Question: How do you discern whether to help someone?
How would you counsel someone who has the means to financially help an adult family member who lives in squalor by choice due to poor financial (and spiritual) choices, poor health (physical & mental), choosing not to work, etc? Do you counsel to take care of the person’s needs or let the State help? What do you consider about helping the family member or withdrawing support?
I go back and forth between Scriptures such as 1 Timothy 5:8, which admonishes those who do not support family members as “being worse than an unbeliever” if you don’t take care of your family and others which caution giving help, such as “throwing pearls before swine,” which obviously directly refers to not giving Scripture to scoffers, but the application of support can be derived from this. Where do you draw the line or do you draw the line (as a Christian)? Are you really helping by helping or just breeding more sin? Will either choice really have eternal consequences for them or for you?
These are very difficult questions. 1) it involves family, so the emotions are going to be tested and 2) you’re using passages of Scripture that must be compared with each other, because no one passage gives the simple answer.
My answer is only based on the information you’ve provided and I’m not sure I have all the facts that are needed, but here are some thoughts. I know you are seeking His righteousness (Matt. 6:33) and are looking for discernment (Heb. 5:14). You’ll know in your conscience based on the leading of the Holy Spirit and grace (Titus 2:11-13), what to do. At least, make the best choice before the Lord based on what you know from Scripture in each circumstance.
You mentioned that he is living that way by choice. That is my key. If it is his choice, then I need to remember 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”
I recognize that my resources must be considered in grace 1 John 3:17, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him” but considering 2 Thessalonians 3:10, it would be for someone who is willing to work, but has hit hard times and needs legitimate help.
I can in grace provide help in mercy (Rom. 2:4-5; Jam. 2:13), but if his choice is not to work, then I may be playing the fool and getting in God’s way of letting his hunger drive him to work Pro 16:26, “The person who labors, labors for himself, For his hungry mouth drives him on.” I may be getting in God’s way of divine discipline.
On the other hand, if no one has discipled the person and they foolishly made the poor decisions, but WANT to do the right thing, then financial help may get them back on their feet. But if they are in the downward spiral of Ephesians 4:17-19, then I would be getting in God’s way. The key for me would be, does he want to do the godly thing (cf. 2 Tim. 2:22).
If he turns to the state, he’s still choosing to not work and the state is foolish to enable someone to continue in their foolish ways. That brings a curse on any people and we are deep into foolishness regarding some of our welfare support, etc. I certainly understand the tension of “being worse than an unbeliever” 1 Tim. 5:8.
Yet I struggle with “dead while she lives” (not living in a faithful relationship with Jesus Christ) (1 Tim. 5:6). If she, the widow, who is in physical, financial need is dead in her relationship with Christ, then no help should be given, unless there is repentance. Of course there is room for mercy as your conscience might direct. I would agree that helping someone who doesn’t want help is throwing pearls before swine. That is a person who is in the seventh stage of the downward spiral (Eph. 4:17-19).
Do a search on the biblical word “lazy” and it is not a pleasant view. Proverbs 20:4 describes his consequences. To help people like that who are not humble seems to be enabling someone in his sin. To continue to help someone in his sin without rebuke and restoration seems to have eternal consequences of a loss of reward for that person.
We have a burden to disciple those who are hungering for truth as you do with all the young people. There will be many who will refuse that help and their consequences should drive them to brokenness and help from the Lord. (Ps. 51:16-17)
I wish I could give you a one sentence answer, but this is too big of an issue. Interesting, I had another case last week about a family in the church dealing with a family member in a marriage relationship. One spouse was willing to work, but the man was not. They could not support themselves and were continuing to make unwise decisions that keep them in the downward spiral. Sometimes I think the enemy tries to use Scripture to put a guilt complex on us to do what you said, “throw pearls before swine [even our own family]” and take away from resources that could be used to help those who are hungering for truth and righteousness.