I have lived outside my country for twelve years, and during that time I have been sending money to my parents to help support them. The first few years I was sending almost all that I earned because my mother has always had a lot of debts…. Then I sent some savings for her to keep for me, and for a long time she lied and said that she had loaned that money to my brother…. Recently I found out that he doesn’t have the money…. That bothered me a lot because I needed to invest that money and it hurt me that she would lie to me…. My mother still owes a lot of money and she is now almost sixty years old. What should I do? The Bible says to honor your father and your mother.

Dear Friend,

We have no way of knowing whether your mother understands the implications of debt, or whether she might have a compulsive buying disorder. But it doesn’t really matter because our advice is the same either way.

Yes, the Bible says that we are to honor our parents. However, it doesn’t say that we should enable them to keep going into debt. From having received your money for so many years, she may actually spend more now, believing that the money will be given to her to pay off the debts.

We recommend that you have a meeting (in person or on video) with your siblings as soon as possible. It is important to know if other siblings are also giving her money, and how they feel about her spending habits.

It would be best if all the siblings could come to an agreement about what to do, but if that is not possible, then find at least one sibling who understands your situation. Decide to work together so that your mother never again receives cash in hand.

We recommend that you help your parents by paying necessary expenses directly rather than through your mother. Many bills these days can be paid online, so set up the necessary accounts with your bank so that you can pay the utilities, the rent, or the insurance by simply logging into your bank account. Then, when your mother asks for money, agree to pay one of her bills instead of sending her money. But never agree to pay for her credit card or other debt.

It is entirely possible that eventually your mother will build up a reputation as someone who doesn’t pay her debts, and that companies will refuse to give her more credit. This needs to happen for her own good, so do not be tempted to rescue her. Since you do not mention your father’s part in any of this, we assume that he has no influence over your mother.

You should fully expect that your mother will be extremely angry and that she will accuse you of not loving her, of deserting her, and of being disrespectful to her. She may tell every relative and friend about how she thinks you have betrayed her. She will try anything to manipulate you into giving her what she wants.

However, when she confronts you in anger, stay calm. Do not allow her manipulation to affect your attitude. Tell her, “I love you, and I have to do what I think is best for you.” When she says she will never speak to you again, or that you are no longer her daughter, respond with, “That is your choice, Mother. In my heart I will always be your daughter and I will always want to speak with you.” Your attitude and your words will show the honor for your mother that God expects.

We wish you the best,