Aesop’s fable tells the story of a busy ant that slaved all summer to store up food for winter while a fun-loving grasshopper played in the sun. When winter came, the panicked grasshopper came to borrow food from the ant, but the ant replied that if the grasshopper wanted to eat now, he should have worked hard then.
I remember this story when I think about my neighbor. He’s a friendly fellow and a follower of Jesus, but he handles money like a kid in a candy store. He has gone deeply into debt to build a huge home, lease a BMW, and take his family to Hawaii. He squanders thousands of dollars on golf and eats out most nights. He is spending the money he should be saving for retirement, and truth be told, he is probably spending some of mine. We who have faithfully invested in retirement accounts will likely one day see our Social Security funds reduced to provide for those without.
Am I obligated to feed and clothe people like my neighbor? When he runs out of resources-assuming he has sold his toys and is living frugally—am I responsible to give what I can to meet his basic needs?
While the story of the ant is compelling, I do not find it in Scripture. True, Paul says, “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). But this is to encourage grasshoppers to get going. It’s not a command to let them starve (though a few hunger pains won’t hurt!).
Paul tells those with money to be “generous to those in need” (1 Timothy 6:18). If Jesus rescued me from my self-inflicted damage, then surely I should extend a hand to others in need, regardless of how they got there. This is hard for us ants to accept, but perhaps the right question is not “What must I give?” but “Who needs my help?”
• 2 Thessalonians 3:11-13
• James 2:14-17
• 1 John 3:17
Should you give according to what a person needs or what he deserves? What does the Bible say about using “they don’t deserve it” as an excuse not to give?