On Charity

There once was a kind and generous man that had two neighbors. One was wealthy and had three cars, while the other one was poor and had none. Being a kind and generous man, he decided to take one of the cars from his wealthy neighbor and give it to his poor neighbor who had none. While his poor neighbor was quite happy, his wealthy neighbor was not and called the police. The kind and generous man was then arrested for stealing.

So, would you define the kind and generous man above as charitable? No, of course not. Being kind and generous with another person’s stuff is not called charity, it is called theft. Yet, this form of “forced charity” is what our government does every day with our taxes. (Don’t think their form of charity is forced? Try not paying your taxes.) They are consistently generous with that which does not belong to them, usually to the point of being wasteful. Until we understand what real charity is, we will continually be blinded by the government’s definition of it.

According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, charity is defined as “generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering”.  Americans are by far the most generous people on earth. In times of tragedy or crisis anything our government does or gives is always exceeded by the generosity of ordinary Americans. For instance, after the Asian Tsunami a few years ago, the U.S. government pledged $900 million to tsunami relief. American individuals donated $2 billion — three times what government gave — in food, clothing, and cash. Charity is something we were raised to do, not only as a people of faith, but as a people of freedom and hope. Because of these, charity comes naturally to Americans, and we seldom limit the sharing of our treasure to that of a financial nature; we have often sacrificed our own sons and daughters in the name of charity. This is the most precious gift a free people can give.

So, I get quite irritated when our government (and those that foolishly refuse to question it) accuses those who want reduced taxes and spending as being uncharitable. Frankly, it is quite the slap in the face to the very people they proclaim to serve. How dare they equate our desire for better stewardship, smaller government and more accountability (of both the servants and the people they serve) as being selfish and uncharitable? It is because we are charitable that we demand these things. The American people have always been better stewards with their own money than the government. Despite the burden of taxes, financial commitments to their family, community and churches, American individuals still manage to give on average almost $250 billion every year to charitable causes, both secular and religious. Imagine how much more we could give if we had more of our own money in our pocket! Politicians and government do not epitomize charity – we the American people do.

I am quite tired of the condescending tone of our government leaders, telling us that they know best on what and where to give. Are you kidding me? When we are constantly deluged with stories of government waste, kickbacks, and outright stupidity when it comes to taxpayer money?  This does not even account for the fact that many of the “charitable” works of government are squandered on questionable things, and many dollars do not even reach those folks they are intended to help. Seriously, give me a break!

Sure, there are private charities that have duped Americans in the past. But unlike the government, which continues programs of little benefit for an eternity, private charities that are irresponsible are often found out and their funds very quickly dry up. It is much easier to be a good steward with private finances when a mistake can cost you personally, than to be a good steward with the public’s finances when a mistake costs you nothing and can be “fixed” by raising taxes.

Forcing someone to pay higher taxes to fund something that the government values (but you may not) is not charity, it is thievery. Not only that, relying on the government removes the compassion from charity, builds resentment, and corrupts us as individuals. We should not cede our responsibility to our fellow man to an entity that time and again has proven itself unworthy of such trust. Remember, ”charity begins at home”. It does not begin with the government. But, if we continue on this path of tax and spend, it will end with it.

“We are all doubtless bound to contribute a certain portion of our income to the support of charitable and other useful public institutions. But it is a part of our duty also to apply our contributions in the most effectual way we can to secure this object. The question then is whether this will not be better done by each of us appropriating our whole contribution to the institutions within our reach, under our own eye, and over which we can exercise some useful control? Or would it be better that each should divide the sum he can spare among all the institutions of his State or the United States? Reason and the interest of these institutions themselves, certainly decide in favor of the former practice.” Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States (1743-1826)

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