Do the “unable” (or “unwilling”) have a moral responsibility to the “able” who foot the bill?

I wrote a column for the local paper based on a part of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, it appears here as the post titled, The Railroad Unification Plan. Lots of folks on the right are reading Rand due to the lurch to the left of Obama and the Democrats in Washington.

Rand’s Objectivist philosophy talks about the evil of enslaving the able to the unable (or the unwilling).

On Friday, Obama said that the American government had a responsibility to make the U.S. the best place in the world to do business, but companies have a responsibility to invest in the nation’s future by keeping jobs here, hiring workers and paying decent wages, implying that there should be a quid pro quo relationship.

The folks on the left say that the productive people (those evil rich) have a duty and responsibility to pay for programs and be taxed progressively to fund  more for those who aren’t as successful – 99 weeks of unemployment, entitlement programs, etc.  The right is constantly attacked as heartless, selfish, angry, insensitive and worse. The Tea Party movement is smeared as racist because they want cuts in spending and minorities benefit disproportionally from government programs.

Following the logic above, my question is this – if businesses do have a quid pro quo relationship with government and it is the duty and responsibility of the more fortunate to fund more and more programs, do the recipients of those payments and the beneficiaries of those programs have a moral responsibility to the people who fund those programs and if so, what is that responsibility?

Or in less complex terms, do the “unable” (or unwilling) have a moral responsibility to the  ”able” who foot the bill?

In the context of the question, I’m speaking of those who are physically and mentally able to contribute to society. For example – if one has received 99 weeks of unemployment, should they volunteer (not forced) at a homeless shelter, Habitat for Humanity or a similar non-profit enterprise?

I ask the question because I think that this is one of issues that I struggle with the most. I think that people have become conditioned to take help for granted and see it as something that they are just due.

I’m from a small town in north Mississippi and I can remember our church helping two families who had rough patches. The congregation gave them food, paid their utilities and rent and generally helped them out. In return, the mom and the older kids came to the church twice a week and cleaned the church and cooked in the church kitchen. The dad’s and the older sons provided the labor to paint the church and the parsonage.

Nobody asked them to do anything, they felt compelled to return the kindness shown them in any way they could.

But this was Christian charity, commanded by God, not governmental dole, provided by man – big difference…

I think the famous theologian of the 1700’s, Jonathan Edwards explained it well, he states:

“It is the duty of the people of God to give bountifully for the aforesaid purpose. It is commanded once and again in the text, “Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy poor brother.” Merely to give something is not sufficient. It answers not the rule, nor comes up to the holy command of God. But we must open our hand wide. What we give, considering our neighbor’s wants, and our ability, should be such as may be called a liberal gift. What is meant in the text by opening the hand wide, with respect to those that are able, is explained in Deu. 15:8, “Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his want, in that which he needeth.” By lending here, as is evident by the two following verses, and as we have just now shown, is not only meant lending to receive again; [for] the word lend in Scripture is sometimes used for giving; as in Luke 6:35, “Do good and lend, hoping for nothing again.”

But the Bible also commands against idleness and sloth, sloth being one of the 7 deadly sins:

2 Thessalonians 3:10

“For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

It is my opinion that people who receive taxpayer aid do, in fact, bear a moral responsibility to perform some sort of value added activity in exchange for the support that they receive, even if it is nothing more than picking up trash alongside the highway. People will say that it is not my place to judge and that menial jobs will damage their self esteem, but my questions to those people would be, 1) do I not have a right to expect that the taxes I pay are used to change a life instead of just more status quo?, 2) Isn’t the very point of support to provide a basis from which a person can improve their situations?, and 3) Honest work is honest work, how much worse is it on someone’s self-esteem if they sit around doing nothing and eventually feel hopeless and worthless?

I asked my friend, the Reverend Entrekin, for another look at a Biblical perspective. Here’s what he had to say:

I think you are right on target. The Bible says if a man does not work he should not eat. II Thessalonians 3: 10 ” For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any WOULD NOT WORK, neither should he eat.”

Take not that Paul says any that would not work, not cannot as in unable to work. I have found, as I am sure you have, that we all find ourselves in need at some point in one way or another. Some are unable to work and should be cared for. I see this as more f a mission that the church should be addressing versus the state.

I also know that some find themselves in a place of no home, no money, and self- medicating. The drug of choice is most often alcohol. Again, the church should be addressing these. We recently had a great success with a man in his 50’s who had not been home (around his family) in 20 years. He had not been a church in 20 years and when we found him he was living in a tent off Back Beach road.

Should the state move in and pay him? I think if that happened the money, as other monies he had obtained, would have gone to buy alcohol, but by doing what Christ said to do (love and not judge) we provided a Thanksgiving meal, treating him as an equal looking at him, not down at him.

He started attending church and the more he came the less alcohol we smelled. Long story short he is now back with his family, has a job and is still attending church now with his family.

His name is David. David knew he needed help, but he never asked for money, in fact he came up his second Sunday with a hand full of change after service asking where the offering plate was.

I have seen grown men and women with government issued free cell phones, food stamps and government housing. I have hardly ever seen the desire in these persons that I have seen in the Davids.

I know that what the scripture tells us is true. If a man would not work, he should not eat. We are all called to give something.  Creation itself teaches us that this is in fact the way. Nothing that has been created fails to give back.  If it does, it ceases to exist. A seedless apple tree once it dies has left nothing.

The homeless we feed are now helping feed others. Ninety-nine weeks of unemployment is not the answer.

Self-confidence, self-worth, and a knowledge of what an old pastor said once “That God don’t make no junk” is what is needed.

10 thoughts on “Do the “unable” (or “unwilling”) have a moral responsibility to the “able” who foot the bill?

  1. [Lots of folks on the right are reading Rand due to the lurch to the left of Obama and the Democrats in Washington.]

    That’s a strawman argument if I ever saw one. Obama has continued many of the failed conservative policies of Bush, such as the tax cuts that have put us in debt for over 14 trillion dollars. He hasn’t gotten regulations that will prevent another banking failure.

    Saying the Democrats have lurched to the left is just a lie told by the right-wing sheep.

    As far as unemployment — due to our insane tax laws, there has been a huge flood of our jobs to other countries so there aren’t jobs available for a lot of people. And Obama hasn’t done anything about that, either.

    • Sorry. Bush’s spending was not met with happiness from conservatives but his part of the 14B pales in comparison to what Obama has done. Bush was no conservative in his 2nd term, a moderate at best.

      The comment is not a strawman, it is a statement of fact. Rand’s books have had an increase in sales since 2008. The meat of the post is the question of the morality of recieving aid and what those people owe society – my point was that they owe more than just the maintenance of a status quo.

      • No, the strawman was saying that the country has “lurched to the left.” We’re currently still far to the right of what we had back in the 90s. You remember the 90s… when we had balanced budgets and a booming economy?

        • Sure do. I also remember prosperity under Reagan, and a Republican congress during the Clinton administration.

          I get it, you are one of the true believers that thinks Obama isn’t left enough but I didn’t say that the country had moved left, other than Obama winning in 2008, there is little to indicate that. It is a center/right country. November 2nd moved the government in closer alignment to the populace.

      • No, we’re a center left country. The majority likes things like Medicare, Social Security, our national parks, the safety net, and there was even a majority for the public option for health insurance, but Obama took it off the table before he even reached the bargaining table. The House of Representatives represents the leanings of the public and it’s been Democratic far more than Republican.

        As far as Reagan, we had 12% unemployment under Reagan. Carter’s administration had lower unemployment than Reagan’s first term, and Carter inherited a miserable economy from Nixon/Ford.

        Face it… you can’t defend Republicans without lying. That makes you a sheep.

        • Sure we are. That’s why the Republicans picked up 60+ seats in the elections and why Pew found that more people identify as conservative than liberal by as 38% to 24% margin.

      • Nope, Republicans took control of the House because liberals got thrown under the bus with Obama’s constant pandering to conservatives. We didn’t have any reason to go out and vote.

        As far as the Pew research, it’s true that most people consider themselves to be fiscally conservative. Republicans are anything but fiscally conservative. Radical is the only way to describe their policies.

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