"A Matter of Choice"

  1. "A Matter of Choice"
    Copyright 11 October 2007, Zashagalka (Used by permission, of course!)

    Here are a few hard truths. First, poverty is a choice. Second, the government’s attempt to address poverty has only made it worse; it would be better, more compassionate, if the government curbed its domestic aid then it would be to continue or expand upon our fifty year legacy of entitlement failure.

    There is a concerted notion afoot to declare poverty as a value neutral station. It is a simple matter of fortune, of being ‘more fortunate’ or ‘less fortunate’. There but by the grace of God go I. Except. It’s not true. Poverty is a state of mind, and a choice. Hard work and just a smattering of ethics do lead the way out of poverty.

    The two most reliable indicators of rising above poverty are full-time employment, and marriage. In the poorest twenty percent of households, the average number of wage earners is one and the average number of hours worked per week is part-time. Even one full-time wage earner is enough, in most cases, to raise a household out of poverty. When two parents work, hard, and together to provide for their children, poverty is defeated. According to the Proverbs, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

    Hard work and marriage, as a vehicle for raising children, are both strong Christian values. Why would that be? Perhaps because both are actions, separately and in tandem, that go far to abate poverty. They are choices.
    More to the point, they are ethical choices. We used to teach these values. We used to treat, not poverty itself, but acts that LEAD to poverty, as shameful. Now, being a single parent is a valid, alternative life choice. Now, we dismiss the choice of laziness as a state of being ‘less fortunate’. In truth, these SHOULD BE shameful choices. Why? Because they are actions that lead to poverty. Because shame is a powerful motivator to discourage unhealthy choices.

    Instead of stigmatizing poverty-inducing behaviors, we have created an entire government bureaucracy to validate such choices. The problem with government-sponsored charity is that values have been declared persona non grata by government; if the government is given the responsibility to care for everyone, then values can have no place in responsibility.

    The results of attempting government branded ‘value-free charity’ are and should be all too foreseeable. In the name of defeating poverty, we have validated the pathways TO poverty. Knowing that having or raising a child out of wedlock is a consistent shackle to poverty, how is removing the penalties for such behavior corrective to address poverty? Knowing that hard work leads the way out of poverty, how does penalizing work aid in reducing poverty? In the name of helping the children, we have fostered environments that allow ever more children to be born into poverty. This is what we call progress?

    For the entirety of human history, families and communities have bent to the task of raising healthy children. As should be. Poverty is unhealthy. In tandem with admonitions against poverty-inducing behaviors, the Bible is a strong advocate of charity to aid in defeating poverty. It is a symmetrical relationship in which poverty is simultaneously discouraged and its victims are aided with both community sufferance and moral correction in order to rise above. Reducing poverty is not just about giving; it’s about encouraging pathways proven to lead OUT of poverty. Unfortunately, that involves a morality our government cannot or will not endorse.

    While poverty is a choice, so is giving. The essential element of giving is the nature of a gift as a non-compulsory act.

    2 Corinthians Chapter 9: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he had decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. . . men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.”

    To believe that it is possible to satisfy a creed of Christian giving within the structure of compulsory taxation completely misses the point of giving. More important, to create an expectation of entitlement completely misses the point of incurring the gratitude – and goodwill, that results in giving. The benefit, on both ends of the equation, is utterly lost. As a result, government induced giving simply cannot be focused in poverty-reducing ways. It cannot be thusly focused because it lacks the moral clarity, wisdom, and forbearance that come with such an act. “Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?” THAT is why government aid is a failure. It misses the fundamental morality of charity, and does so entirely.

    At issue are the real ideals of charity and community. Government simply cannot be a proxy for such things. The result of a prolonged effort to do so is that we have lost our sense of community, and of family. Our nation is not a better place for the effort. The poor are not better off by systematically devastating the values that accompany family and community supports that can weather difficult times. “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Government money, absent morality, is just such an evil in our poor communities.

    Make no mistake. Government ‘aid’ is neither charity nor compassion. Poverty is a matter of choice. Lost to a deaf crowd that advocates defining community and charity through government is the fundamental observation that community and charity are choices that cannot be compelled, as well. The government has never been moral enough or charitable enough to make up the difference for what it has traded in the name of so-called compassion. And never will be.

    ~faith,
    Timothy.
    Last edit by ZASHAGALKA on Oct 11, '07
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  2. 29 Comments

  3. by   ElvishDNP
    Quote from ZASHAGALKA
    “Money is the root of all kinds of evil.”
    Ok, I'll bite first.
    The whole phrase is "The love of money is the root of all evil." 1 Tim 6:10.

    Second - I can see this thread as rapidly degenerating into the 'You must not really [be a Christian, understand the Scripture, pick your phrase] or you would [agree, disagree, pick your verb].

    I will stay out of it.
    Last edit by ElvishDNP on Oct 11, '07 : Reason: typo
  4. by   Spidey's mom
    We can work as Tim's editors . . . . he'll fix the "LOVE OF MONEY" part. Or maybe he does mean that "money" is the root of all evil . . but I doubt it.

    Even if you leave the "Christian" out of it . . . this makes sense because encouraging intact families, education and hard work is the means to get folks out of poverty and just about every religion teaches that.

    Also, the government role is not to be, as Tim says, "Uncle Daddy". We as individuals should be picking up the role to help those in need. And it used to be that way.

    It will be hard to go back to that since there are so many many folks on the dole now. But it doesn't hurt to start.

    Volunteering as a mentor at a local high school or with a young single mom can do wonders for those in need. My in-laws have befriended a young woman with 2 kids whose husband is in jail for an illegal drug charge. They write to him every week and he writes back. They made sure the kids had clothes for school, have money for lunch, have groceries. They have helped the mom find a job and get help with her depression. We take their garbage to the dump once a week. Just one family can be helped - but the ramifications might just be huge.

    steph
    Last edit by Spidey's mom on Oct 11, '07 : Reason: typos
  5. by   ElvishDNP
    Quote from stevielynn
    We can work as Tim's editors . . . . he'll fix the "LOVE OF MONEY" part. Or maybe he does mean that "money" is the root of all evil . . but I doubt it.
    The reason I pointed it out was NOT to be nitpicky, but to point out the difference that there is a HUGE difference between money being evil and the love of money being evil. Christ Himself said we can't serve God and money, but He did pay his taxes.

    I'm all for encouraging intact families, education, and hard work. Those are all great things. My big problem is that so many people I see who call themselves Christians and use that to say they won't condone gov't aid etc. etc. for whatever reason -- so many of those same people do absolutely nothing in their private lives to help their fellow man. That's what makes me really angry. If you (universal you) want to do away with gov't aid (which in an ideal world we wouldn't need....), then by golly, you better be a big advocate for volunteering, donating, and generally helping out your fellow man. I wish more people who call themselves Christians were like the example you quoted, steph. If people who say they are Christians don't back it up with some action in some form, I lose a lot of respect for what they have to say about anything else.

    If we're going to debate the point, then fine. But putting it all on a Christian vs. non-Christian or understanding/misunderstanding Scripture plane is not necessary.

    Didn't I say I wasn't going to get in this one?! :selfbonk:
  6. by   ZASHAGALKA
    Quote from Arwen_U
    Ok, I'll bite first.
    The whole phrase is "The love of money is the root of all evil." 1 Tim 6:10.

    Second - I can see this thread as rapidly degenerating into the 'You must really [be a Christian, understand the Scripture, pick your phrase] or you would [agree, disagree, pick your verb].

    I will stay out of it.
    Ok. NIV "For the love of money is a root of all KINDS of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wondered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

    That does indeed sound like our current social welfare system.

    I'm not sure I understand your point, as your correction doesn't change MY point, a bit.

    But, I made this minor correction.

    Here is a deleted paragraph from the above, that addressed your point, but was holding back the flow of the rest of the commentary:

    "More than that, government ‘aid’ crowds out real charity. Americans are so put upon to pay for failed entitlement programs that both the physical means and the spiritual goodwill to give in a truly charitable manner have been taxed to the breaking point. It’s hard to give when the monster of government consumes a third of your salary. It’s harder still to give when that monster has created an attitude of unthankful entitlement in those that should otherwise be grateful recipients."


    Even WITH the gov't crowd out of charity, Americans are STILL the most charitable people in the world. I don't understand why you think people WOULDN'T be charitable, and even MORE so, if they had greater control of THEIR money. That's what Americans do.

    ~faith,
    Timothy.
    Last edit by ZASHAGALKA on Oct 11, '07
  7. by   ElvishDNP
    Hey Tim,
    Didja read my second post? Might clear things up a bit. If not, sorry. I tried.

    It would seem as though we are two mountain goats who don't call it a good day unless we've butted heads a few times.

    ETA: The reason I think people wouldn't be charitable is that we are humans. And we are greedy. We like to keep what is ours. I'm not saying nobody would be charitable, or that we're incapable of being charitable. I'm just saying that because we are imperfect humans who live in a fallen world, that our tendency is going to be toward selfishness and greed. That's part of the spirit vs. flesh conflict, IMO. I have seen with my own eyes 'Christians' who wouldn't know the charity of Christ from their elbow. That is the point I was trying to make.
    Last edit by ElvishDNP on Oct 11, '07
  8. by   ZASHAGALKA
    Quote from Arwen_U
    Hey Tim,
    Didja read my second post? Might clear things up a bit. If not, sorry. I tried.

    It would seem as though we are two mountain goats who don't call it a good day unless we've butted heads a few times.

    ETA: The reason I think people wouldn't be charitable is that we are humans. And we are greedy. We like to keep what is ours. I'm not saying nobody would be charitable, or that we're incapable of being charitable. I'm just saying that because we are imperfect humans who live in a fallen world, that our tendency is going to be toward selfishness and greed. That's part of the spirit vs. flesh conflict, IMO. I have seen with my own eyes 'Christians' who wouldn't know the charity of Christ from their elbow. That is the point I was trying to make.
    Re-read the rest of MY above post, as I added to it.

    I disagree. I don't think people are inherently greedy. I think humans are created in the image of God. I think we are inherently good, as a people. I think that essential goodness was a crucial ingredient that allowed us to live together in society. You have to have some basic goodwill in order to peacefully co-exist, whether we define that as family, community, society, or even world.

    Humans are basically noble people. Given the opportunity and freedom to do so, I believe people will do the right thing, more often than not. ESPECIALLY if they are seasoned with just a touch of values.

    I fundamentally believe that Americans are proof of that.

    ~faith,
    Timothy.
  9. by   ElvishDNP
    Quote from ZASHAGALKA
    I disagree. I don't think people are inherently greedy. I think humans are created in the image of God. I think we are inherently good, as a people. I think that essential goodness was a crucial ingredient that allowed us to live together in society. You have to have some basic goodwill in order to peacefully co-exist, whether we define that as family, community, society, or even world.

    Humans are basically noble people. Given the opportunity and freedom to do so, I believe people will do the right thing, more often than not. ESPECIALLY if they are seasoned with just a touch of values.
    Of course humans are created in God's image....but back in the garden humankind chose to sin. We still have that choice today, and we all choose it at some point and in some way. We are not perfect.

    C.S. Lewis said that we will be disappointed counting on men because the best of men will fail us at times, and all will die. Those aren't the exact words, but pretty close. I would like to think that's not true, but in the fallen world that we live in, people DO fail. They DO make wrong choices.

    I would agree with you that most people will probably do the right thing. Most of the time. At least by society's standards, if that's the measure you're using. But most of the time is not good enough if it's MY child that's hungry and I have to prostitute myself to pay for his food while I'm going to night school to work my way out of the homelessness that happened due to circumstances out of my control. I may not have family around that can help.

    To take government completely out of it? Only when we as a people step up to the plate and run the government out of business. That would be a great day indeed.
  10. by   Spidey's mom
    Arwen . . . . I don't know how to explain it except maybe the folks you meet who call themselves Christians and rant against the government, do their "good deeds" in private. Without boasting.

    I am surrounded by people in this small community who reach out almost every single day. Christians and not Christians.

    I gave the example of my in-laws . . . . I'm not going to talk about what my dh and I and our kids do as we keep that private. (Well, except y'all know I go to Vietnam).

    There is a ranch here that started with the birth of a child with Down's Syndrome. His parents wanted to give adults with disabilities a place to live and grow and love. It is a working ranch. These 15 or so adults attend all the local high school events (athletics, musicals, plays, etc.). Our basketball team coaches them to get ready for the Special Olympics every year. I get a big hug every Sunday from Rusty, the son whose parents started the ranch and whose sis and hubby now run the ranch.

    We have a community food pantry and all the local churches donate $ or food as do regular old community members.

    We have a fundraiser every year for the local women's shelter.

    I dunno . . . . I think if we start looking around, we will see that more people than we realize are donating time, attention, money, love, prayers, etc. They just don't talk about it.

    At least I hope that is happening in your community.

    steph
  11. by   ZASHAGALKA
    I want to discuss this 'love of money' thing a little more, because I didn't have enough time to, before.

    Financial management guru Dave Ramsey says that money is amoral. It is a thing, without any moral value, in itself. It derives its value from its use, or more to the point, from its user. Rich people who are stingy would be stingy, if they were poor. Rich people who are generous would be generous, if they were poor.

    This is at the core of what I am trying to say with this commentary. The KEY issue at play with charity is the nature of the gift: imparting into that gift a morality. Charity isn't given in a vacuum; it is normally given with a healthy dose of morality and expectation. Communities that support their poor also strongly encourage them to avoid behaviors that continue poverty. Charity is a good because it is a MORAL good.

    Gov't is a different story. By removing the giver's intent from money, that intent is transferred to the recipient. Value free charity means that, instead of those dollars being focused for good, they are focused by whatever intent the recipient desires. This is fundamental because the end result is that such charity is not charged with a morality that SEEKS to avoid poverty inducing behaviors.

    Christianity, and indeed, most religions, haven't just made up some arbitrary moral code. The creed of Christianity is time honored and tested to provide a means for a happy, peaceful life, if followed. So, 'preaching morality' with my charity dollars isn't just some cost of receiving; it is the goal of giving. I don't just want my dollars to go into charitable efforts; I want the wisdom that makes those dollars blossom to go with it.

    Government can't do that. THAT is why gov't entitlements fail, and always will.

    Your point about the love of money is what I meant and so, the clarification doesn't distract from my message. The gov't filtering AWAY the intent of charity and placing it, value free, in the hands of all too often ungrateful recipients, defeats the purpose of charity.

    ~faith,
    Timothy.
  12. by   ElvishDNP
    Quote from stevielynn
    Arwen . . . . I don't know how to explain it except maybe the folks you meet who call themselves Christians and rant against the government, do their "good deeds" in private. Without boasting.

    I am surrounded by people in this small community who reach out almost every single day. Christians and not Christians.
    Maybe.

    I'm not asking that people boast about their good deeds. That's most definitely not the point.

    But I do think its fair to ask people to back up their words with actions. If you say you are a Christian, act like it. Love people. No Arizona Minutemen (an extreme example, I know. Just making a point.) If you back up your faith with some deeds, I am not talking about you.

    The church that I go to has a wonderful inner-city ministry and has purposely placed itself in the 'unsafe' inner-city for that reason. There are various nursing home and women's prison ministries within the church, and this is not a big church (<100 members). I am all for it and support and try to live it the best way I know.

    I'm just saying that there is not much that angers me more than people who give Christ lip service and go out the door and don't have the foggiest notion that there are people out there hurting and in need of so much. Even less, the idea that THEY should reach out to said people. There's not much that gives Christians a worse reputation. (Parenthetically, in this area anyway, those are usually the same folk who tend to rail against the gov't. Maybe one has nothing to do with the other, but it's something I can't help but notice.)

    Lest I get misunderstood: I'm not saying you can't reach out to/love people if you don't call yourself a Christian. I'm just saying you can't call yourself a Christian and NOT do it. And if every person who says they're a Christian would do it, we would probably not be having this debate.

    I think I've said just about all I need to say.
    Last edit by ElvishDNP on Oct 11, '07
  13. by   Spidey's mom
    Quote from Arwen_U
    Maybe.

    I'm not asking that people boast about their good deeds. That's most definitely not the point.

    But I do think its fair to ask people to back up their words with actions. If you say you are a Christian, act like it. Love people. No Arizona Minutemen (an extreme example, I know. Just making a point.) If you back up your faith with some deeds, I am not talking about you.

    The church that I go to has a wonderful inner-city ministry and has purposely placed itself in the 'unsafe' inner-city for that reason. There are various nursing home and women's prison ministries within the church, and this is not a big church (<100 members). I am all for it and support and try to live it the best way I know.

    I'm just saying that there is not much that angers me more than people who give Christ lip service and go out the door and don't have the foggiest notion that there are people out there hurting and in need of so much. Even less, the idea that THEY should reach out to said people. There's not much that gives Christians a worse reputation. (Parenthetically, in this area anyway, those are usually the same folk who tend to rail against the gov't. Maybe one has nothing to do with the other, but it's something I can't help but notice.)

    Lest I get misunderstood: I'm not saying you can't reach out to/love people if you don't call yourself a Christian. I'm just saying you can't call yourself a Christian and NOT do it. And if every person who says they're a Christian would do it, we would probably not be having this debate.

    I think I've said just about all I need to say.
    No, you make good points.

    One of Tim's points is we've have over 40 years of the government picking up the tab and maybe that is part of the reason people don't step up . . . .

    I recently was part of a discussion regarding embryonic stem cells - of course my belief is from a Christian standpoint and that is souls are present at conception. This person made a remark about Christians who are prolife but don't care about the baby after it is born. That almost enrages me . . . . most Christians at least donate money to organizations that help young women. I've been part of California Pro-life for 20 years. We donate money to an adoption organization. (oops, I'm boasting here . . . ). My church, as mentioned in another thread, paid for a motel room for a teen mom after her baby was born, I brought her food, another member found a place for her to live nearby in a home for women in her situation. She was considering adoption. We contacted an estranged family member and started a conversation with them and this young girl. Her grandmother ended up taking her in. We check up on her - she went back to school and grandma babysits.

    People on all sides need to not buy into the stereotypes . . .like Christians only care about babies long enough to get them born and then they walk away. This is so very untrue and unfair.

    I'm babbling . . . just thoughts coming into my brain . . . I really think we need to make it mandatory for high school students to do some community service. Not just picking up trash - something that would make a huge impression on them and make a difference in another human being's life.

    The crux of it is, the government can't do this. It only creates apathy.

    steph
  14. by   ZASHAGALKA
    Consistent with the idea that a government filter removes the morality vested in charity and transfer the concept of values to the recipient is that SOME recipients will use such aid in moral, life-improving ways.

    Yes. Gov't aid is a boon to some BECAUSE they invest their own values into such aid.

    It is far from consistent.

    Worse, those that do NOT invest morality into such aid can and do use such aids to make their lives and communities much worse for the effort.

    You cannot make charity such a hit or miss notion. Some good is NOT offset by some evil.

    The problem is that charity should be directed with values attached. Those values mean something. This isn't about religion, per se. It is about a code of ethics that teach AVOIDING PATHS TO POVERTY.

    Gov't is simply NOT an effective vehicle for charity. It is NOT effective because our gov't eschews taking a stake in values. When it comes down to it, a free people should not empower the gov't to take a major stake in their lives. The side effect of that is, to the extent such a gov't DOES try to take responsibility for citizens, it cannot do so effectively. It cannot because we have restricted the gov't from participating in the values that go hand in hand with such responsibility.

    ~faith,
    Timothy.
    Last edit by ZASHAGALKA on Oct 11, '07

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