Should We Give to Those Who Take?

By Staff Writer

Categories: Biblical, Relationships

Issue:

In Luke 6:30, we read, “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” Should we give to someone who is a taker, or who takes advantage of people?

Response (staff answer):

Giving is so natural, and being generous is so vitally important. It’s at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. But wisdom is also central. This month’s Bible Character and Themes topic discusses the similar passage from Matt 5:42: “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (5:42 NIV).

One of the points it brings out is that the Spirit gives us discernment—to understand what is being asked or what is the best course of action. Is the person asking for money for food or for spending on frivolous activities or addictions? And if someone takes something from us, do we go after them and retaliate? Or is there a better response?

Jesus never advocated being a doormat. He, himself, was a very strong individual. He didn’t let people take advantage of him. He walked right through the mob that was trying to fling him off a cliff. He knew he was walking towards the crucifixion … and then he rose.

So let’s look at this statement in a broader context. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ words come in relation to how to deal with people who are unkind and insulting, who take, compel service, and ask a lot. What do we do? We refuse to take offense, to retaliate, to escalate the violence. Rather, we maintain our dignity; we respond calmly and with strength. We try to de-escalate the situation. We make people more important than things. We refuse to let possessions become a god to us. We let God correct the other person and mete out justice. Most importantly, we rely totally on God for everything.

Later in the Sermon, Jesus will counsel, “… do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matt 7:6 NIV). And a few chapters later, we learn that Jesus told his disciples, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (10:16 KJV).

Neither of these statements suggests that we let people take advantage of us. Rather, these words indicate the need to be judicious in our actions. If people don’t listen, let them go. Don’t force. Don’t get upset. Don’t waste time. Move on. And then, if we come face-to-face with “wolves,” with those we may call “takers,” what do we do? Jesus doesn’t tell his disciples to let the wolves take advantage of them. He says to be wise … and harmless. It doesn’t make sense to aggravate a wolf, to make things worse. We don’t want to escalate the situation and have them hurt us. Rather, we can step out of the way and let God take care of the situation. God’s ways are always better than our ways.

So if someone takes from us, what do we do? The first thing we do is turn to God and let the Spirit give us discernment.

Here are two examples:

  • A friend of mine, who was in college at the time, had her purse stolen on a bus in Italy. She watched the thief hop off. She got off at the next stop, ran back, and saw him sitting there on the bench. She told him that was her purse, got it back, and hopped back on the bus. She was strong, courageous, and totally led by the Spirit!

  • Then there’s the wonderful example in Les Misérables: Jean Valjean steals the silverware of the bishop of Myriel. But when the police try to arrest Jean Valjean, the bishop says the silverware was a gift. Myriel’s gift of forgiveness changed Jean Valjean’s life, and he became an honest and good man.

Can we let it go of the need to retaliate or fix things ourselves? Can we rely on God to meet all our needs, not just some of our needs? If our house has been robbed, what do we do? We call the police; we do what we can. We can mentally let go of the things that were taken and move on. Then we can we bless the thief with integrity, honesty, compassion. And can we let God take care of the rest. We can also bless those who try to take our joy, hurt our feelings, ruin our lives. The Spirit might move us to not associate with those people any more. Or there might be healing.

So what can we give to a taker? We can give forgiveness. We can give blessings. We can give healing. And let God take care of the rest.

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