Do nothing for anyone that they can and should do for themselves.
As a seminarian, I was required to complete one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, or as we referred to it, CPE. My CPE experience took place at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, where I served as a chaplain. One of the duties involved with being a hospital chaplain is to spend a night on call each week. On a typical night, I would expect to receive a call or page from someone in need of assistance with cab fare. These calls always came between 2-4 am and my response was always the same. After having a conversation with the person in which I asked if there was any other way for them to find transportation and having been told no, I would offer to meet them at 7 am. I would ask them to continue to look for a solution on their own, but that if they could not find a ride I would be happy to pay for a cab the next morning. No one ever showed up at 7 am.
Christians are called to be people of charity. This means that when we see someone in need of assistance, we should cheerfully give what is needed. This doesn’t mean that we are called to give our money, our time, and other resources indiscriminately. Providing assistance to another person who cannot do so for themselves is a genuine act of charity. Providing for someone who can and should do so for themselves is an act of foolishness on the part of the giver and does little to serve the person receiving the gift. When we do things for others who have the ability to do so themselves, we rob them of living the life God intended for them. We also steal from the people who genuinely need and deserve our help.
What has been your experience when assisting those in need? What have been your positive experiences, your negative ones? Your comments, as always, are welcome.