An Open Hands Society
You’re driving home in the pouring rain after a long day of work, thinking about what’s for dinner. When suddenly, from afar off, you see him. A man, standing on the corner in tattered clothes, soaked and shivering.
Your heart pangs at the sight of him standing there, wet, fumbling with a cardboard sign you’re too far to read.
Truth is, you don’t want to read it. You just want to keep driving. His problem is not your problem. If the light would just stay green you could drive on by guilt-free. Because really, nobody’s expected to stop flowing traffic to give the homeless guy on the street a few dollars.
But fortune, luck, or whatever cosmic force that determines opportunities is not on your side. Just as you approach, yellow, then quickly red. The thought to floor it enters your mind, to go right through this light toward the warm dinner waiting for you. But instead you slam on the brakes and slide to a stop just beside the wet man and his sign.
There, just outside your window, he stands shivering, but silent. You can’t make out the sign for the dark wet brown of the cardboard that’s so flimsy, the man keeps changing his hand positions to keep it from folding in the wind.
Decision time. Will you help this man?
The battle of wits begins. What would be best? What if he squanders the money you give him on alcohol or drugs. That’s not helping, it’s enabling. Don’t want that. Maybe this one of life’s hard lessons. Maybe God’s teaching him something about humility or patience, in which case your two dollars would just be in the way. Or maybe he’s a con or a cheat. Or worse, just lazy.
Then again, maybe your two dollars will actually help feed this man’s family tonight. Maybe.
We’ve all been here before, wondering how to help… if to help. And now, as a country, it seems we’re all here again.
The political circus has a new catch phrase to polarize America in only the way politics can. The TV pundits, ex-candidates, and even those running for candidacy, they’re all talking about how America has been transformed into an “entitled” society by the governing party.
If you ask me the blame for an entitled society lies in parenting, not governing. Entitlement was a problem in America well before the Obama administration. Just in a different sort of way.
The “entitlement” jargon being shouted from the Republican rooftop is their response to the so called “class warfare” tactics of the Democrats, who basically want to stop awarding the rich for being rich. The word therapy that “entitlement” provides massages the stiff necks of many of those very rich people who, in large part, back the Republican party. I could go into the fact that most of the people who are now rich did not earn it themselves, per se, but were entitled to it due to inheritances, or “old money” as we might call it. But doing so might sound like I’m picking a fight, and that is not what I intend to do here.
Instead, I want to talk about the “Christian values” that is supposed to be represented by the Republican party. The simple question I would ask is, what would Jesus do?
It is fascinating to me that Republicans are cross-bearing, “values” based people in all areas… except money. They will fight to protect the powerless and weak in all areas… except in finances. At that point, they fight for the rich and powerful at the expense of the weak. Pun intended. Finances lay just outside the “love thy neighbor” fence of Republican values and principles. This is especially disheartening since most people associate Republicans with Christianity.
Those who are calling our society “entitled” would paint a picture of the poor and lower middle class of society holding open their hands, ready and waiting for a handout. This may be a true depiction of many people here in America, but to characterize the whole of American society this way is misguided, or at least half true.
Unless you include all of us.
When you really think about it, we’re all standing around with open hands. Rich, middle-class, lower class… we’re all looking for a break. We all respond to “free” and we all love to get a little something for nothing. We want to know what’s in it for us. It’s the American way. The poor needs more, the middle is barely making it, and the rich wants more. This is the real picture.
But Jesus would not support such a Darwinian structure. He doesn’t promote it in any of his lessons. In fact, he says the opposite. Jesus taught to the rich and the religious the most because they were the ones most blinded by the success and status of worldly wealth and self-righteousness. Jesus spent extra time and attention on the rich and religious because they are the ones in prime position to change the world, and yet are the ones least likely to do so because of their fearing of losing their premier place in line. Why? Because society says that sacrifice and the giving away of one’s self and stuff and expecting nothing in return is not how one remains rich and powerful.
Jesus healed ten lepers, but only one came back thankful. Do you think he knew the other nine would not be so grateful? Of course he did, and that’s what makes the miracle all the more wonderful. How many times did Jesus point people away from their stuff and toward other people? How many situations and parables did Jesus use to illustrate the futility of amassing worldly wealth, of the reality that Christians should give with no expectation of return? And in light of that, what should we expect of a party that shines its “values and faith” badge every chance it gets? A party, if only loosely, associated with Christian values?
The open hands in our society should not belong to those that are in need. They should be the open hands of generosity and love. The hands of those who have extended to those who have not, in the form of financial, moral, social, even spiritual support. In such a society, you would never have to worry about helping a guy standing in the rain, holding a sign, asking for money.
But this is not such a society. Those harping about entitlement are making us more and more entitled by the minute by their unwillingness to exhibit and promote the sort of selflessness they claim rules and drives their lives.
Hypocrisy. It seems the world continues to have good reason to use that word against Christi— I mean, Republicans.
Do you think we live in an entitled society? What do you think Jesus’ wants us to do about it?
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