserves" our help. But isn't that completely against most of Christian theology? Sure, you could claim that giving in certain cases is not really doing anyone any favors, but that seems to be a dangerous conclusion to draw (especially given how easy and attractive of a conclusion it is).

I once heard a talk at a Navs retreat by a large black man who talked about giving money away to people who might use it to buy alcohol, etc. He said "that is between him (the person receiving the money) and God." I think that viewpoint has much to commend it. I personally also believe that people are rather loathe to really ask for help in the first place...and someone generally has to be in a pretty bad way before finding the humility to ask for help.

Anyone have any scripture references on this?


Bev said...

I agree, David. I don't think we are in a position to judge how someone *might* spend some money we give him or her. It does seem like an excuse not to give to others.

On the other hand, our pastor's daughter has the story of how she tried to give McDonald's gift cards (i.e., free food) to people begging on a street corner. They refused the cards! The reason? "We don't eat at McDonald's."

I can see how that experience might cause one to judge the sincerity or need of an apparently homeless person asking for money.

Don Schiewer Jr said...

Great that I am rather passionate about! I work with the homeless and those in poverty so this is something close to my heart!

I also teach a seminar on the Theology of Justice, Servanthood, and Hospitality. We discuss that G_d doesn't ask us to "qualify" people...Jesus says, "I was hungry and you fed me." Not - I was hungry and you offered to help me if I could show that I wouldn't use the resources you gave me for anything other than food. Not - I was hungry and you asked if I struggled with any addictions.

Also in Lev. 19 (Again in 23) G_d says to leave the corners of your field...that's all that is required of leave them...and then - whoever wants what is in your field is welcome to it...regardless of motive!!!!!!

According to Ez. 16.49-50 - The sin of Sodom was not taking care of the poor...something we (the church) are very guilty of all while hiding behind the notion that we are actually helping them because they "could" use the resources for something bad?!?!!? Does that even sound right? It doesn't to me!

This is not a popular message because we like to hide behind the idea of "Good Stewardship" but that doesn't seem to be what Jesus is speaking about when he teaches the parable of the Talents...just my $.02

Thanks for letting me spew!

Don Schiewer Jr said...

Hey Bev - Many homeless people don't eat at McDonalds - neither do I! And they are probably better off for it...did you ever see what McD's puts in their food?

David Rudel said...

Thanks, Don and Bev!

Spew here anytime, Don. I was missing your voice here.

Nick said...

I would think 1 Cor 8:11 deals with enabling, as would any passage which warns against causing scandal. In 1 Cor 8, there are Gentile Christians who are used to idolatry, so it's wrong to tempt them back towards idols.

David Rudel said...

I'm not sure that those passages are so relevant. They mostly have to do with causing someone to go against his or her conscience.