In a change of pace from our usual callers, our very own co-host Brett asks Father Dave about something that’s been bothering him. About seven months ago, Brett’s friend was kicked out of his apartment and didn’t have a place to live. Because Brett has always had an “open-door policy” with his friends, he reached out and offered his small studio apartment as a place to stay while his friend got back on his feet. He thought his friend would start saving for a new apartment and move out within a few weeks, but it’s been seven months, and the friend is making little effort to improve his situation. Brett has gently approached the subject of moving out but to no avail. Brett asks, when do you draw the line between Christian charity and being taken advantage of?
Father Dave asks Brett, “Does this thing overshadow your friendship?” Yes, Brett responds, “It is always the elephant in the room. I feel like I’m being too nice. It’s eating at me that I feel like I’m being taken advantage of.”
Well, says Father Dave, it certainly seems as though Brett’s friend has overstayed his welcome. In the Bible, Jesus calls us to go above and beyond normal constraints when it comes to charity. In the Sermon on the Mount and in parables throughout the Gospels, Jesus urges his followers to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the outcast, visit the sick and imprisoned. But that doesn’t mean we are all called to be doormats.
“Are we called to be hospitable to a stranger?” Father Dave asks. Of course! “We’re all called to be Christian, charitable, and hospitable.” But at some point, a practical threshold is necessary. Most of us have limitations and constraints on how much we can give. Figuring out where to draw the line is a kind of discernment for Christians and one that is unique to each individual. Just because we should clothe the naked, Father Dave explains, “It doesn’t mean we have to clothe every single naked person on the face of the planet out of our pocket.”
In addition, Christina adds, sometimes being “too nice” and allowing a friend to get away with taking advantage of you is actually enabling their behavior and ultimately bad for the friend. Part of being a good and charitable friend is the willingness to share truths that may be tough to hear, but will ultimately encourage people to make positive improvements in their lives.
In the end, it’s up to each one of us to determine the boundary between being charitable and being taken advantage of. We must always love our neighbors and as Christians, we are called to be extraordinary in this regard. But it’s no sin to acknowledge our own limitations and frustrations. As for Brett, he says he knew in his heart that this was the right response, and he knows now that having a hard conversation with his friend is the right thing to do.