The Missing Morality of Entitlements

If you’ve been within sightline or even earshot of the American news within the last few years, you’ve heard the word “entitlements” from the political right and “rights” from the political left. To say it’s a hot topic would be a severe understatement. That’s because it’s not just a political plank for candidates, but something that hits Americans at home.

Every last one of us.

Because we’re either paying for someone else’s benefit, or benefiting from someone else’s payment.

During a scene in the Republican debate in Mesa, Arizona earlier this week, Senator Rick Santorum made an interesting statement – and since I can’t find evidence to the contrary, especially from the liberal media, I must assume it’s accurate:

When I was born, less than 10 percent of the federal budget was entitlement spending. It’s now 60 percent of the budget. Some people have suggested that defense spending is the problem. When I was born, defense spending was 60 percent of the budget. It’s now 17 percent. If you think defense spending is the problem, then you need a remedial math class to go back to.

Certainly a fascinating statistic. But if this is simply a debate about spending, then we’ve missed the point as a nation.

There is a direct connection between assistance and morality.

No one would argue that there are not serious physical and mental needs in any society, including the United States. While we certainly have the highest living standard in the world per capita, our sheer size merits a large amount of need. Any forward thinking society must do due diligence is thinking through how to meet those needs; to ignore it is tantamount to genocide – wiping out the class of the frail and seemingly incompetent.

What must be decided is who is best equipped to manage the need-meeting. The importance of this subject goes far beyond who’s a better money manager, it goes into ethics.

What’s so staggering about Santorum’s quote is not the comparison with military spending, but with the timeline of what America was like when he was born (May 10, 1958) and what she is like today. We are decidedly a far more liberal culture, and more accepting of violence, sexual immorality, and horror, especially through the portals of television, music and the internet. Just 10 years before Santorum was born, the first time a couple had ever been seen sleeping in the same bed was on the Mark Kay and Johnny show. In its day it was considered blasphemy; how much more what we see on major networks at almost any hour of the day in 2012?

So what’s the connection?

As entitlements and people dependent on free handouts has grown – whether services or checks – so too has our culture’s capacity and desire for the immoral. While I don’t have enough statical evidence to draw finite conclusions, I feel confident in that the availability of the free, devoid of accountability and non-contingent on personal work ethic, erodes the senses of a human heart and devalues our sense of self-worth. As such the moral compass spins erroneously until it is finally stowed away, inaccurate and untrustworthy.

Does free human assistance have a place in society then?

Absolutely. But it must be tied to an element which the government can not and should not give. That of the divine.

Human assistance may be free, but it is very expensive. Jesus understood this the most, thus why he claimed that anyone willing to follow him would never thirst again, but the price was the person’s soul. He literally purchased complete human health in every facet with his blood –  the key word being purchased. No amount of taxes, spending, “revenue creation,” or donations can come close to what he spent his inheritance on: the entire human condition.

Free care without the kiss of the divine leaves a human soul destitute and wandering. Therefore aid must come from entities equipped not only to help meet physical needs, but to answer the questions of the heart.

While I believe there are many primarily non-profit institutions able to handle the core needs within their environments, I still argue that it is local churches who were intended to shoulder the majority of this burden. And while our governmental entitlement system may never fully recover to a place of health, nor will the Church be able to bear the financial and medial needs of millions of Americans, we can and should be adding our part to the conversation, which is marrying the physical needs being met by the government with the spiritual needs which must be met by the Church. Only then will we see an easing of the incessant and out-of-control entitlement spending, and a resurgence of a self-motivated, hardworking, diligent society.

Benjamin Franklin said:

I am for doing good to the poor, but…I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed…that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.

Government handouts can not meet the human need for identity and self-worth. Only Jesus can. And if Jesus lives in you, then only you can. While voting more conservative spenders into places of authority over the coming years may help slow the problem, only the intervention of the divine through the conduct of the Christian can turn the mire of the present into the foundation of the future. ch:

 

  • Victoria Herrera

    I completely agree. I think that it should never be the government’s job to care for the less able. That is something we should do for each other and more importantly, the church should be doing (and using it as a witness tool!). Jesus called us (the church) to be His hands and feet and what better way to do so than to help those that aren’t able to help themselves. If these programs ever become privatized, I think we will see a huge cut in the government’s need to include entitlement spending in the budget.

    • “If these programs ever become privatized, I think we will see a huge cut in the government’s need to include entitlement spending in the budget.”

      I sometimes wonder if that is a threat to the progressive movement as they appear to loathe the relinquishing of power, budgetary most especially.

    • Victoria Herrera

      Its most certainly is a threat as it would create a society with more independent people (gasp!) and that would mean less votes for them. As a progressive, you’ve got to keep people dependent on you to keep getting votes!

      • Isn’t it sick that we’d make peoples’ welfare our own mealticket for an elected “service” position?

        I’d like to know how many Jesus-loving Christians are Progressive and why.

  • james

    Step back governement, step forward church. No more nanny state. The every reaching hang of the federal governement has to be brought under control. The government does have a place at the table of poverty, but it should not be at the head, it was never intended to be that way. Read the consitution. Jesus in the hearts of believers should be the primary seat. Churchs should be the backbone. Help enough to get people back on their feet, do not create an entitlement state. Chris, interesting observation about the slide of morality coninciding with the rise of the entitement.

    • Thanks James.

      And for those on the left struggling with this line of thought, I think you made a great point:

      “The government does have a place at the table of poverty, but it should not be at the head, it was never intended to be that way.”

      It’s far too idealist to conceive that the government could back out now. We’re simply too dependent. But it can take it’s proper place at the table, as you further outlined. Well said.

  • Awesome post dude! Decently informative, and I love your heart on it (which I’ve heard you say many times before ;))

    • Thanks Costa. And thanks for always hearing my heart on things, even when my verbiage doesn’t get them right.

  • josh p

    I have noticed recently that the left has employed a tactic, and lie, in which they state that not supporting entitlements is un-Christlike. I have read articles, one of which, I believe was on some red letter Christian site, saying that the conservative right “hated” Jesus because the did not support entitlements for the poor. I believe that this is a dangerous mindset, and was very pleased to read a concise and well writen response here today. Thank you, Mr. Hopper.

    • Thanks for sharing Josh.

      What’s amazing is that scripture, especially New Testament teachings, all emphasize stewardship, benefits based on competency, and reward based on diligence. While grace certainly factors into the equation, “gifting” is increased based upon performance.

  • Amanda

    I very much agree and have been faced with this issue many times in the last few months. It makes me ask the question that I have been asking myself recently and for which I still have no answer: How do you show tough love, while still showing love? How can I be a good Christian woman: loving, kind, and gentle AND at the same time stay true to my standards (not being pulled down by others) AND not allow others walk all over me?

    It’s such a fine balance that I have not figured out yet.

    This type of situation – one taking care of the many (who merely do not WANT to take care of themselves) – ruins relationships and breaks hearts.

    • This is SUCH a fantastic question, Amanda.

      The best answer I can give is essentially highlighting the role and importance of the person of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because only he knows what true justice is, defined as “the right thing for the right person at the right time.” Life without him either binds us to a restricting set of rules that quench life, or allow us room to do anything we want and devastate ourselves and those around us.

  • Brett

    Great post:

    I must preface my post by saying, I rarely share posts. However, I would be remiss in this case to not comment on a topic I too am passionate about.

    I have to agree with your perspective. I think it is also very important to take into account the politics being played in regards to entitlements. The progressive movement thrives on the ability to keep people dependent on entitlements. To help people out of poverty would be contrary to what their ultimate goal has always been; keeping positions of power in our government. It seems while the church and private citizens have always promoted policies which would help people out of poverty and to aid them in becoming self sufficient members of society, progressive politicians would rather keep those less fortunate subservient to them in an effort to further the progressive movement at the expense of our country. Entitlements are the drug that progressives use to poison our country.

    • Thanks for sharing Brett. Great insights; very poignant.

      I think the proof of what you said is evidenced in the quality of life that entitlements beget. If they are so beneficial, is the overall quality of life increasing or decreasing? Likewise, are people “getting better” or not?

      I have to admit I share you opinions that entitlements bind people to a system they can never truly dig themselves out of, and keep those delivering “the goods” in places of authority.

  • Gabe

    I totally agree. This is a problem.
    Great post, Sir Hopper.

    • Thanks Gabe. Always appreciate you reading and commenting.

    • Gabe

      You’re very welcome. Thank YOU for continuing to post, every single day. 🙂

  • Don B.

    Chris,

    Very interesting and right on. The problem I have is that some “handouts” by the government are not designed to lift people up by the bootstraps so they become independent of the government. Health issue keep costing more and more. If we did not receive subsidies for our mentally damaged child (now 36 years old, and still living at home under our care which is far more economical for the government than full-time costs), we would have both lost her life, and have likely caved under the pressures to be responsible toward her welfare. If our 35 year old son (who suffers from complete kidney failure) were not subsidized the government, the exorbitant cost of dialysis and hospitalizations would have resulted in certain death. He may become “productive” after the hoped-for transplants of kidney and pancreas, but he would never be able to repay the costs incurred to get him to the independent state. I could go on about the costs that help us, but the question is — would you expect those costs to have been underwritten by our church or possible denomination? I can’t vote for liberal welfare promoters who seem to indiscriminately encourage every “good cause” be a government program, but from where I sit, I know I and my children benefit from just such programs. And I don’t see the church running to fill the gap, either in my family’s case, or the needs of others.

    So until the church stand up to the needs of its own people, some would die and others would suffer from the emotion and economic drain. Of course the Lord is able — and believe me many prayers have been lifted up for healing and relief – and much has been done by Him. But isn’t it wrong in a land that sees education the responsibility to all citizens to fund schools via taxes, to say that the lame or disabled are not the responsibility of all?

    • Great comments, Don. I specially like your perspective as a father who’s had to rely heavily – and rightly so – on tax-payer support.

      As others have commented, and as I noted, I’m in agreement: there’s simply no capacity for the Church to assume such costs. The only exception I could point to would be Matthew Barnet’s LA Dream Center which is drawing national political attention for doing its Christian job better than any single government healthcare agency. Of we could replicate that, maybe the Church would be in a different place.

      Thanks for sharing and allowing your lives to be testimonies to the grace and love of Jesus.

  • The church should, by Christ’s proclamation, address the poor and needy. The government, however, is a trickier question. One must first ask the question of what the government exists for? IMO, the answer to that question is that the government should only provide for the common citizen those services which cannot reasonably be provided for ones self: national defense, administration of justice with respect to the law (ie. arbitration between citizens when a law is broken), and precious little else. But one must conceded that whatever government exists, God allowed and caused it to be so — whether as an instrument of blessing or judgement. If we don’t like the way things are, we have only ourselves to blame… Perhaps we voted “right”, but did we also educated and influence our neighbors to also vote “right?” Have we acted as light in our communities to promote Godly morality and so change the character of voters and voting? Have we fought corruption, lived in truth, and acted in a Christlike fashion? We could put the government out of the charity business if there were no one left to be charitable to because we’d already taken care of the needs… under the Holy Spirit’s conviction, not state coercion.

    • Very astute, biblical conviction going on here. Great additions to the post; thanks for adding value, Ted!

      Nothing more I can say.

  • John Carter

    “The greatest among us, is the servant of all.”

    The power to serve is where the power lies. This, the missing element of adam since his fall. The people cry out, “we want a king like the nations have their kings” and throw down thier very own sovereignty, the identity to BE the servant rulers of this world. The true Church, the Bride, is the real relief to the frustration of the nations and their dilemmas in every sphere of influence.

    • “The power to serve is where the power lies.”

      Couldn’t agree more, John. Thanks for the addition.