Whatsoever You Do To The Least of My Brothers, That You Do Unto Me

At the two back-to-back Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings just past, we heard some mighty loud poor-mouthing. We heard that people who live in apartments are only there because they can’t afford to buy homes and we know what kind of people they are. They are poor. Because they are poor, apparently they would bring pestilence and filth and crime to the neighborhood and property values DOWN – or so said the “Brentwood of La Vergne” residents who demanded the city not allow luxury apartments to be built about a mile from their neighborhood.

We also just heard that we should feel sorry for the people in Lake Forest Estates because they have to park in their yards – you know… those dreaded Section 8 yards that sit around those Section 8 houses. What are inside those Section 8 houses? Section 8 children who don’t deserve that playground the city built for them.

Poor mouthing has become a national pastime, it seems. People get so mad when they see welfare recipients sitting on their bums, doing nothing while we, the taxpayers, pay for their lifestyle. A lifestyle the rest of us cannot afford for our own families. It’s infuriating! So infuriating that I decided to look at the numbers and come up with a logical argument for those who would seek to continue to allow them to suck at the tit of the taxpayer. What I found isn’t exactly what most have in mind for welfare. Rather, corporate welfare is a huge drain on unrealized tax dollars and ridiculous subsidies. According to Forbes:

  • Boeing receives $10 billion in subsidies and benefits. Every…. single… year.
  • Berkshire Hathaway? $1 Billion per year. I know, seems like chump change when you look at recipients like Bank of America, Monsanto and Exxon. But when you consider the fact that Berkshire Hathaway has $485 billion in assets and $10 billion in profits annually, how can we justify giving them their fair share of welfare pie? (PS on this point: Warren Buffet, who sits on the board of Berkshire is worth $588 billion)
  • The Koch brothers? Well, I’m not sure anyone really knows what their number is because they are so good at hiding their assets.
  • Monsanto, the creator and original distributor of Agent Orange, received the ultimate welfare: freedom from litigation when their genetically modified crops finally make their side effects and sickness known to mankind.

I know… I know. You’re probably thinking “well Stacy, those subsidies, tax breaks and straight up cash payments to corporations are designed to create jobs.” My question to you is, where are these jobs? Has anyone seen these jobs that are supposed to have been created by these uber-rich, mooching Americans? This is an argument and a practice that has yet to come to fruition so I’m pretty sure we can stop making this excuse for these people.

They do not care about you. Never have. Never will.

How else would you be able to explain the fact that the practice of corporate welfare completely and absolutely lacks oversight. No oversight. None. Hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars are doled out to them every year and no one decided it might be a good idea to track and administrate this money.

You see where I’m going with this, right? In case you don’t, allow me to enlighten you. The richest companies and people in the country are always left out of those cute little memes I see flooding my Facebook news feed chastising the poor for having the nerve to cash in on their $400 a month EBT cards while owning a car at the same time. So when we talk about welfare and welfare fraud, what we are really talking about is the poor. POOR SHAMING. Stop doing that. It’s wrong and serves exactly zero purpose.

As a Christian, an American and just a regular ole human being it makes me sick to my stomach. And here’s why.

It offends my sensibilities as a Christian because, well, it’s supposed to. Jesus had a lot of things to say about the poor. The poor are some of His favorite people. Not that he favors any one human over another. He loves us all. He just preferred to hang out with the poor.

Did you know that the concept of property ownership was born of the free will of the human? It’s true. As a Christian, if you are to believe anything at all in the Bible, you have to believe it all. As Rob Bell, Christian author and filmmaker puts it, “God has already spoken. The rest is just commentary.” And the Bible teaches us that we own virtually nothing. There are only two things that you own: your faith and your free will. The whole world including your life was God’s gift to humankind. I can’t overstate the implications of that more. You “own” nothing. God compels you to use these gifts, bequeathed to you, in caring and loving ways. If you’re doing it right anyway. When you go home to Him, it’s all left behind. You take none of it.

Acts 8:20 “But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.”

Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Matthew 9:21 “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”

And who can forget the story of the widow that gave everything. Mark 12:41-44 “He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.  A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.  For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Poor shaming offends my sensibilities as an American too. We live in the most prosperous place in the entire world. YOUR way of life could be just a few paychecks away from financial disaster. Personally, I never used to consider myself rich. In fact, financially I’d always fallen into one of two categories: middle class and flat out poor. Then, I saw a documentary called I Am that examines how “We started out asking what’s wrong with the world and ended up discovering what’s right with it.” The film concludes that we are connected on a “fundamental” level and are hard wired to “be our brother’s keeper.” Time and time again some of the greatest scientific and spiritual thinkers of our time provide evidence to this fact.

As many Americans, I have a house that needs a lot of work, medical bills that will likely take me the rest of my natural life to pay off and the occasional worry about whether or not I can pay the electric bill. But I also have everything. I have people in my life who love and care for me, I have a virtual team of medical experts who brought me back from the brink of death and I have time to do any old thing I can afford. So when I hear my peers, my friends bash people who are poor, it offends my sensibilities as a human being.

People are angry with the poor because – again – “they sit around all day collecting money for doing nothing”. But honestly, there is absolutely no purpose to shaming the poor and less fortunate among us. Most of the times, it comes down to people just wanting to hear the sound of their own voice. I’m guilty of that too. But I don’t use my voice to try and shame another person. Look, I know where I came from. I don’t hide behind a make believe past. And I don’t delude myself into thinking that I know my future. The only thing I know about my future is that one day, it will end. Life is a terminal condition folks. At the end of the day, that person using their EBT to buy food could be any one of us. It could be me. So if I’m stuffing my Coach bag that I got during more prosperous times with a receipt they gave me while using government assistance, will I be the subject of the next shaming? I certainly hope not. But if I am, bring it on. I’ve got a tender heart and a thick skin, simultaneously. Like every one else on this earth, I’ve got this fragile body I am living in and won’t take with me when my time has come. But most importantly, I’ve got a soul that knows better than to look down on anyone.

Let us stop shaming poor people. Rather, do what we should do as human beings and have some compassion, some understanding. There but for the Grace of God.

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