I didn’t want him to think I was prying, or being nosy, or even insinuating something that it sounded an awful lot like I was, but I finally had to ask, “Is this what you really want to do with your life?” By this, I was referring to his having stayed in the same lower-end position for countless years, even turning down a recent opportunity that was offered.
It was as though my consultee had no motivation to advance, to earn more, to take on more responsibility. He quickly assured me that he greatly desired to move up the ladder, but that it wasn’t an option for him right now.
All kinds of stuff ran through my mind. All kinds of stuff except what followed as he continued. What’s sad is that his explanation made perfectly good sense to him.
His explanation was that He now receives X amount of dollars government assistance and unless the move up the ladder is equivalent to the tune of about eight dollars an hour, he will lose much more than he gains. His argument is valid, “I have a wife and children to think about, and right now, they would suffer by my being promoted or even by my getting a raise.”
So I ask, how do you fix that? First, I don’t think that there is one meanie bad guy holding all of the blame here. There is not. I also hope you don’t think I’m just complaining about someone dipping into our tax dollar pot. I am not. If you knew me better, you’d also know that my wife gets onto me often for freely pulling my wallet to every plea. I love to give, and I love that our nation makes provisions to give.
My concern here is that we’ve created a monster who is eating our lunch.
As a young man just out of the U.S. Army, I entered the work force as a mechanic, a trade given generously to me by my military service. I’ll never forget my first paycheck as a civilian. I nearly cried. I made more money in the Army where all of my meals and housing were free. I remember thinking, “Man, I’m going back to see a recruiter.”
But I didn’t. I worked hard. I worked long hours. I took advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves. After a couple of decades of doing this, I began to see the fruits of dedicated commitment.
I think that’s what is missing. Nowadays, too many think they’re supposed to just be able to live like all of the rest of the Jones-es without ever paying any dues. It appears there are two tracks to financial comfort. One is to invest in college or the military or whatever, then work hard. The other is to just fall into the vote-buying give-a-ways of the government. People have come to expect the government to make up the difference with the hard-earned income of the workers of our nation.
If I didn’t convince you that the person I questioned had a wrong mindset of his duty and responsibility before, let me share a little more about him. His house is not just blessed with children, it is overflowing with them. He has eight kids. Because of this, he pays almost nothing each week in payroll taxes. Want to know how much he got back this year filing his income tax return? Would you believe nearly eight thousand dollars?
Are you interested in what he spent his multi-thousand dollar check on? I’m confident your guesses include all kinds of beneficial things like new clothes for the kids, groceries, advance payment on bills (to help control his constant borrowing from co-workers), something special for the wife… no, no, nothing like that. He bought a wore out Harley Davidson. It’s a nice yard ornament now.
Once again, I ask, “How do you fix this?”
I shared with you that I do not believe there’s a single bad guy to look at and throw all of the blame on. Instead, I think our issue is systemic. I think we all have an investment here.
As I make my way through Steve Corbett’s and Brian Fikkert’s excellent read, “When Helping Hurts,” I’m beginning to understand that I hold a vested interest in our nation’s dilemma right along with everyone else. The gist of the author’s message is to inform that there is a right way to help and meet needs, and there is a very wrong way. The very wrong way actually feeds the problem rather than fix it.
To understand the scope of a nation’s lust to get something for nothing, it’s easier to bring the big picture down to a personal level.
As my wife and I dined on burgers and chili at the local Wendy’s on a Sunday afternoon, the inevitable happened. We were approached by a mid-aged and very healthy gentleman, who of course had all kinds of life-threatening medical conditions. He explained he was desperate to gather enough money to purchase his medications. With that familiar “get your wallet out honey, you always do” TC-glare piercing me from across the table, I handed the man a couple of dollars. He quickly made his way out of the restaurant and walked directly across the street to the pharmacy. No, it wasn’t a pharmacy, it was a minute market, and his prescription was a can of beer. I have heard doctors say the stuff is good for what ails you.
Did I help the man or did I feed his problem? See, the authors of this book are trying to get the reader to understand that Christian charity is much messier than throwing dollar bills around to feed addictions.
Maybe a better response would have been, “Sir we will indeed help you get your prescription, but first, will you join us for lunch? We’ll buy.” Here’s another way to examine my assistance, “Did my treatment of this man look more like Jesus or the U.S. Government?” Whose footsteps am I walking in?
I told you that I believe the problem is systemic. Without the love of Christ to compel us, we will all seek self-serving paths. If you are a Christian, you know and live the answer. Simply giving handouts does no more than teach people that it is okay to beg, even steal. Teaching the gospel introduces the very power of God unto salvation. But I don’t think the one I considered myself helping heard the name of Jesus either through a couple of bucks or a can of brew.
He could have though. But only if my mind had been on Christ instead of doing whatever was needed to usher this man along his way, to get him as far from my life of comfort as possible.
So how do we fix the problem on a much larger scale? If you don’t believe we have one, your eyes are closed. Just search the growing numbers of those who are receiving government assistance in some shape or form. It’s of crisis proportion, so much so, that we’re already hearing out of Washington that another tax hike is inevitable, just to keep giving away more free help.
In full agreement with the Bible must come this response, “Your government will never fix the problem that mankind has.” They have neither the ability nor the resources to do so. Contrary to the arguments that will come from both sides of the aisle, no one in our Nation’s Capitol is striving to alleviate our root problem.
As a matter of fact, they’re making things worse, and so are we when we only treat symptoms rather than the illness.
Imagine here if every Christian in the world committed to pouring their life into another life, if every believer intentionally purposed to mentor and disciple the teachings of Jesus. It shouldn’t sound so far-fetched, by the way, since we’re all commanded to do so. What kind of difference would that make in the world around us?
It doesn’t mean we quit helping those who ask for help, much to the contrary, the level of our giving will probably be heightened. What it means is that when we give, we see an open door to do so much more than just feed an addiction, we’ve been invited to invest in a life, and who knows where that leads?
I shared with you a little of my life and how my mindset was to work hard and achieve something. I wasn’t born with that inclination. It was taught to me by a Mom, Dad and Grandparents. It was taught to me by faithful members of my childhood church. They literally gave their lives to being an example of responsibility and duty. But being honest here, there is still something inside of me that would rather there be no demand that I get up and face the grindstone everyday. How neat would it be to just get everything for free and have no responsibility?
The systemic problem left unchecked will become what we are witnessing today. It produces a people who believe everyone else owes them something. They see themselves as especially owed from those who have strived to achieve great accomplishments and success. It leads some to overlook even their own family’s needs so to purchase a Harley. It leads some to march up and down streets with signs, angry because they aren’t getting their birth control pills for free. Honestly, there’s no end to what it can lead to. I regretfully tell you, left unchecked, we haven’t seen anything yet. Total depravity is a very bad thing when unleashed.
We can keep on complaining about Washington; we really can. We can actually do it so that it eventually becomes a lifestyle that defines us. Or, we can do what the Church has historically done; reach lives, one at a time, until the whole world is once again turned upside down for Jesus Christ. We’ll have to do more than warm church pews though, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a little messier than we like. “…choose ye this day.”