Dear Dave: My parents left their six-figure jobs to enter the ministry when I was in high school. That was 10 years ago, and my mom still regularly asks me to share my money with them. I don’t mind helping out once in a while, but this has been going on for a long time and I’ve started feeling bitterness about the requests and their bad financial decisions. My mom also tries to make me feel bad sometimes if I can’t afford to give them as much as they want. She constantly references their calling, and that I should want to help with that.
Dear Renee: This is not a healthy situation for anyone involved. By consistently giving or loaning your parents money, you’ve lost respect for them in the process. The relationship has become strained, and that’s a tough thing for anyone to deal with — especially in a parent-child situation. On top of all that, your mom sounds like a travel agent for guilt trips. It seems like she’s working you over while implying it’s all really for God. That’s toxic.
Going into the ministry is an admirable thing. However, I remember a guy in the Bible named Paul who made tents while he conducted his ministry. I’m paraphrasing, of course, but his line was something like, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” He had a job, remember? So, suggesting that someone work outside the ministry while trying to do God’s work isn’t mean or unfair.
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No one should do this to their child, and it’s going to be hard to unravel it all and turn it into a respectable situation. I hope everyone will consider sitting down with a mature third party, and developing a situation where you’re no longer giving or lending them money.
In the meantime, read a book called Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud. After that and some objective intervention, I think this situation will become a lot healthier for everyone.