There was another thread in Mi Yodeya where a Jewish individual played a "prank" on a Christian in order to get his money ($20) since he figured the Christian was obligated to give it to him if he asked, according to his understanding of Luke 6:30. Needless to say, this Jewish individual, since he admitted it was a "prank," didn't have a genuine need for the money.

I have been approached many times by people who were scamming for money.

For example, I am approached by a man/ woman outside a grocery store, as many people are. He/ she says, "My truck broke down and I need to call a taxi." I tell him/ her I don't have any money on me, which is the truth. I rarely ever do. I go into the store, and as I walk out, I witness the same individual driving down the street in his/ her car. It was a scam. What were they scamming for? Likely narcotics or alcohol.

If I had given this individual money, they would have likely used it to buy narcotics or alcohol. Essentially, I would be contributing to and enabling their lifestyle --- a lifestlye which is by no means beneficial for them. In fact, if they bought narcotics with my money, they could very well overdose and die.

A culture of drug abuse didn't exist in the time of Jesus. But, it does today.

Hence, my question. Should a Christian indiscriminately give or lend his money (if indeed he has the money on his person) to everyone who asks him? Should a Christian discriminate who and who he does not give his money to?

If so, what are some things that could assist a Christian in this situation?

  • 1
    My dad would sidestep the problem of the homeless scammer by giving them food (an apple and a granola bar, or something like that) and water. Giving them what they need rather than what they want. Feb 15, 2013 at 5:41
  • I agree that is a suitable option. What about the case where a non-homeless person is intentionally scamming the Christian for money? What could you really do besides interrogate them concerning the basis of their need?
    – user900
    Feb 15, 2013 at 8:31
  • For that, the answers on this question suffice. :P Feb 15, 2013 at 14:16

2 Answers 2


I don't see that there's a definitive answer to this. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of consensus on this one. Even the major commentaries, which usually find some common ground, disagree.

A few examples:

Clarke's Commentary on the Bible (This agrees with the teachings I've heard on this verse.)

Ask them not again - Or, Do not beg them off. This probably refers to the way in which the tax-gatherers and Roman soldiers used to spoil the people. "When such harpies as these come upon your goods, suffer the injury quietly, leaving yourselves in the hand of God, rather than attempt even to beg off what belongs to you, lest on their part they be provoked to seize or spoil more, and lest you be irritated to sue them at law, which is totally opposite to the spirit and letter of the Gospel; or to speak bad words, or indulge wrong tempers, which would wound the spirit of love and mercy." Of such as these, and of all merciless creditors, who even sell the tools and bed of a poor man, it may be very truly said: -

Wesley's Notes

6:30 Give to every one - Friend or enemy, what thou canst spare, and he really wants: and of him that taketh away thy goods - By borrowing, if he be insolvent, ask them not again. Mt 5:42.

So, having said that there may not be a definitive answer, in context, the principle seems to be that we should assume the asker has a real need. This has the obvious implications of leaving us open to fraud, scam artists, and the like. Christ seems to be, in this case, telling us to put the principles of love and faith first, showing the love of God, giving sacrificially, trusting that the asker has a true need, even if we can't know for sure. In other words, it's better to give willingly and be taken by a con artist than to try to be shrewd and not give at all. And if we get taken, not to be bitter about it.

This is hard to take for a lot of us. (Me included.) It's very easy to be bitter about being taken advantage of, and it's very easy to have the mindset that we're not doing thieves a favor by letting them profit by taking advantage of trusting individuals.

However, this verse is smack dab in the middle of a slew of verses that teach the same basic principle: Show meekness, mercy, and kindness to those that do not deserve it. In my Bible, this section is under the heading "Love thy enemies":

Love for Enemies (NIV) Like 6:27-36

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

This tells me that this passage, taken in context, tells us to trust, even when it may be foolish to do so. After all, the things of this world are temporary.

In short, there may be no definitive answer, but taken in context with the surrounding verses, the answer seems to imply that we are to assume there is a genuine need, even if we are skeptical. It doesn't imply that a genuine need must exists. It implies that we are to assume that such a need is genuine. We are to trust, rather than doubt, and show God's love by extending mercy where undeserved. (And isn't that what the central message of Christianity is all about? Showing love and mercy where it's not deserved?)

  • Amazing...truly we must be born again.
    – user900
    Feb 15, 2013 at 4:12
  • While "be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves" (Matt. 10:16) applied to preaching, the principle seems more general. Interestingly, the context indicated one would suffer anyway but the implication seems to be that one should not foolishly attract persecution.
    – user3331
    Feb 15, 2013 at 15:29

I don't have any single resource to cite, at the moment. But, I can offer the general understanding that I've gotten listening to Catholic sermons over time.

Consider the verse in its context.

27 “But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit [is] that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. 35 But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36)

There are plenty of places in scripture wherein Jesus insists that we love the poor. He insists upon this both verbally and in His own actions. But perhaps surprisingly, this isn't one of those places. The poor and needy aren't named here. To the contrary, the only precise statements we have in this passage about with whom we're dealing is that we don't like them!

They're enemies. They're the folks who attack us, press us into service, take our stuff, extort us, scam us, etc.. Rather than there being any serious question as to whether the one asking actually needs in this scenario, the assumption here is that they don't need: they're an enemy, and they want to scam us! Any other assumption betrays the context, I think.

So, clarifying one point of the question midstream, let's assume that Jesus is speaking specifically of those cases wherein we can reasonably assume someone's attempting to pull one over on us.

So, let's look at the five "attacks" Jesus presents:

  • Someone curses us
  • Someone strikes us on the cheek
  • Someone forcibly presses us into service
  • Someone takes our cloak
  • Someone asks for money

And again, that last one is an odd misfit with the first four if we don't assume the asking party has seemingly malicious intent. But, the response in each case is effectively the same: Assist the attack. In other words, in whatever nature you feel attacked, rather than oppose the attack, assist the attack in its trajectory.

  • Someone curses you => Bless them. There's just no other way to magnify a curse non-violently. Someone says something bad about you, say something nice about them. They'll be promoted either consciously to commit to the hate, or back down.
  • Someone strikes us on the cheek => Present the other. Notable here, I have been told repeatedly from numerous sources, the left/right indication in this verse indicates that the 2nd strike, should it come, would be considered far more offensive and "dirty" in ancient Jewish culture. The 2nd strike you're offering the attacker, in other words, is far more and noticeably severe.
  • Someone forcibly presses us into service => Commit to twice the service.
  • Someone takes our cloak => Offer your most basic (under) garments as well In modern times, I imagine Jesus would have said, "offer them your boxers as well." A clear magnification of the attack.
  • Someone asks => Give abundantly. Repayment, in the very least, would normally be expected here, especially from a non-friend or the "anyone" and "everyone" in question.

By responding with exaggerated compliance, we generally force our perceived enemies and ourselves to acknowledge the character of an attack -- as well as the character of our own judgement. The nature of the "exchange" changes, and one of a few things can happen. (And as an added bonus, we don't even compromise on the possibility for genuine charity.)

  1. Our enemy re-commits to their attack. We've somewhat successfully preached the Gospel, in this case, even if it has fallen on deaf ears.
  2. Our enemy ceases, having been non-violently and un-offensively made aware of their aggression.
  3. We notice that this isn't really our enemy. We change. We take notice that we are harboring hate. And we presumably repent.

However, we also need to be careful not to isolate this from the rest of the Bible. Jesus does not diminish the need for physical well-being. And overall, the Bible calls for order and discipline, even in matters of charity -- be it financial charity, as your question partly addresses, and in matters of spiritual charity, as I think your selected verse addresses. And in fact, in larger cities, "wreckless" giving is often discouraged -- there are more effective channels to care for the genuinely poor.

And as best as I understand it, the same responses, in many America cities anyway, operate perfectly, both in the context of Luke 6:27-36 and that of the general call to serve the poor. They are, "Oh. I'll show you were the shelter is." or "Oh, let me just buy you some groceries." or "Oh, let me put you up in a hotel for the night."

9 times out of 10 (in my city) the response is the same, "I don't need any of that **, man!"

And in the rare case that someone anxiously indulges the magnification of their request, I feel rightfully humbled. And my "attacker" is rightfully fed. Or clothed. Or whatever.

  • And as I said, I can't provide a doctrinal source for this. But, I wanted to give a somewhat contrasting answer based on sermons and saint-stories I've heard which suggest recognizably holy people taking this passage as a call to love somewhat "cleverly" ... Beyond the material need or aggression.
    – svidgen
    Feb 15, 2013 at 7:54
  • That was an exceptional post, every last bit of it. Thank you @svidgen.
    – user900
    Feb 15, 2013 at 8:29
  • Our Church does the same thing as far as offering to buy food, pay for a hotel, pay for a tow truck etc. (Depending on the story of the person asking for money) as well. And we do also get that same response 9 times out of 10, but are able to help that 1 time of 10 that appears to have a genuine need. And it does fall in line with assuming they have a genuine need... We offer to take care of the expressed need, rather than what they ask for, 9 times out of ten the "need" disappears. Feb 15, 2013 at 12:20
  • @DavidStratton I don't mean to imply here that the sermons I'm referring to condoned cynicism or excessive skepticism. I personally tend to be more cynical, which I don't mean to condone. The message I'm trying to relay here is that this is how you should behave when you feel cynical or when you feel at odds with an enemy. And, as this is sandwiched between the beatitudes and the teaching on non-judgement, the implication, I think, is that feelings of animosity should be fairly rare. But, we shouldn't be naive, and we have a wise, charitable plan if we do feel attacked.
    – svidgen
    Feb 15, 2013 at 14:48
  • Unfortunately, some of the 90% rejecting direct help may have paranoia issues. I have heard that this is a reason some people who are homeless avoid shelters. Even the scammers are expressing a need for redemption, of desire--not wanting to be whole--or of hope--not believing they can be made whole--, and a hand-out might not be loving--aside from taking resources from the needy. I do not know exactly how one can be "all things to all men", but discernment and compassion seem to be key elements.
    – user3331
    Feb 15, 2013 at 15:57

You must log in to answer this question.