Most of us don’t mind helping others, but is there a time when our help can be a hindrance?
There is a lady I know who had such a difficult time with her son that she came to the point of giving up on him altogether. This all started a very long ago, and she told me that she has done everything for her son but he still ended up in prison. She said her son “has had every chance to make something of himself, yet he has failed me time and time again,” so what went wrong? This woman’s intentions were all good, so what happened? After speaking with her at length, I discovered that she had done nearly everything for the boy as he was growing up. She confessed to me that he never did any household chores and even admitted doing some of his homework for him, so what happened was that the boy grew up having no responsibilities, therefore he never accepted the consequences of his actions. He grew up having a sense of entitlement…where the world owed him and owed him big time. As a result, he lived at home, played video games all day, and partied at night, getting into all sorts of criminal behavior. This boy, now a man in his 30’s, ended up going to prison, and as our church has a prison ministry, we started writing letters to him. The problem was, all he wanted was money and money was all he ever talked about. He never mentioned hurting his mother or why he was there. He never admitted his crimes, only excusing them because the way he was raised, but his letters were nothing more than pleading for money, so I thought, I am not going to repeat the same mistake his mother now admits making, and that is to give him everything he wants. He needed to learn the hard way that he needs to take responsibility for his actions and accept the consequences of those actions that he brought upon himself. His mother had been hurting him by helping him, and this was enabling him to not have any responsibilities. I found out his mother had been sending him $50 a month, so he had lied to me in his letters, telling me he had no money for the prison’s commissary.
It’s okay to help others. In fact, Jesus tells us we are to help the poor, visit the sick and those in prison (Matt 25:35-36), which Jesus sees as doing for Him (Matt 25:40), so yes, we should help others, but should we help those who refuse to help themselves or do anything on their part? Of course, some have no means and they have every reason to have to depend on others, but for this young man who I wrote about earlier, he was not willing to lift a finger do to anything. That’s in large part because his mother had been doing it all for him, but as an adult, his excuses were unfounded now. Sometimes God allows problems to soften a person’s heart and humble them, but then when someone comes in and tries to solve that person’s problems, they end up getting between what I call the “rock and the hammer,” or getting between what God is trying to do in their lives and interfering in the process. We have a homeless man attend our church but he has never asked for money. We helped to find him a place to live but he did odd jobs around town to support himself. He also helped clean the church and mow our lawn, and we paid him for that, but he had worked at other various jobs before this, so he was not waiting for a handout, but trying to do what he could with what he had. We have helped him out with food and utilities, but now he is supporting himself and he’s not homeless anymore. Today, he is a contributing member of our church, and I don’t mean financially (although he does some), but he has helped us with our ministries and has never once asked for money.
The Apostle Paul addressed something very similar in 2nd Thess 3:10b by writing, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat,” but this isn’t talking about people who can’t work, but about people who can work but refuse to. Paul believes we should “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you” (1st Thess 4:11), with no mention of free handouts. Most people who are hurting in this life are not looking for anything free or a handout, but a helping hand to allow them to help themselves like the church member I mentioned previously. King Solomon wrote, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going” (Eccl 9:10). In fact, when the commandment to rest on the 7th day, it came with a command to work six days as Moses instructed Israel from God’s Commandments; “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work” (Ex 20:9). This says nothing about having an entitlement, only that we must work for what we receive, so work is commanded, just as it was written, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). If God had made the garden simply produce food for Adam and Eve with no effort on their part, they would have developed a sense of entitlement, but that would have brought no responsibility and left them with absolutely no motivation but to sit and eat…and do nothing, while depending on God for everything.
We can actually hurt people by helping them since we can interfere with what God is doing in their life. If we help someone, thinking it’s the right thing to do, we must think of the person we’re helping. Are we really helping them by doing for them what they might be able to do for themselves? We can easily get in the middle of what God is trying to do in that person’s life, thereby interfering with what God is trying to do, so helping someone, in some cases, can actually be hurting them. We might rush in to help when God actually wants to humble them and make them come to Him on their own terms…perhaps with the glorious outcome of their trusting in Christ. Problems are not always ours to solve…we can try to fix problems but God may be allowing these problems to fix them in the hopes that they might fixate on Christ. Problems don’t always exist to be solved; sometimes they exist to solve us…and others.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.