beggar02I received the following question:

In conversations with friends about biblical generosity, a question was brought up.  While the bible clearly instructs us to give to the needy, people often caution to not give such that the needy person becomes dependent on your gifts.  Where is the idea of Not-Giving-To-Prevent-Dependency found in the bible?

I don’t think such a concept is found in the Bible.

We have to understand that Biblical giving in the Old Testament is always in the context of community. Those giving knew the ones being given to, and were aware of their real situation. In this case, what a person’s real needs were would be fairly well known and understood. In the New Testament, though oftentimes we see long distance giving, like Paul’s converts among the nations giving to the poor believers in Judea, the money was being distributed by apostles, who not only were inspired in their actions so that their giving would be distributed as best possible, but also again were local and aware of the real situation of those being given to.

There is really nothing in the Bible like our modern, large non-profit organization style of “giving to the poor.” Such impersonal giving was not heard of. It is hard, in such a situation, to really say that you are giving to the poor with anything like the heart that God intended when He talks about doing that. The idea was giving of yourself to the poor, not just an impersonal gift given remotely through a mediator.

The concept of not giving to “lazy poor” is in the Bible, however.

II Thessalonians 3:10. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.

Generosity is not to be given to men regardless of their attitude. If you are too lazy to work, then you should not be provided for out of the generosity of others. Every man is expected to work. That said, if a man does work or is willing to work but it still unable to support himself, then generosity and giving are very appropriate. The issue is not dependency, but laziness.

Hope this helps.