Here are some comments inspired by John the Methodist and commentators at his site:
It’s been said, “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.”
This helps illustrate problem of timing when it comes to measurement. When you invest yourself in teaching a person to fish you will – at one point in the process, appear to be cruel and heartless. “Here is this poor man, needy and starving, and instead of giving him a fish, you make him wait until he can learn to catch one himself.”
Or we could change the image a little. “Here is this poor person without a job, and instead of giving her a job right now you make her go to school first. How can you be so heartless?”
With current techniques of communication and travel, we can know more than ever about the tremendous needs of people around the world – and we have the means to send them resources. We know how to sell all we have and give all to the poor. But is that a “give a man a fish” or a “teach a man to fish” solution? Something that will help in the short term but be disastrous in the long term (unless having large numbers of people who have given away everything and now need other people to care for them is not seen as a negative).
Admittedly, the this whole idea of fishing is unbiblical (though other ideas of fishing are present in scripture, this quote comes from elsewhere).
So what can we do given the problem of time? Here are a few ideas:
1. Live as grateful recipients of God’s grace. Nothing we have is ours merely because we deserve it.
2. Live as stewards. God has put resources under our control to use for his agenda. In the parable of the talents praise came not for immediately giving the talents away, but for multiplying them until the master called for them.
3. At any given time be living in such a way that a picture of your life up to that point would show you to be generous with the people around you.
4. Redefine your sense of personal gain and prosperity to include the actual well-being of the people around you.
5. Give more than you loan. If someone pays you back, that’s ok.
6. Trust God to take care of your finances and possessions more than you trust yourself (or the government) to do so.