Which put life into perspective.
There are certain things which make one really think about this faith we are called to practice.
When to Draw the Line
I love helping others.
If you come ask me for help, you are almost guaranteed to get it--especially if it's your first time asking.
That's kind of standard here at the congregation I serve.
We have a Community Care Fund. It was established long ago, and it was and is intended to help others within our congregation and outside of it. We've had some very generous contributions to it, and so I don't hesitate when it comes to helping those in need. That money is meant to be spent, and we do. I cannot tell you how many people we have helped in the years I have been here, and it is gratifying to know we make a difference in the lives of others.
I've seen people break down in tears after receiving assistance.
And I've seen the other side as well--the people who take advantage of your generosity.
There comes a point and time when a line must be drawn, and it's hard to do so.
Over the span of three years, we have helped one particular lady over and over and over again. Rental assistance. Electric assistance. Food. Propane.
Recently, she was kicked out of her apartment for failing to pay rent. She supposedly is about to receive disability. She moved in with her mother into an old mobile home.
They ran out of propane.
They asked for help. We did.
We got a call from the propane company shortly after we agreed to pay her bill. The lady we were helping called them up and proceeded to chew them out because they hadn't filled her tank in what she thought was a timely manner.
My secretary apologized for the woman's actions.
I thought about this and then told my secretary, "Next time something like this happens, please respond, 'We aren't helping anyone because they are good. We are helping because God is good.'"
It's the truth. But if you read Scripture, even God has His limits.
Less than a month passed, and this woman returned asking for help filling her propane tank again. She ran it dry. Again. This means the propane company has to run a test on her lines checking for leaks. Again. That costs extra money. Again.
We know the mobile home isn't as air tight as it could be. We know she'll run out quickly again. Obviously, she doesn't know how to manage things either.
I told my secretary, "We won't fill the propane again. We will buy some space heaters and help them stay warm."
The lady showed up to ask for money. We told her we would buy the heaters.
"Don't you know they cause fires? No thank you!"
Never had a space heater cause a fire in anything I've used them on, but I use them correctly. Which is beside the point.
"We will not fill your propane tank. We will pay $50 toward your bill. That's it."
Anger. Even after being helped numerous times with well over $1000. Even with no questions asked before. Even with knowing we were being milked at times. Anger.
Maybe it's anger at knowing we aren't going to let her take advantage of us anymore. Who knows?
Jesus said, "Give to everyone who begs."
But I won't give away the whole shooting match.
We'll help, but we won't be taken advantage of.
Sometimes you have to draw the line.
There are certain things in life that help you realize this.
*An interesting side note to my post yesterday followed up with this one. My bishop wrote the following comment on my Facebook feed: Nice.
Ronnie, a member of my last church used to say, "Pastor I can't tell
them that really needs from them that don't. And Jesus said to give to
everyone who begs from you. So I do. I hope that's okay."
There is a definite difference in these two stories although they are linked by striving to help others. In one instance, I knew nothing about those who were in need. In this post, I know a lot. There is a huge difference once you really get to know a person and how he/she operates.
I think it is quite unfortunate that many congregations really never get to know the people they help out. Building relationships is a major component of evangelism--with rich or poor; with those in need and those in plenty. It helps us walk that delicate balance between compassion (feeding the hungry as per Matthew 25) and enabling (if one does not work, one does not eat 2 Thessalonians).