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.

7 comments for “Whatsoever You Do To The Least of My Brothers, That You Do Unto Me

  1. RTB
    August 4, 2014 at 9:04 am

    So I have not been to this site in awhile, I came here to lookup what happened with Robert Stevens and the zoning issue on the county commission awhile back as I try to decide whether to vote for him or the incumbent Mike Sparks.

    Anyway, so I read this post and it looks to me like these are old DNC talking points from 2004! I’ve always said the difference between liberals and conservatives is simple – Liberals want to give you a fish and let you eat today. Conservatives want to teach you to fish so you can live for a lifetime. What we are doing right now as a country simply results in cyclical poverty. Section 8 was started as a good program, to break people out of the projects. Instead, they have just exported the projects to places like Lavergne. And it’s not even that bad in Lavergne. Look at Clayton County Georgia and what happened when the Olympics came to Atlanta.

    As for the “corporate welfare” comments, that is akin to me saying if you deduct your mortgage interest from your taxes you are a welfare recipient. The two are simply not the same. Companies and individuals have tax deductions and tax credits that are written into the tax code for a reason. I personally would be in favor of eliminating all of this and going with a flat tax or fair tax, but lawmakers won’t go for that because they like buying votes. Why do you think the sales tax deduction is renewed annually? It is so our politicians can tell us how hard they worked to retain this deduction.

  2. Theresa
    August 4, 2014 at 9:51 am

    People need to be mindful that these “poor, lazy” people could be then one day. I know exactly how many paychecks stand between me and homelessness. Maybe these poor shamers need to do a little of their own math.
    Wonderful, thouhtful and meaningful article Stacy.

  3. Rich
    August 4, 2014 at 9:54 am

    I agree we shouldn’t be shaming them.. How do we really help them though? I believe in the need to reform welfare programs as a whole.

    We need to look at specific requirements so people don’t live off of welfare for their entire lives. A friend of mine told me that if she gets a job she will take a pay cut compared to what shes getting on welfare. She could get all the job training and other help but shes never going to leave the system. To me that’s not ok.

    According to the National Coalition Against Poverty 36% of homeless people are addicted to narcotics. So money that we give that group isn’t used to help them eat or try to get out of the hole they are in (by choice or fate)so yes I believe anyone getting assistance should have to show some kind of progress in their lives to keep receiving it. And yes I do believe that they need to pee in a cup if they have had a history of substance abuse.

    I think fraud needs to be dealt with too. I saw it in the Tenncare program all the time when I took mom to the doc. there are those who outright lie too.. Anyone remember the family that was begging for money on the corner in Mufreesboro who were later photographed with smoothies and a new DVD player in front of Hastings?

    Did you know that the state of Tennessee spends $14 Billion dollars (as of 2013-2014 budget) on health and human services. In addition to all the money dumped in by churches and non-profits. I feel a lot of this money is wasted on people who don’t want help to make their lives better just a quick buck. Is that all of the poor? Absolutely not! There are plenty of great people who got stuck in a bad place. I was one of them. But lets try to focus on the ones that really want help not just talk a good game.

    As far as duties as a christian, the lord spoke often of tough love and not to trust blindly..

    Proverbs:29:17,15 “Discipline your son, and he will give you peace… the rod and correction impacts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother”

    Galatians 6:7-8 speaks to Christians about this issue with simple-even blunt truth. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

    The bottom line here is to make sure we are helping the poor; not enabling them.

  4. August 4, 2014 at 10:19 am

    I promise I will reply to all comments eventually. I pretty much knew this piece would stir debate and conversation. Which is good.

  5. Resident
    August 4, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    From what I heard from residents of “The Brentwood of La Vergne,” (poor analogy, btw) the concern was with the amount of traffic that would be added to an already busy Waldron Road on that side of the interstate. I wasn’t at the meeting, but was privy to a long Facebook thread about the apartment complex that was posted days before the meeting. And, as far as parking cars in yards goes, doing so on a consistent basis makes an entire street look like crap. And, yes, it happens in all neighborhoods, not just Lake Forest.

    Whomever the person or persons were that made this a poor/crime issue certainly doesn’t speak for me, and I would imagine most of the neighborhood feels the same way. Be careful not to throw all of the residents into the same group as what appears to be a few thoughtless people. That makes you no better than them.

  6. Laura
    August 4, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Poor shaming is just as bad and wrong as rich shaming. That tends to happen just as much.
    I believe with a commenter above who stated there should be welfare reform. I agree. I have no issue with anyone receiving help but not for a life time. There are plenty who are making tons by living on welfare. I’ve seen EBT cards being used to get cash and lottery tickets purchased. There is a problem.
    Again I agree as Christians we are to “help”. That is the key word. Help. Not continue to support etc. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am. I worked a lot of minimum wage jobs before to pay my bills.
    Yes there are scriptures about being rich and there are just as many directed at folks that choose to be lazy. I would list but there were tons. Not saying that all who are on welfare are lazy but a vast majority are. God doesn’t hate wealthy people He does expect them to use wisely and to help people. I’ve never worked for a poor boss so I’m all for capitalism.
    I wouldn’t want apartments built in my neighborhood or near it either. I’m sorry. I’m accepting wal mart being close to me because the city needs the business and I have no choice.
    It’s always funny to me how awful wealthy people are yet everyone counts on them for everything.

  7. Tamara Lane
    August 7, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Well said, Stacy. My feeling is some who “poor shame” are coming from a place of fear, like being needy is a “catchy” condition. That and/or they lack compassion. Shameful indeed.

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