Hello brother Hamilton,
Before I explain my situation and ask questions, I wanted to say thank you for the Lord's work being done on the La Vista website and how easy it is to find study materials and answers to various Bible questions. My friend introduced me to the website some time ago and the site has helped me since.
On Facebook, I have many friends from other countries who are members of the Lord's church. Since becoming friends, many of them have reached out to me asking for financial support whether it be for preaching, covering costs, or for food. My conscience has been moving me to send money to some brethren, even when at times I'm unsure if I should be sending considering my financial situation. I am a 20-year-old who is planning to attend college this fall and have been working to save money to pay for college. Some of the brethren are constantly texting me asking for my help and I am torn. One brother has been calling me over and over the last few days and keeps begging for me to respond and help. I want to help them all and show my faith by helping them (James 2:14-17), but at the same time my savings have dwindled some from helping them and it makes me nervous about paying for school as well as other expenses. I am glad I have been able to help, but it seems that some brethren think I am an endless source of money (even if they don't say it directly) and I feel guilty to think that if I didn't send help, they would starve or in one preachers' case his motorbike would be taken away from not paying what is owed. Should I just send them help and trust God regardless of the cost? When is the stopping point? (for the time being) How do I choose who to help and who to explain to that I can't help? It is my hope to give more support in the future when I have sufficient funds (Ephesians 4:28).
"If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain" (I Timothy 6:3-5).
"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep" (II Peter 2:1-3).
"The leech has two daughters, "Give," "Give." There are three things that will not be satisfied, Four that will not say, "Enough" " (Proverbs 30:15).
The word translated as "exploit" literally means to make merchandise of someone. False brethren see religion as a way of making money by taking advantage of a Christian's compassion. As Solomon warns, there is no limit to how much greedy people demand.
"For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality -- at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality" (II Corinthians 8:12-14).
"He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need" (Ephesians 4:27).
God is not asking people to give themselves into poverty. I could argue that such indiscriminate giving is not being a good steward of the things God has blessed you with.
Here are my personal practices:
- I keep a fund that I use to help people. When that money runs out, then I wait until I am able to rebuild it to help.
- I generally help people I know are in need. Use the rule that it takes two or three witnesses to establish a truth. Just because someone claims to have a need, it doesn't mean the need exists.
- It is far too easy to lie on social media. If someone wants to be a friend of mine on social media, I check their account.
- If I find that they are brand new to that platform, I decline.
- If I find that we have few common friends, I decline.
- If I find out that they have inappropriate things posted, I decline.
- If I find out that they are heavily involved in selling things, I decline.
- When someone on social media asks for money and I have almost no interaction with them, I immediately block their account. As an example, not long ago a young man wanted to be friends with me. He claimed to be a preacher, but I noted that he never discussed the Scriptures. He said he was poor, but I noted that he looked well-fed. He was over-friendly, wanting to call me "daddy" though we had barely conversed on any topics. Then he started asking for money. I wasn't surprised, but I had given him the benefit of the doubt so I blocked him.
- When someone says they need money, I see if I can instead help directly. I don't give out money to strangers on the street, but if someone says they are hungry, I will buy them a meal. A lot of the beggars on the streets are "professionals." They work for gangs and are assigned locations. When you offer to take them somewhere to buy them food, they will decline because they can't leave their "post."
For an example of some of the scams I ran into in the Philippines, see The Corruption of Money.
Be generous in helping people, but make sure you are actually helping people and not furthering deceit.
"For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good. If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame" (II Thessalonians 3:10-14).
Thank you for your Bible answer! May God bless your work.