What is the line between helping someone and someone taking advantage of you?
Luke 6:30, 35 says, "Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back…But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." As Christians we are to follow Christ's example of being self-sacrificing and having compassion on those in need. However, many Christians quickly become disillusioned as they are treated as pushovers and taken advantage of by the very people they are trying to serve.
Jesus was not a pushover, nor did He let others take advantage of Him. Instead, He modeled godly servanthood and appropriate setting of boundaries. Following His example, and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to help others without being taken advantage of.
The first step to being a strong servant is wise discernment (Matthew 10:16). Prayer and the prompting of the Holy Spirit will help us know when and how to help people in need. It is helpful to think of serving others as giving them a "hand up" instead of a "hand out." The help we give should not support laziness, but rather establish accountability. The goal should be to empower people in such a way that they can break the cycle of dependency and eventually be able to give back by helping others. We want to help equip people for the long term, not simply supply the needs of today. It is crucial that we share the message of the gospel as part of the process. A person is only going to experience authentic and lasting change in how he lives through the power of God working in him, which comes through the foundation of a relationship with Christ.
In order to be a strong servant, one must also be a good steward of what he has been given (Matthew 25:14–30). While we should give with willing hearts, like the widow who gave all she had to the offering (Mark 12:41–44), we should not neglect our responsibilities. It is important that we manage our finances and time so that we can pay our bills and care for our families (1 Timothy 5:8). Even Jesus took time to rest and be alone to pray because He knew that He had to take care of Himself so that He could serve others effectively (Luke 5:15–16).
Follow Jesus' model of serving with a willing heart and wise intentionality. It is true He gave sight to the blind and healed the lame so they could walk. Ultimately, however, His focus was on meeting them where they were spiritually and transforming their hearts.
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