Should you give money to people asking for handouts?

Scripture: Matthew 5:42
Should you give money to people asking for handouts? The Bible clearly encourages us to give to people in need. We should give when we can. But we do not need to give in a way that supports them in their prodigal behavior.
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Caller:  I gave $4 to a man who said he needed to buy groceries for his children.  My husband was angry that I had thrown away God’s money on someone who was probably going to use the money for alcohol or something else.  He says that we have a responsibility to use God’s money wisely and I should not have helped that man.  I feel we should help people when we are able.  What do you do when faced with people asking for handouts?

Pastor Doug:  That’s a very good question.  First of all, Jesus said in Matthew 5:42: Give to him that asks you and from him who wants to borrow do not turn away.  Now that is not intended, I think, by the Lord to be a carte blanche statement that anybody who asks you for anything you’re to give it to him. 

Someone comes up and says I want your car, I want your home, I want your children—you can’t give anything.  I think Christ is just saying, as a principle, that we should give when we can.  Now what if you see someone who is sitting in front of a liquor store and they’re asking you for $5.  You don’t want to help a person destroy themselves. 

It’s never a Christian thing to support somebody in prodigal self-destructive behavior.  The loving thing to do is not to give at that point.  The same way a parent would not give a child bullets when they’re playing with a gun.  But, if you don’t know, you can’t always assume the worst about people and say “I’m not going to give because they might not use this money correctly”. 

Just today a couple of teenagers came by our house, I was out working in the front, and they asked for a donation for a class trip and they were selling candy, or something, and I thought, well, they don’t have a badge or anything, this could be a scam, but you know, they’re going around the neighborhood and they’re trying. 

They are at least offering a service, so I gave them a few dollars.  So I think, if you’re going to err, err on the side of generosity, not on the side of being stingy.  God will bless you.  You don’t want to be reckless and take food from your children to give to a stranger on the street, but use wisdom.

What I have done on several occasions, and it’s produced some interesting results, I have said to people who have come up to me and say “Can you spare some change I’m hungry.  I want to get something to eat.”  I’ll offer to take them to buy them some food, and I’ve had people, on occasion, say, “Oh, no, I want the money”. 

We have that at our churches.  People stop by and say their car is broken down and they need gas.  I’ll say “Let’s go get gas together” and they’ll say “Just give us the money” and I say “No, we don’t operate that way”. 

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