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She says: My mom likes to donate to charitable causes

My mom likes to respond to every request for money that comes in at Christmas. She’s always done this. I don’t see why Tom wants to question her about it.

He says: She’s on a fixed income; it’s too much Sheila’s mom is on a fixed income. We need to talk to her about managing her money so she has enough to live.

SHEILA AND TOM NEED TO ASK THEMSELVES TWO QUESTIONS: Is there any hard evidence that Sheila’s mom is in actual danger of donating her way to destitution? If so, would it be appropriate to talk with her about it?

Jesus had many good things to say about very generous people, especially those who give to the point of apparent foolishness. He praised both the woman who poured an entire jar of expensive perfume over his head, (Mt 26:6-10) and the poor widow who donated to the Temple treasury the last two coins she had to live on. (Mk 12:41-44) The list goes on.

Whether we’re to take these passages as a universal norm for all charitable giving is a legitimate question, but the basic point is clear: God wants us to be extremely generous – even to a fault.

But the real question is not whether Mom is being too generous, but whether she’s being fiscally irresponsible or, even more worrisome, whether her generosity is being used against her by iy charities or con artists. Elders can be especially vulnerable to such manipulation, and their adult children are right to be vigilant for them.

So, if there are any real signs that Mom is beginning to “lose it,” fiscally or mentally, then it could be not only the loving, but, indeed, the necessary thing for Sheila and Tom to gently ask her questions, such as, “Mom, we’ve always admired your generosity, but we’re a little concerned about a few things we’ve been seeing lately.” Or: “We know how much you value your financial independence; we just really want to protect that for your future.”

They could also suggest that Mom consider other ways she could be generous but not so that her limited income is put in jeopardy, like donating her time visiting the sick or preparing meals for a maternity home or a homeless shelter.

Exceedingly generous people are rare indeed. While we sometimes might need to protect them, even from themselves, we should nevertheless admire and thank them for exemplifying the completely self-emptying love of Jesus himself.