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…
“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:
“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.