A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

No Entitlements, All Is Gift

There is a sense in which one could say no one is entitled to anything.  NO ONE.  But not for the reasons you might think.  No one is entitled to anything because EVERYTHING we have or could ever want can only be given to us as gift.  All that we have and all that we are is a gift from God. 

I know this goes against the American mindset.  We are rugged individuals.  We pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps.  There is some value in this idea: encouraging strong work ethic and belief anyone can be anything he or she wants to be.  The reality is far different, however.  Our success, our wealth, our well-being, none of it is of our creation ex nihilo, (fancy latin for “out of nothing.” I am not trying to be pretentious I just like that phrase.)  We might think we have earned what we have by hard work but let’s be honest.  We can all think of someone who works harder than we do and has less.  Perhaps it is a single mom who works three jobs to support her family and just barely gets by.  Perhaps it is someone who has had a string of bad luck or an illness.  Or we know second-hand of women in Africa who walk miles and miles just to get water.   Perhaps we think we earned what we have by sacrifices we have had to make along the way.  Surely our sacrifices are not as great as a war veteran unable to hold down a job due to PTSD.  

Even aside from dodging the hard knocks of life, none of us have come to be where we are by ourselves.  Our hard earned education required things like family support, teachers, government supported education systems, bus drivers, cooks, custodians, etc.  Our success at education was due in a large part to underlying intelligence which we did not wrest into being ex nihilo.  (Side note: I keep misspelling the word “intelligence,” which makes me want to add “or lack there of.”)  Our wise choices are only made possible by good upbringing, good education or innate practical sense none of which are our own doing.  

God has graced us with the abundance of creation and our own God given gifts and abilities.  Those gifts and abilities have been nurtured by others, and our path through life has been made smoother in many ways by many who have gone before us.  Luck likely plays a role in our fortune too.  That doesn't leave a whole lot of room for our own pride.  So, let's set aside our pride and acknowledge low intelligence should not be something punishable by death through starvation nor mental illness punishable by homelessness nor illness punishable by bankruptcy.  I have had enough of talk about moochers.  We are mooching off the moochers.  We mooch off of them using them as an excuse not to help others.

Even if you disagree with all of the above, posting comments about people on food stamps and talking about moochers makes it even harder for those who are experiencing hard times and need a helping hand.  These comments come across as generalizations whether they are intended to be or not.  You do not know who among your friends may have needed food stamps at some point in their lives. Let’s show some compassion and some basic humility.  Let’s acknowledge that all we have is a gift and much of what we have could be taken away with a little bad luck or a simple mistake.  Those who are in need of “entitlement programs” are not as different from those who have “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps” as we would like to think.

Let’s wrest some compassion ex nihlio...okay that doesn’t even make sense.  I just like to say that phrase ex nihilo, ex nihilo, ex nihilo....


angie brotz said...

We as Christians should tithe and give our first 10% to God (church). If we can give more we should and give to charities. We that work should pay taxes. However, when the government wants to raise my taxes and take more out of my paycheck, I do have a problem with that. I want to decide where to give my money. The government as a charity will never work.

Anonymous said...

Magnificent! (As usual. :-P )

Sheri Ellwood said...

Angie, thanks so much for your comment and taking the time to read this! It is so appreciated. I looked back over my blog to see where the topic of taxes was. I was not trying to say anything about taxes but simply suggesting we should be more compassionate and humble in regards to those who benefit from "entitlement" programs. Sadly I think those in positions of power have done a great job of drawing us into us vs. them mentality so that when we hear a defense of the poor we assume it means something bad for us. If they benefit we must lose. I don't think it has to be that way at all. Taxes and government as charity is another topic maybe for another blog:)

Anonymous said...

Point well taken. There are so many "unknowns" in each of our lives, we would do well to never assume "knowing" all about someone else. I can't imagine anyone who has never needed an extended hand from another. Your final comment about compassion is just that: the very appropriate final word.