Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Christlike hand-outs: an oxymoron?

My dad is an administrative law judge. Basically, that means he is one of the 6 or so judges in Salt Lake City that decides who gets disability benefits. As you can imagine, I grew up having all kinds of dinner conversations about people coming in for a hearing who were clearly faking a disability so they wouldn't have to work anymore. My dad has story after story of young able-bodied men and women coming in and telling the judge (after being sworn in) that they are unable to work, unable to sit up for more than 2 hours at a time. There are even people so desperate that they walk all the way from the parking lot, up some stairs, through security, only to collapse into the hearing room at just the right moment, with the judge watching! Clearly dishonest.

I bring this up because there are a lot of people out there who think that "tolerance" and "charity" as they are defined today, are Christ-like attributes. As the "haves" in this world, we are only Christ-like if we are giving freely to the "have-nots". I live downtown and I see beggars all the time who ask me for spare change and "$1 to go toward a Motel 8 room" and things. I may be exposing myself too much here, but honestly, I purposefully do not give hand-outs to these folks. Perhaps I am jaded because I grew up with story after story of fakers.

Some people might say, "Well, Hilary! Christ was poor and blessed EVERYONE, no matter if they lived on the street or not." To this I say He did not give one blessing without expecting something from people in return. The cool thing is, though, that what he expected in return was only something that made their lives better. The truth is, he expected them to have faith in order to be healed. The beggars and others who Christ healed had to give Him their belief in Him. In reality, Christ did expect people to do something for themselves, namely, have faith and follow Him.

I think it would not be at all inappropriate to, when a beggar asks you for change, suggest something that will help their station in life. For example, give them a bus token and let them know they can ride the bus and go put in a day's work at Welfare Square where they will get fed for their work and also be given an opportunity for more permanent employment. If they are unwilling to do this, I don't think they need my money. They are a faker.

Here is another thing I've thought about. A lot of liberal people who don't read the Bible think that Christ was this super tolerant, accepting person who just walked around and taught people to love each other. This is true, but there is so much more to the character of Jesus that they are leaving out. In truth, Jesus Christ was very divisive, and most educated people hated him. Why would someone so full of love be hated? Have you ever wondered that, agnostic liberals? It's because Christ required things of people. Remember the woman who was caught in adultery, and those horrible pharisees (basically politicians) brought her to Christ to see what he would say? He told her that her sins were forgiven (the loving gift) and she was to go her way and "sin no more" (the requirement).

This picture is supposed to represent a highly educated liberal

Now, if a highly educated person who believes in pre-marital sex today (I'm sure we all know someone who fits into this category) heard Christ say they should stop breaking that commandment, what do you think their reaction would be? Would they say, "Oh, you're so intolerant of my lifestyle"? Or, "Well, it's not hurting YOU, I'll do what I want!" Either way, I think they would feel offended that someone called them on their poor choice. It's interesting that this same person who would feel offended, can now, in this moment, say that Christ was a great, loving teacher.

I don't know exactly why I'm writing about this. Maybe I'm just pointing out an irony, an inconsistency that has bothered me for a long time. I will end by saying it is okay to expect something from someone you give money to (heck, the government does it all the time!) and also it IS Christ-like to expect people to live by His commandments. Of course, we follow Christ's example and do this all with a heart full of love and patience.


  1. Hillary, I seriously don't think that there's anybody in the world who disagrees with you. Even highly educated liberals. The question is at what point is someone really disabled? As you know most, bordering on all, homeless people suffer from mental illness ranging from depression to schizophrenia. My field concerns itself with the issues you mentioned so allow me to say that the official position of highly educated liberals is that no one should, under any circumstances, give money to homeless people. When they do it undermines the state's efforts to administer social services and actually help people. It's like you're voluntarily paying a second round of taxed while making sure your first round is spent poorly. So now you can feel justified instead of jaded.

    I would say that the real issue between liberals and conservatives isn't that people should work for themselves, the debate is when they should work for themselves. Conservatives think that now is the time whereas liberals are willing to wait awhile. Maybe after some therapy and social services have been provided. It's an interesting debate, one that I participate in professionally so I can say that their are no easy answers, what I hear you saying, similar to Obama's inauguration message is that it's not how much or how little we give, it's whether we effectively help people. That's a message no one would argue with.

    PS I just wrote a defense of socialized medicine on my blog, I'm pretty sure it will change your mind. Let me know.

  2. Also, your picture of an educated liberal looks suspiciously like Ronald Reagan. Am I wrong?

  3. That is a picture of Ronald Reagan. He was an actor and played all sorts of roles, so I figured he wouldn't care too much if I put him on my blog as a liberal. Pretty ironic, huh?

  4. I totally agree with you Hil. One time on a family vacation we stopped for a guy who was holding a sign that said "Need money for food." My dad pulled over and asked if he wanted an unopened box of Ritz crackers and he didn't. Clearly he wasn't hungry enough.

    And about tolerance, I struggle a lot with how to respond to people about this. How many times can I say hate the sin, not the sinner without people listening. We are not supposed to be accepting of everything everyone does, like you said, that is not and never has been the way Christ works. He is forgiving, sure, but forgiveness can only come after repentance. And repentance isn't the same thing as asking people to accept you the way you are. Anyways, rant over. Love ya!