The Giving Guidelines

Susan is debt-free, and she and her husband both have government pensions. She wants to know how to establish giving guidelines with her family because government pensions can be unreliable.

QUESTION: Susan in Alabama is debt-free, and she and her husband both have government pensions. They have $100,000 in cash saved up. They give money to family members in need rather than loan it. She wants to know how to establish giving guidelines with her family because government pensions can be unreliable.

ANSWER: First, you can’t give it to the level that it starts to make you worry about your future. Your first obligation is to your household. Taking care of your household first is what the Bible says, or you are worse than an unbeliever. Then once that’s done, you take care of your family and your immediate community as best you can without weakening yourself.

The big thing is usually not that. The big thing is to avoid enabling. You feel like you’re dealing with a parasite instead of someone you are actually helping to get on their feet. If that’s the case, you’re not helping someone when you give a drunk a drink. You have to ask yourself if you are really helping them. You can tell you are helping if they are actually getting better.

If a doctor helps you and you stay sick, they didn’t help you. If a personal trainer helps you and you don’t lose weight, he doesn’t help you. They are just participating in your insanity. You need someone who loves you enough to call you on your stuff. That’s what you are there for. With your money comes your advice. If you can’t follow my advice, you can’t follow my money.

My advice is not because I’m a control freak. It’s because I don’t invest God’s money in stuff unless I see a return on investment. The investment is in human terms, meaning I’m helping this person get out of the mess that they’ve gotten themselves in. All indications are that they’re engaged in actions that cause them to never go back to that mess.

But if I’m giving them money and they blow it on lotto tickets the next minute, that’s not helping them. If they have a criminal background, they can still get a job. Maybe she needs to do something self-employed. Your daughter is going to have to change the pattern in her life, otherwise you’re financing her misbehavior. That’s just loving her well, that’s not being mean to her.