A different definition of love
We all have “those people” in our lives. People who are really hard to deal with and love. Toxic sorts of people who can rob your life of the joy that should define it. But here’s the rub, as well. We’ve all been “those people” in the lives of others too. It is the default DNA of everyone born after the fall to be selfish at our core. Our sin nature is responsible, but we are also most times guilty accomplices in the sordid ways it works its way out. We’ll talk about four different toxic types of “those people” in this series. Today, it’s the overly needy person.
Now, just to be clear, we are not talking about genuinely needy people here. God is very clear about the poor, the widow, the orphan and the sick. We are to sell out in loving them (Luke 18:22). No, this week we are talking about the people who come to us time after time with the same surface problems. They want our sympathy, they want our attention … they “want” us to help them. So how do we do that in obedience to how God wants us to love our neighbors?
Scripture is not silent in providing wisdom and guidance in responding to overly needy people in our lives. Let’s look together at a few practical ways we should respond…
Give people what they need not what they want
As I said before, overly needy people want our sympathy and they want our attention. They might even say they want our help. Trouble is, if you just tell them what they want to hear, you’re really not helping them. Even conventional logic or worldly wisdom will lead you to that conclusion. It’s about what they need, not what they or you want. Trouble with that is, it rarely ever sounds to them (and many times other people too) like love. And this is where people’s definition of love may need to change. True love gives people what they need.
As problems go, most are not unique to us in the modern world. Consider Paul’s words in his letter to the church in Thessalonica as they were embroiled in a struggle of responding to those who were hungry amongst them.
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.
2 Thessalonians 3:10 -12
The truth (and make sure it’s biblical) is what people need. Sometimes that will mean confrontation, or saying something that will be unpleasant or cause injury, but if you follow this additional biblical command, you will be loving that person as God desires:
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
Ephesians 4:15 (NLT)
Let people feel consequences
Do not stand in the way of consequences when standing up for someone you love. You can, and should, come alongside, but do not be a human shield. Judgement and consequence is God’s business, allow Him to do what He needs to in that person’s life.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
What we are talking about in all of these things is being good to someone. Don’t quit on them or abandon them because they came back “once too many times” with the same old story. Be good to them, but do not shy from having the tough discussion. Salt your advice with biblical truth and don’t stop at advice. Pursue them with that truth. Hold them accountable to the things they know they need to do. Be there. Be consistent.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6: 9-10
It may be time for a new definition of love … for them and for you. It may be time to stretch beyond what you feel like doing, to what God would have you do or be in that overly needy person’s life. Follow the wisdom of scripture in walking that arduous, yet worthy, road. Be the physical manifestation of God’s love by stepping over their wants to meet their needs.