31 for 41: Work and Welfare

Dear Donovan,

The picture attached to today’s letter is the day at the Copperheads baseball game when you collected enough foul balls to trade them for a cracked wooden bat.  I remember someone jokingly asking me if they could take you with them to buy lottery tickets, as you were seemingly having a very lucky day.  But since I know you, I knew luck had nothing to do with your procurement of those foul balls.

You were certainly gifted with the ability to run fast.  Aside from that gift, though, I understood that your success that day came from desire followed by hard work.  First, you really wanted those foul balls.  Second, you were willing to focus on the game while others kids played so that you would be ready to run toward a wayward baseball.  Third, you were willing to keep running as fast as you could every single time a foul ball flew.

In your adult life, you don’t have to let anyone minimize your personal achievements by chalking it up to luck.  If your blood, sweat, and tears, figuratively or literally, earned you what you have, it is your success to enjoy.  To be a balanced person, though, always maintain an awareness that the natural aptitudes, health, strength, mentors, setting and timing that aid you in success are all God-given gifts.  Also be humble enough to recognize that not everyone has been gifted with the same supports that you have that can set a person up for success.

As you earn your own money, you will pay taxes and you can give to charities.  Having a balanced view of work and welfare will help you make wise decisions with your money and will help you be a better citizen.  I would like to offer you some guiding thoughts:

If you can work, you should work.  The Bible has some pretty strong things to say about those who are lazy and refuse to take care of their own family.   

Money can be a tool.  Some of the greatest heroes of the faith we read about in the Bible were rich men.  God allowed them to be rich, and He used them for great purposes.  In Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, a less-discussed detail is that the Samaritan paid the host of the inn to take care of the injured man, and promised to repay any remaining costs upon returning (Luke 10:35).  The Samaritan had the money to give, and was willing to give of his own earnings to help a stranger.  

Money should never be an idol.  We are not to build up treasures for ourselves to the exclusion of what God would have us do with our money.  Money can buy temporary happiness, I say, but it cannot buy the peace of a right relationship to God.  Choose people over prosperity, and be led by the Bible instead of by your bank account.

The more things you own, the more your things will own you.  I stole this one from PawPaw.  You may acquire a huge house, that BMW you want, a boat, and a vacation home, but that will also mean more insurance payments, maintenance, and time away from family to pay for it all.  Choose wisely.

Check your heart by your charity.  The original welfare program was ordained by God.  For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land” Deuteronomy 15:11.  As part of loving God and then loving neighbors as self, we have been called to recognize the needs of others and give of ourselves to help.  You can check how much you are controlling your money or how much it is controlling you by your level of willingness to open your eyes and your wallet to the needs of others.  He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.  Proverbs 28:27

Welfare should promote wellness.  Government welfare can be useful as a safety net.  I was very grateful to receive Medicaid for you when I was between jobs and lost our health insurance.  On the other hand, you have had a firsthand look at how some children actually became less safe when government welfare programs went unchecked and abused.

There are certainly problems with our existing government welfare system.  Be sensitive to those who wish they did not need it but cannot presently make ends meet without it.  You and I once needed it, and in one short day’s time, could find ourselves in need of it again!  It is okay, though, to speak up about the negative outcomes of a government system out of balance.  If welfare either persuades or allows a person to trade ambition for idleness, desire for dependence, and plans for poverty, then it does not promote that person’s wellness.  You can be a compassionate and humble man without being complacent about a system that sometimes cannot serve those in need because it is serving those with greed.

I want you to prosper and be successful, but I would rather you be rich in wisdom and love than in possessions.  Work hard.  Be a good steward of the gifts and opportunities that are given to you.  But keep career and money in their proper place, and make your accounting decisions with eternity in mind.

He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.  Ecclesiastes 5:10

I love you forever,

Your mama

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