I read this today and thought about how hard this decision is to make. On the one hand, you want to help those in need. On the other hand, when it becomes a perpetual thing you tend to get resentful. I think there are some clear cut boundaries that need to be set in place. I also know that these types of posts make people angry and so it won’t be popular. You see, most people think you need to be generous with your money, but they should get to spend theirs any way they choose. It’s human nature. I get it.
So when is it mismanaging your money to loan money to misbehavior?
When you begin to enable the person to live frivolously.
I remember a story of a brother who made two to three times as much as his brother. The brother who made more didn’t control his spending and when it came time to pay for rent, he would hit the modest means brother up for cash. It made the modest means brother feel puffed up that yes, yes, despite his brother’s success, he was still more successful.
How does the loaning of money to a person who mismanages make you feel? If you’re honest and generous by nature, you feel pretty good. There’s a measure of satisfaction in it. They need your help and you’re in a position to help. There is a danger in these feelings in that you become their source. They no longer look to God for provision they look to you. You begin to build an idol of yourself.
What happens when it’s month after month? A feeling of resentfulness creeps in. You begin to count their money as if it is yours. You begin to judge their spending habits. It also begins to form a wedge in your relationship because both of you begin to feel awkward.
Proverbs 22:7 says
the borrower is servant to the lender.
The lender begins to demand repayment, or secretly seethes, and the borrower doesn’t like the pressure and begins to withdraw. It makes the borrower look ungrateful and dodgy and it furthers the wedge. This is where offense so easily comes in and before you know it, people are not speaking, judging is taking place, and teams are being set up depending on whose story is going to be believed. It becomes a mess.
So what boundaries need to be put in place?
1. Don’t lend money if you can’t afford to lose it. If you can’t be at peace with giving it and never seeing it again, then don’t loan it. There is a chance that the borrower may not pay it back.
2. It’s okay to say no. If you don’t feel right about loaning it then don’t. Don’t however, be a miser. Generosity is a privilege and you should do what you can. This is heart check time. Examine why you don’t want to lend it.
3. It’s okay to go buy groceries for a person rather than give them money if you are unclear how it’s going to be spent.
4. Watch patterns and behaviors. Sometimes a person is going to need to take on extra hours at work or a second job for a season to make ends meet. If they are unwilling then you need to think about your role. Conversely, if they have learned to depend on overtime, they need to cut back their spending. Overtime is not salary. It’s extra. It should be saved actually but that’s another post.
5. If they are wasteful spenders be careful. This doesn’t have to be lavish but what if they don’t have money for food and gas but when they received a few hundred dollars extra they went and got a gym membership rather than catch up? Don’t fault them for buying essentials. If they received a few hundred dollars and bought shoes and clothes for their kids, I don’t in any way consider this wasteful. If they caught up on bills, or made an extra payment on a bill I don’t consider that wasteful. Be careful how you are judging.
6. If they are consistently borrowing, get them in front of a financial planner. Sometimes, the best money you can help with is some professional help. If they refuse then so do you refuse to be part of their mismanagement.
7. If they don’t know where their money is going, they won’t know where yours is going either. Every dollar should have a name. If they are people who live broke then that is their lifestyle, be aware of that going in.
Disservice by definition is a harmful action. Use wisdom. Some people get used to being rescued and it becomes an expectation.