…and All The King’s Men, Couldn’t Put America Back Together Again

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.

Cover of "When Helping Hurts: Alleviating...

Cover via Amazon

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.”

About mtsweat

Seeking the rest that is only promised and found in Christ Jesus, along with my treasured wife of more than twenty-five years, we seek to grow in our relationship with our Heavenly Father, walk with the Holy Spirit as He moves our hearts, loving others always as Jesus loves us, and carry the news of His glory, the wonderful gospel, that gives light and life where there once was only darkness.
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16 Responses to …and All The King’s Men, Couldn’t Put America Back Together Again

  1. Following the recent Bundaberg record floods, when 7500 people were left without a home, a boy of no more than 10 years came, asking for a donation of “a $5 note, or maybe a $10 note” for his school which we knew had been inundated. He had no ID and received no financial aid from us, although we did share the Gospel with him. On contacting the school, we were told he was collecting for himself and the police were aware of his activities.

    We give to charities who come knocking with ID, but when it comes to individual strangers we never give cash. We will give them a feed and sometimes clothing or we’ll offer to help in a practical way – but not give money in hand which can be mis-used on alcohol, drugs, gambling etc.

    As far as government hand-outs are concerned, I guess it is the same there as here. There is a new generation which has NO concept of a working life. Their parents lived on handouts, and they do likewise . . . and they are bringing in another generation with the same ideals.

    Yes, change comes one by one. Contacting these people can be messy and involve set-backs and heartache . . . but what a joy to see a whole family change!

  2. Giving a hand UP rather than a hand OUT.

  3. It is so true that “ministering to someones real needs as opposed to perceived needs takes investment which gets messy. Few people want to get their hands dirty. I have posted about the place my husband and I serve. Of all the churches in the community, we are the only ones that have chosen to live in and become part of the community. I say this not to pat myself on the back or to seek acknowledgement, only to point out the sadness that even in ministry, people seek the monetary over the sacrifice of living where the needy are. I believe by living where they live, I have the opportunity of bringing God’s presence. When God told me to go, and I initially balked, He said ïf not you then who”. My excuses became lame at that point. I have changed more living here, than any of our other ministry assignments, and that I would not change for the temptation of a more lucrative position elsewhere.
    I believe the government was never intended to take care of the poor. We the Church were mandated to do so. It is high time we get to it!

  4. Freedomborn says:

    Hi Mike the comment below * is part of my reply on someone else’s Blog, your message caused me to think on it again, it is not wrong to feel good when we give to help others, God created us that way, how sad if we felt bad and what if we felt good when we did evil or just ignored people in need, eventually we would die spiritually. God tells us it is a greater blessing to give than receive and can we really out give God… He fed me when I ignored Him, He fed me when I didn’t thank Him, He fed me when I thought only my needs were important, He fed me because He Loved me. He feeds me now that I’m disabled and 60 and no one wants to me to work for them… can we really out give God.

    Luke 6:29-31 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

    * In the Greek there is two words for Love one is agape the other is a worldly love, this type of love thinks of self first, God’s Love thinks of others first , if we are to feed Jesus’ sheep our Love needs to be sacrificial like Jesus’ is, we need to put others first, to be willing to be their servant, no we may not need to wash their feet but we may need to clean up their mess or feed and provide clothes for them , or be willing to give them even our last dollar as we share the Hope we have.

    If you said to me Mike feel full on God’s provision, He feeds us abundantly Spiritually and I had not eaten for 3 days and was starving your words would have little impact but if you fed me giving thanks to God for His earthly blessing of food, then I would want to know about His Heavenly food, yes some feel others do not deserve to be helped but what does God say .

    Christian Love from both of us – Anne

    • mtsweat says:

      You are absolutely correct good friend. As believers in Jesus, we are givers by nature. I think the authors of this book simply express the possibility of unfruitful giving. If we are to be good stewards of what God has blessed us with, we must ensure we give where there are true needs, not just habits and addictions needing fed.I think it’s also important that we build relationships with those we are giving to, so we can help and disciple to make possible the Kingdom ways are the ways of blessing. Speaking of blessings, blessings to you!

      • Freedomborn says:

        Hi Mike, I leave it up to God, if someone is in need and He touches my heart, I give , it’s His money anyway, I’m just borrowing it. God’s compassion never lacks His supply….we can’t out give Him.

        Christian Love Always dear friend, you were there for me in the being of my Blog, when I felt so unsure of what it was all about, I will always be grateful that you were not stingy, it’s not just about our money it’s also about out time – Anne

  5. JS Park says:

    Good balanced post. I do think the caricature of a “welfare queen” is ridiculously obtuse (and largely non-existent). But having served the homeless on a long-term, it is indeed a complicated issue. It’s neither as romantic nor evil as either side portrays.

    • mtsweat says:

      I’m glad you added this good friend. Yes, we do tend to exaggerate. As I make my way through the book, I’m finding that I have no less desire to give, but to give meaningfully… in a way that leads to the gospel. There is of course where the answer to everything waits. I think more than anything, I want to believe I’m really helping, not just supporting an addiction. Thanks and blessings.

  6. NEO says:

    You’re right of course, I think most of us know it. We have essentially ruined 2-3 generations this way. It’s easy to mouth the platitudes and on an individual case we can, maybe, make people work for food. institutionally, and when kids are involved, not so much. I’m inclined to think a start is to quit giving money and making rent payments, heat, light, commodity food, payments (no cash at all) in lieu of welfare, and make it tough and somehow we have to quit penalizing people trying to help themselves. How, I wish I knew.

    Keep thinking, Mike, we need to solve this and soon.

    • mtsweat says:

      Very probing and straight to the point points, Neo. I nearly trashed this thing several times before posting, but have really been impacted by this book. Maybe a good starting point is for some to speak up and simply say we’re all supposed to be responsible, contributing citizens to this society. We should also carefully evaluate how we just give handouts, for human nature is such, as we’re finding out, that the hand will continue to reach as long as something keeps getting put in it. The reason is struggled with posting this is I don’t want to leave the impression of an excuse to no longer be givers as Christians. We must give, and joyfully (boy that’s an oxymoron). Anyway I’m continuing through this read… we’ll see where it goes.

      • NEO says:

        That’s a lot of the problem. None of us want people starving in the street, but, what we’re doing now in far too many cases disincentivizes people from doing anything for themselves, Jess has talked about it some there as well. i don’t know that there are any answers yet but we need to think of some. I suspect putting shame back in the equation will be key. i also expect that we will have to teach what shame is.

        It’s a hard one all around.

        • mtsweat says:

          Yep, we possibly have failed to emphasize the importance of every citizen being a contributing part of our society. I think some who get caught in the system just have no clue that their lifestyle is lacking responsibility and value.

  7. Judy says:

    Funny you should write about this…my husband and I just finished that book. I now look back at all the ways I thought I was “helping” and would love some do-overs. The challenge is that to really help requires a long term investment in relationship, and that’s not what Americans do. I believe the church as a tremendous opportunity to lead the culture by demonstrating how to do this well. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s what the church does either.

    • mtsweat says:

      I’m afraid you are very right. I’m also beginning to grasp the reality that if I’m not willing to be the authentic believer Jesus tells me to be, I have little and probably no right to join in on the grumbling no matter how bad it gets. My complaints will be directed toward me. We are vessels with the answer. Thanks good friend and blessings to you. By the way, my wife and I are planning on working through the book together.

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