Sunday, January 2, 2011

Obedience vs. Compassion

Keith just told me about a recent study he saw which showed that Democrats make more money than Republicans (on average) and Republicans give more to charity than Democrats (far and away). Past studies have shown the same. I mention this not to slam Democrats, but to debunk the impression so many Democrats/Liberals seem to have that Republicans/Conservatives are, for the most part, the greedy rich. Not so, it seems.

What with health care legislation, the Bush tax cuts, mid-term elections and all, this has been an emotional year for me politically. If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know the frustration I've felt this year at the classism injected into public policy. I have a couple of very liberal, very outspoken friends on Facebook who have brought this to my attention regularly all year long. I'm particularly perturbed at the attempt to label redistribution policies (and yes, even the honest liberals call them redistribution) as Americans being generous with their wealth and compassionate to the needy.

Let's be real, here, folks. Generosity requires a choice. And compassion requires altruistic feeling. Neither is involved when you're paying your taxes.

A Jewish friend in Jersey once loaned me a book her kids used in Hebrew class or something. One lesson was centered around what they said was a traditional Jewish story. A businessman and a businesswoman were working late in their office building when a distraught woman came in the door and asked if they could spare any change. As she told her story of woe and need, the businesswoman came to sit beside her, listening intently and holding her hand as she tearfully expressed her sorrow over the woman's situation. Meanwhile the businessman gave the woman a glance and went right back to his work. After several minutes, the man packed his things, handed the distressed woman a personal check for $5,000 and wordlessly walked out the door. The businesswoman hugged the lady, offered her final words of comfort, and left the building without giving her anything.

Which of these two businesspeople did the right thing, the book asked? The man. He obeyed the command to give to the poor; the woman did not. Their feelings on the matter were of no consequence.

So, I understand the point the story is making. It's true that far too many of us (emphasis on the first-person us) have all sorts of concern for the needy yet fail to go that next step of acting on our concern. However, the New Testament adds a heart focus to the obedience focus. "If I give all I possess to the poor . . . but do not have love, I gain nothing." This is a both/and situation, not either/or. To take care of the needy without caring about them is not compassion -- it's obedience. Obedience is a commendable virtue in itself, but let's not give it the noble label of compassion.

Giving up your money to meet the needs of another because you are required by law to pay your taxes is merely obedience. Giving up your money to meet the needs of another because you are rewarded with a tax credit is merely economical. Giving up your money to meet the needs of another, not because you are required or rewarded, not because they deserve it or will appreciate or repay it, but simply because the need is there . . . that's love. Now we're approaching the realm of Christlikeness. Our government may call us to pay our taxes; our God calls us to so much more.

And that's what I'm calling my friends to. More to come.....

1 comment:

Charissa said...

You should google "Advent Conspiracy." I think you'd like them. ALOT. :)