Charity in the context of cultural challenge
Walker Wildmon
AFA assistant to the president

April 2020“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. … Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:35-36,40, NASB).

Should we help those in need? Absolutely. What we shouldn’t do is give a blank check to a stranger. I wouldn’t even give cash to my kids without first verifying what they’re going to spend it on. All of us, including the person we’re giving to, need to be good stewards of our time, energy, and money. This is the essence of hard work: to be good stewards of our resources.

When you are asked for help, a good practice is to offer to meet the person’s needs without handing out money. If they’re hungry, feed them. If they need gas, fill up their tank. If they need a jacket, buy them a jacket. This will ensure that your hard-earned money isn’t being used to enable a poor work ethic. Another good practice is to connect them with an organization that specializes in getting people back on their feet through job training and other activities, often free of charge.

I’ve always had the perception that those who are jobless became that way solely due to circumstances outside their control. I have learned that this is not always the case.

There are those who can’t keep a job because of a disability, and this would be a circumstance outside their control. That’s not the person I’m talking about. I’m speaking of someone who is able-bodied yet just doesn’t want to work his way toward a better life.

The latter seems to be very common. Our society has done a disservice by simply handing out cash to panhandling strangers. I’ve done the same disservice because I once thought the solution to joblessness was to hand out money.

A recent story was shared of a man who makes over $60,000 annually by pretending to be handicapped. This man panhandles all across America for his living. Can you believe that? All it takes is someone like this taking advantage of you one time to learn that handing out cash to strangers is a
bad idea.

It seems, based on stories like these, that many who are jobless for an extended amount of time are choosing to live this way as opposed to being forced to live this way. It has become a lifestyle.

How can I say this? Because our country has over 7 million job openings and the lowest unemployment rate in decades. Many of these are blue-collar jobs with companies desperate to hire.

What is missed is the value of hard work, which isn’t always easy or glamorous.

For instance, when I was in college, I worked on the cleanup crew for Mississippi State baseball. I needed the extra money, so I earned minimum wage and worked late weekend nights cleaning up trash after games. While I wouldn’t want to retire on minimum wage, it met my needs at the time. From that time forward, I’ve always had a deep respect for those who earn a living with their hands.

Once again, the main problem is a poor work ethic when there are millions of job openings. Many who are jobless don’t want to work. They especially don’t want to work hard.

Our society needs to focus on encouraging hard work. Not only would this drive unemployment even lower, but it would also equip each of us with the dignity of knowing we’re using our individual talents to the best of our ability.   

Editor’s Note: This column first appeared in December 2019 in the Tupelo (Mississippi) Daily Journal.