Nobody Rides for Free

It is hard to achieve balance in benevolence.  In our world, the multitude of tragedies is truly breathtaking.  Good-hearted individuals will seek to meet needs of the impoverished.  On occasion, the exact reasons for deficits are unknown and, sometimes, they are irrelevant.  In such instances, it can be good that the left hand not know what the right is doing.  However, at some point, good intentions enable bad behavior.  It is true that programs and principles designed to reach good ends can be and have been abused by the selfish.

We cannot have lives without poles of tension.  It is hard to teach law and liberality.  Thrift is not the opposite of generosity though so it seem.  Perfection being unattainable and all, we still strive to reach the gold standard in giving and guarding resources.  Human nature, being what it is,
dictates self-interest, and some people are better at recognizing and adjusting for that than others.  The simple truth is we should express grace and expect responsibility in measure and according to means.

Our betters reminded each of us there is no free lunch.  Someone is paying the cost for any meal.  If money grows on trees, my diligent searches have yielded none of the horticultural secrets.  But it does seem that money magically appears in some instances.  The appearance can only be maintained if the recipient is ignorant of the source.  If people have their needs met without knowledge, they miss a basic understanding of life.  Everything has an origin.  The idea that we all share in the welfare of a responsible community wherein we sometimes receive without price does not alleviate us from acknowledging the genesis of gratuity.

The Bible urges (and even commands) us to be considerate of the disenfranchised.  While we are to be benevolent toward all as a matter of principle, some are in greater need than others.  We are to seek, find and meet those shortfalls.  Remembering our Lord forsook His riches and accepted poverty, we are to consider ourselves no better than any person in need.  While it is true that the basis of life is spiritual, it may be impossible to meet spiritual needs without addressing the physical if it means doing that first.  The application of temporal riches may open the door for the administration of true riches.  The Savior’s goal was relief from spiritual and not financial need.

As a counterbalance, much Scripture is devoted to personal responsibility and self-sufficiency.  We are even to believe that a person must work (if able) to be permitted to eat.  Today’s society sees an ever-increasing class of dependency and demand going far beyond basic subsistence.  It is not my point to affirm or deny the details of this complicated issue, only to show that a balance must exist between the seeming contradictions of worth and waste.

God’s word teaches us that we are to bear one another’s burdens, but it also teaches that everyone must shoulder their own responsibility.  Kipling said, “The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”  There are some things we can do together and some things we must do alone.  Idealism is just that…ideal.  If believers and the involved do not recognize these plain facts, the community, spiritual or earthly, is doomed to failure.

Sterl

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