Q&A | Do I keep being generous when I think I’m being taken advantage of?

Yemi Osinubi: The attitude we must hold is that generosity is not supposed to have an end. So, there’s a mindset we have to stay with that we should be generous even to people who may have regular needs. I don’t think that our attitude, posture, and disposition to giving should be limited by the circumstances. I would say this, however, that because we are in relationships with people – Christians and Non-Christians – and because we are called to help people so as to pull them out of poverty and things like that, giving money is only one part of what we do. Another part of what we do is discipling. So, if I have a fellow Christian who has a problem with how they manage money so that they’re always in need, I’m thinking of the whole man: that is, the current need today, but also how this person lives their life – whether they have an addiction issue or they’re spending money on gambling. 

So, in thinking of the whole person, after giving today and giving again tomorrow, I start to think that maybe there’s something a lot more substantive to their problem. Depending on the relationship, I can come in and say, “Hey, let’s talk about the problems that you have.” In some cases, it’s that somebody doesn’t have a steady income, he doesn’t have work, so, part of what you may be called to do is say, “You know this thing won’t stop; this urgent 2k will not end…” Therefore, you think about the whole man, and if you are part of their community,  say, “How can I help this person get a job, improve themselves, skill up?”, and things like that. And that’s the part where we talk about empowerment.

So, one part of our work for our brothers and sisters, and even some people outside the church, is generosity towards them. Sometimes, another part is discipling them and helping them live their lives a little bit better so they can manage money. At other times, it’s empowerment; it’s asking, “How can we help this person change their lives?” Sometimes, the person may be close to you, or you have a community that surrounds them that can intervene but other times, it’s a little bit beyond you and you may feel that you’re limited perhaps because the person is not in Church but lives in your neighbourhood. You can talk to one or two other people to see if you are not the only one that can solve the problem. You ask, “Can I bring in somebody else to help them?” So, it requires a little bit of stretching yourself – talking to them and understanding their lives – to see if you can do more than just the giving of money when there’s urgent 2k regularly.

Femi Osunnuyi: I’ll just add that there’s a way we sometimes misapply the mercy and grace of God. First of all, we have to remember that we are not God, so we don’t have the same limitless resources that God has. And so, when we think about the limitation of our resources – that’s why we have to think of ourselves as stewards – we have a responsibility of stewarding the graces of God well. This not only includes our giving generously, but also how we are not wasteful with it as well. You know, there are passages in the scriptures that talk about “wasting” the Grace of God. Paul, in Galatians 5, talks about “falling from grace”; he also talks, in Hebrews 10, about “insulting the Spirit of Grace”. In other words, the Grace of God can come to a person and the person can actually reject it. What is the Grace of God meant to do? It’s meant to transform or change our lives and direction, but people can actually take the Grace of God for granted. It doesn’t make the Grace of God less efficacious, but it says something about the stubbornness of our own hearts in refusing to change. Remember that the Grace of God goes to people who reject it. So, there are many people that we’ll give to that will reject our giving, but we will not know that they will reject it until we first give to them. And by rejecting, I don’t mean that they don’t receive it, I mean that they don’t receive that grace to change themselves in a particular way. So, we do have to assess when someone is either becoming a leech or refusing to change. 

When we give to people, we’re giving them access to us. So, the giving is first of all to relieve them from a particular place, but then the access is, as Yemi was saying, to empower them. And this empowering is really to enable them to start providing for themselves. For some people, sadly, no matter how much we try, as Yemi says we should, they are just not ready and at some point, your giving starts to enable them, so you have to withdraw it. But when you are withdrawing it, you do not stop being generous, you are actually redirecting your generosity elsewhere. 

Now, it’s a fine line; no one can say, “Give three times before assessing if the person changes or not”. We have to allow God to use us. There are people that I would say have personally stretched me and maybe if there wasn’t somebody else, my wife or maybe some of the leaders, I may have given up when they actually needed some persistence. There are some other people where it was an over-persistence that we should have cut off. Imagine helping someone, by God’s grace and mercy, over a period of time and the person eventually does certain things and you realise that continuing to give would not be helpful for them, then the person starts to tell people bad things about you that you were not really a kind person. That’s how you know somebody who is rejecting your giving because the person has started to see the grace and mercy as a right they had. So, it’s not always easy in the moment but we just have to keep gauging. But there should always be a posture of generosity – that one is a commandment. How we steward that generosity is also something that is really important.

Yemi Osinubi: So, I’ll just say again, because sometimes you can’t gauge by yourself, always try to call other people like your brothers, sisters, or spouse into those issues to make sure that you’re assessing the situation a bit more correctly. 

Answered by Yemi Osinubi, leader at City Church and Femi Osunnuyi, lead pastor of City Church.