We have all had those moments when a family member asks for money. And if you haven’t you can bet you will at some point.
And if you are anything like me, you want to help because you love them. But you don’t want to make the relationship awkward and you don’t want to create any dependence.
I am so glad God has already provided wisdom for us in His Word!
As we all know family relationships can be very complicated, and each situation is different. But let’s look at a little of what the Bible says about it.
4 things the Bible say about helping your family financially
1. We need to care for our family.
Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you.Deuteronomy 5:16
God instructs children to honor their parents. When do your parents quit being your parents? Well, never. We are to honor our parents our whole lives, including caring for them if they need it.
There are some caveats to this which we’ll touch on later, but if your parents need your help and you can do so financially, you are encouraged to do so.
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.Proverbs 22:6
Helping your family financially includes providing for your children when they are young. It also includes training them in the way God commands. We train our children to work diligently, to treat others with kindness, and to give.
Training children in Biblical principles surrounding money is an excellent way to help them grow into self-sufficient adults.
Of course, their monetary decisions will be their own, but if you can teach them from lessons you’ve learned, hopefully, their mistakes will be fewer and less impactful on their financial futures.
Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.1 Timothy 5:8
If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.1 Timothy 5:16
The first verse here is sometimes used as a weapon among family members to guilt another into giving them money.
But let’s look at this verse in context.
Paul is instructing the believers to care for those in their families – namely widows – who needed help. But some families who had the means to do so were not, instead expecting the church to care for the widows.
Here’s the thing: Yes, the church helps widows and those in need, but there are often limited resources to do so. Shouldn’t they be helping the people who have no one else to help them?
Of course, if a family member can care for himself or herself, you don’t have an obligation to take care of them, but you can encourage them in contentment and hard work.
2. It’s not a good idea to lend money to family members.
Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you?Proverbs 22:26-27
The Bible actually has a lot to say about co-signing loans – none of which is good (if you are remotely considering co-signing, click that link and read that article).
And co-signing just happens to be one of the most common requests from family members. This is not a great idea for several reasons, the most prominent being that you are risking the wellbeing of your own household.
In effect, co-signing a loan is the same thing as lending money to a family member. Just say no.
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.Proverbs 22:7
It’s clear from Scripture that God isn’t a big fan of debt. But what about within families? Is it wise for family members to loan money to one another?
Whenever a loan is set up within a family, the relationship between the two parties changes. You move from a family relationship to a borrower-lender dynamic.
If you lend money to your brother, how would you feel if he took an expensive vacation before paying you back?
What about if he never paid you back?
The relationship would most likely be broken from both sides – you’d be resentful that your money wasn’t returned to you, and your brother might feel guilty that he never paid you back, so he just stops talking to you altogether.
Now, I’m not saying that you should never help your family financially.
But if a situation arises in which someone needs help, and you have the means to do so, you can always just give them the money.
If you decide to lend money to a family member, it’s a good idea to put an agreement in writing with a clear repayment schedule so you both understand the expectations.
3. Giving to family is good.
“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”Acts 20:35
As Christians, we are encouraged to give generously. There are so many benefits of giving freely of our abundance. And yes, this can include giving to family members.
Put yourself in the position of a young adult, fresh out of college. Their student loan payments may be coming up soon, and they’re wondering how they’re going to make their finances work with an entry-level job.
Wouldn’t filling up their fridge and pantry for them in their new apartment be such a blessing for them? Or maybe you could buy them a new piece of furniture for their apartment.
If you’re in a better financial position than they are, the money spent could be a wonderful way to give of your abundance.
4. Encourage contentment and hard work among your family members.
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:19
God doesn’t say He will meet all our wants; He says he will meet all our needs. Encouraging our family members in contentment is one way we can help them financially.
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”2 Thessalonians 3:10
Yes, we can give money to our family members, but we should also encourage them to provide for themselves if possible.
It’s not fair for adult children to regularly ask their parents for money to cover expenses when they are not willing to get a job and take care of themselves.
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.1 Timothy 6:7-8
There are multiple Bible verses about contentment, but this is typically the first that pops into people’s minds. If your family member is truly in need of help with things like food, clothing, and housing, we can certainly help them.
But if they demand money for frivolous things and/or aren’t willing to support themselves, you have no financial obligation to gift them the money to pay for these things.
Family relationships are complicated, and every situation is different. Hopefully, this is a start as you prayerfully decide how best to help your loved ones.