What Does the Bible Say About Freeloaders?
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What Does the Bible Say About Freeloaders?

Freeloading – taking advantage of the generosity of others without contributing anything in return – is an issue that many churches and ministries struggle with today. Some people attend church simply to receive handouts or assistance, without any intention of serving or giving back. What does the Bible say about how we should handle freeloaders in the church? There are several key principles we can draw from Scripture.


Freeloading can drain the resources and morale of a church. It is easy to grow resentful of those who take but never give. However, as Christians we are called to handle this issue with wisdom, discernment and compassion.

We need to balance helping those in need while still encouraging responsibility and self-sufficiency where possible. The Bible gives us several principles to guide our response:

Key Takeaways

  • Give generously to those in need, but set boundaries with discernment
  • Do not enable laziness or irresponsibility
  • Require work from those who are able
  • Offer support temporarily, not indefinitely
  • Distinguish between the unable and unwilling
  • Practice discernment and wise stewardship
  • Balance compassion with accountability
  • Seek godly wisdom in addressing each situation

In this blog post, we will explore Bible passages about freeloading and apply them to modern church ministry. The goal is to find a biblically-based approach that cares for the needy while still promoting responsibility.

Give Generously To Those in Need

The Bible frequently commands us to be generous and compassionate towards those in need. For example:

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. (Proverbs 19:17)

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16)

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. (Proverbs 25:21)

When we see a brother or sister struggling financially, our first response should be compassion. As 1 John 3:17 states:

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

God calls us to give freely to help meet basic needs, whether it be through donating goods, providing meals, assisting with bills, or other practical support. This reflects His generous and gracious heart.

However, balance is needed. We cannot enable destructive behaviors or fail to discern true needs. Giving should be paired with other biblical principles.

Do Not Enable Laziness

While called to be generous, Scripture also warns against enabling laziness.

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)

The book of Proverbs frequently warns against laziness and living off of others rather than working:

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise . . . How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. (Proverbs 6:6, 9-11)

God desires for people to provide for themselves and their families if they are able. Enabling the lazy hurts them in the long run. As Paul writes in Thessalonians, refusal to work means they should not eat. Though said harshly, this underscores the importance of requiring responsibility. Handouts should be temporary, not permanent.

At the same time, discernment is needed. Mental or physical disabilities may prevent someone from working a traditional job. Simple laziness differs from inability. We must assess each situation accordingly.

Require Work From Those Who Are Able

Rather than only give handouts, churches can require work from the able-bodied in return for assistance. As 2 Thess 3:10 states, those unwilling to work should not eat. Scripture praises hard work and self-sufficiency as the norm.

In Acts 20, Paul discusses his practice while living in Ephesus:

I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:33-35)

Paul worked diligently at his trade of tentmaking, refusing to be a burden to others. He provided for his own needs while also giving generously. This allowed him to assist the weak without promoting unhealthy dependence.

Churches can apply this example by providing basic assistance while requiring work in return. Volunteer roles, cleaning services, childcare, food bank shifts and more can be asked of those seeking regular aid if they lack work. Serving others cultivates dignity and godly character. It embodies the biblical principle of laboring to help the weak.

Of course, exceptions should be made for those physically unable to work. But for those who are capable, diligent labor should accompany receiving aid. Teaching skills and offering job placement help can also empower people to get back on their feet permanently.

Support Should Be Temporary, Not Indefinite

Scripture praises those who work hard to provide for their families and give to others:

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

God designed us to work, provide for needs, and give freely at times. When churches assist, it should be temporary until people can become self-sufficient again. Dependence on handouts indefinitely can be spiritually damaging.

Benevolence ministries often limit financial aid to a certain number of months and require steps towards independence, like job training. This prevents enabling a lifestyle of reliance on others. Counseling, addiction services or medical help may also be needed. The goal is to get people back on their feet.

Of course, some are unable to work long term due to disability or age. In these cases, care should continue appropriately. But for those able to work, aid should be paired with preparation for independence.

Distinguish Between Unable and Unwilling

Biblical principles on providing for the needy assume they are unable to work or are in temporary hardships. But some who request aid are simply unwilling to work and support themselves. Discernment is needed to distinguish between the two.

Paul writes:

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)

Enabling someone unwilling to work will harm them spiritually. Discernment and possibly even confrontation is needed in these cases. Kind but firm boundaries should be set. Aid must be conditioned on responsibility.

Of course, physical and mental health limitations can render someone truly unable to hold down a job. These situations call for sensitive discernment. But for the idle and irresponsible, confrontation and requirements of labor are warranted, along with limiting assistance. Unconditional giving enables sin.

Churches should seek God’s wisdom in assessing each situation. With both compassion and accountability, the church can call people higher while still caring for legitimate needs.

Practice Discernment and Stewardship

Generosity must be balanced with good stewardship. As caretakers of God’s resources, churches should ensure donations are used wisely. Those requesting aid should be vetted to determine true needs.

Jesus told a parable about workers hired for a vineyard. All received a full day’s wage, even those who worked fewer hours. But this was the employer’s choice in dispensing his money. Jesus concludes:

Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? (Matthew 20:15)

While God calls us to generous giving, He entrusts these decisions to our discernment as His stewards. We must ensure offerings are used responsibly and distributed based on actual need.

Proverbs addresses discernment in giving:

Do not give to him who begs from you, for you will only hate him and begrudge him. Give to the merciful, the poor, the helpless, and the needy but not to the lazy. (Proverbs 23:6-7)

The Bible praises disciplined workers and responsible planning, not haphazard giving. As the above verse notes, we tend to resent freeloaders over time. Good stewardship requires asking questions, assessing needs versus wants, setting boundaries and seeking wise counsel. Through discernment, we can direct resources in a way that sincerely helps without enabling sin.

Balance Compassion and Accountability

In summary, Scripture calls us to show compassion towards the needy, while still promoting responsibility. Freely giving to those who take advantage corrupts both parties. Accountability must balance mercy.

Churches should offer benevolence, jobs, training, counseling and support to get people back on their feet. But this assistance should be conditional, tempered by discernment. Volunteering should be required of those who are able. And aid must be given in a way that empowers independence rather than dependence.

Loving others does not mean allowing them to continue in sin. Giving handouts alone may only enable irresponsibility to continue unchecked. But a balance of compassion and accountability upholds God’s principles of stewardship, wisdom and human dignity. It offers a hand up, not just a hand out.

With prayerful wisdom, churches can care for the needy while still requiring responsibility and promoting independence. This applies biblical truth in a balanced, loving way.

Seek God’s Wisdom

In closing, freeloading is a complex issue. Biblical principles exist on both sides – generous giving and wise stewardship. There are no cookie-cutter solutions. Each situation calls for prayer, discernment and counsel from godly, mature believers.

As James 1:5 states:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

God promises to give wisdom generously when we seek Him. His Spirit can guide churches to apply biblical truth with loving care and accountability in each unique case.

By staying centered on God’s compassionate heart and wise principles, churches can handle the challenge of freeloaders with truth and grace. With the Spirit’s discernment, they can provide generously while still requiring responsibility. May we walk in God’s wisdom to help the needy get back on their feet, both physically and spiritually.

Pastor Duke Taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.