I am a single, thirty-three-year-old woman, living with my parents and younger sister…. Since I am the only one with a stable income, I pay for almost all the expenses of the household. My parents’ income only covers the rental of the house.

A few years back I got a loan to cover a significant family need, and I am still paying it down. I’ve given my parents advice about what I believe we should do to improve our situation, but they don’t believe that it’s necessary to change anything. Am I a bad person because there are times that I don’t give more money to the household because I want to go out with my friends? … If there’s a truly significant need, I do give more…. I just feel that my parents could do something to increase their income.

Dear Friend,

We congratulate you for the way that you are honoring your parents by covering many of the household expenses. You don’t mention how old they are, nor why they don’t have a stable income, but you do say that you think that they could do something about it if they wanted to.

Unfortunately for you, the Biblical commandment to honor your father and mother didn’t come with specifics as to whether you should live with them, nor how much money you should provide for them, nor how many times you should be willing to borrow money to bail them out of difficult situations. These specifics depend completely on each situation in particular.

It appears that you suspect you are enabling your parents to be unwise or irresponsible about the work that they do. Since we don’t know your parents, there’s no way for us to know if that is true or even partially true. Either way, however, we do not believe that any adult child should be expected to provide financial resources for parents who could be providing for themselves.

Since you already know that it is your responsibility to pay a portion of the expenses because you live in their home, we suggest that you calculate how much it would cost you to live independently, and that you use that amount as the bare minimum for how much you should contribute. Then add an additional amount to show honor for your parents, and whatever is left after your other expenses can be the amount that you have for recreation and social events.

We believe that it is important for you to have friends and a social life, and we know that it costs money to eat out and attend events. However, since you have been responsible about work and you earn a stable income, your work provides wages to cover reasonable expenses on recreation.

Hopefully, your parents are not the ones who have made you feel guilty about your social life. Although you are their daughter, you are not a child. You must make your decisions based on what you think is right, and not on their opinions. In other words, to honor your parents you must treat them with respect, but you are not required to obey them.

We wish you well,