God has truly blessed me with a husband who is both intuitive and a visionary. It does not always seem like a blessing, especially when I want to jump on an idea without counting the cost; but, he has saved me from making many hasty decisions.
Though I do not play the lottery, Eric and I still enjoy having those, “What would you do if you suddenly had $100,000,000?” discussions. Once, we even got out a notebook and jotted down where the money would go. It was overwhelmingly clear that I would be throwing money at people left and right, enjoying their squeals of excitement, and breathing a breath of relief as if to say, “Wow. My family and friends will never want for anything ever again. They will never have another financial concern.”
Well, years of being married to Eric and life’s maturity lessons have shown me that throwing money at people is not always a blessing. Would it feel good? Absolutely. Would it grant me some momentary affection from long-lost family members who barely speak to me anymore? Sure it would. However, there is a downside to giving money – it is not always a blessing.
When is Giving Money Ill-Advised?
- When the recipient lacks the character to handle it. One of Dave Ramsey’s children asked him, “Dad, why are you so hard on us about this money stuff.” (He once had his daughter call and apologize to the bank when she over-drafted her checking account. ~smile~) He told her that one day she was going to inherit a lot of money and it would ruin her life if she did not have the character to handle it. (Wisdom, folks. That is wisdom.) Most people would be overwhelmed going from $1,000 in the bank to $10,000,000. Many would make poor decisions. (And many lottery winners do which is why they are three times more likely than average to declare bankruptcy.) When you work hard to earn money, you gain character along the way. There are some hardworking people in my life who could handle an influx of wealth because they have a solid worldview and excellent work ethic. If we give money to people who do not have the character to use it wisely, we are not blessing them… and possibly ruining their lives.
- When it creates an “I am better than you” scenario. Years ago, I wanted to help a friend of mine financially. She specifically mentioned something she desperately wanted, but said she did not have the money for it at the time. Seeing how much she was hurting, I was determined to help her. Eric agreed and we gave her a specific amount. Did I pray about it? No. Did I listen to my gut? No. What happened? She cried. She thanked me profusely. And then… she stopped being my friend days later. It was not blatant. She just backed away and stopped talking to me. It hurt my feelings a bit, but it was a relatively cheap life lesson. Sometimes giving money to people creates a divide. Though I have no proof of this, I have always wondered if she felt our friendship shifted from equals to giver/receiver (I certainly hope not). That was not how I wanted her to view our relationship. Since then, I am extremely careful when and how I offer money to others. When possible, I try to be anonymous. When you believe you should hand it to someone directly, be sure you have peace about the decision and let him or her know it is a gift from God. After all, we are all just stewards of His riches.
- When the recipient is immature. I remember watching a 20/20 television special years ago about a man who won somewhere in the neighborhood of $350,000,000 in the lottery. His life fell apart, but perhaps his biggest heartbreak was the suicide of his granddaughter. He lavished her with cars and a multi-thousand dollar weekly allowance. Not surprisingly, she got into drugs. Her boyfriend also got into drugs and overdosed. Not long after, she was gone too. Her grandfather only wanted to give to her because he loved her, but she could not handle the responsibility of that much money. She was a child, her frontal lobe was not yet fully developed, and she didn’t have the maturity to handle that wealth. Children and teenagers are not known for their excellent decision-making skills. Those have to be honed and they come with maturity-increasing life lessons. When giving to a child, it is best to put the money towards college, future expenses, or to set up a system where the money is distributed after conquering difficult challenge (e.g., When you graduate from college with a 3.2 GPA or higher, you will get $20,000. When you complete graduate school with a 3.5 GPA or higher, you will receive another $20,000. After you have saved enough for a 20% down payment on a home, you will receive that same amount to go towards your mortgage, etc.). Giving large sums of money to children to do with as they please is like handing them a time bomb.
- If it gives the recipient the option to quit living. If someone gave Eric a pile of money today, I guarantee you he would use that money to build PreEngaged because he has a passion to see our business grow. Sure, he wants to make a good living; but, when he talks about his dreams and goals in life, he often says, “I just want to help people!” When we finish a pre-engagement or premarital session, he is often energized and ready to take on the world. Giving him money would be pouring into his dream of bringing PreEngaged – books, new products, new coaching programs, relationship enhancing tools – to the world. We are currently developing a digitally delivered pre-engagement coaching program and he would love nothing more than to have unlimited time to work on it. Since making money is not his top priority, he would pour newfound riches into making the world a better place; and, there are many people in the world who would do the same – building day camps for children, developing therapy centers, or researching new cures for diseases. On the opposite end, we all know people who would love to be handed gobs of money so they could quit their jobs, stay at home all day, and buy whatever they want. And, for a few months, it would be awesome. After that, depression would set in because we need purpose and worthwhile goals to keep us going. Warren Buffett said that he wanted to give his kids enough money that they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing. Giving money to people who would lay back and stop growing might take years off their lives.
- When the recipient has not attempted to work. If someone in your life needs money, but has shown no initiative to look for work or find alternate ways to earn income, do not let him or her guilt you into “helping.” If you want to help in other ways (e.g., teaching a skill, helping him or her look for work, taking a look at his or her budget, etc.), that is okay; but, handing a lazy person money is often only enabling him or her.
- When the recipient is a boyfriend or girlfriend who is taking advantage of you. It is hard to be objective when the heart is involved, but take a look at your sweetie’s life. Is he lying around the house all day? Is she spending money like she has an endless supply of funds? If your sweetheart keeps hitting you up for money, it is time to have a talk. If he or she is in constant “need” of your money, that could be indicative of a severe lack of character. It all depends on the situation. If you are too emotionally involved, talk to close friends or mentors about your concerns and ask for advice.
- When you need it. On one end of the spectrum, there are people who hold onto their money miserly. “I earned it and I am going to keep it. Those lazy bums can earn their own money!” On the other end, there are people who can barely keep food in their mouths, but they want to give every last dime they have to others in need. Though I admire people who have big hearts filled with love, we have to exercise wisdom. If we are not functioning properly, we cannot be as effective for others. Moms need to exercise and take care of themselves so they can be the best they can be for their families. In an emergency, air travelers need to put the oxygen mask on themselves before they try to help someone else. And, we need to make sure we are taking care of the needs of our household before we direct funds elsewhere – even for good causes (unless God specifically directs you to do so).
Where would we be without the kindness of others? God designed us with social needs. We need to support and be supported. They say to show the most kindness to those who are unkind because they need kindness the most. We are designed to be with others. Our lives are more fulfilling when we have a giving mentality. But, as is the case with most situations, we need balance and wisdom. All giving and no saving are imbalanced. All saving and no giving are also imbalanced. And, giving without considering the impact of the gift is unwise.
When it comes to sharing God’s financial blessings with others, we should be quick to pray, quick to listen, and willing to obey even when we do not understand.
In what other situations do you think giving money is ill-advised? [Comment below!]