Earlier this year, after I came back from Brazil, I had an interesting conversation with a lady from our church.
She asked me if in Brazil the rich exploit the poor as much as here in the United States.
My answer was that it happens to a similar extent and I went on to say that probably the main difference is that here in the U.S. the poor exploit the rich more than in Brazil.
She was curious to understand what I meant with such an unusual statement, so I used an example:
Years ago, when my son Jay was in college, a group of students decided to go to the area devastated by the hurricane Katrina, to help with the reconstruction efforts.
When he was there he talked to a man, who explained that his grandfather never worked in his life, always depending on government support. He went on to add that his father also never worked and he himself never even tried. Three generations that never worked, and this man was complaining it was taking too long for his house to be fixed up.
I like an illustration given by Dinesh D’Souza:
Two man are walking on the beach. One has a sandwich and the other is hungry. The first gives a piece of his sandwich to the second.
We have here a moral transaction: the first man feels good that he could help someone, while the second fells gratitude, and maybe he will do the same to someone else in the future.
Now picture the scenario where the first man is forced by government to give his sandwich to the other.
He won’t feel good about it , because it was not his choice, and the second won’t feel gratitude.
That second man will feel entitlement. Tomorrow he will expect another sandwich.
At this point you could say that the government has to intervene because there aren’t enough people voluntarily sharing their sandwich, and I would have to agree.
Every society has a percentage of its people that need help, for several reasons. That is a fact.
Can the gap be closed? Can the people who really need be helped while the ones that can take care of themselves do it? Probably a distant government program will never be able to be fair. Maybe we need to be personally more involved.
I would suggest we look for wisdom in the Bible. Particularly in the book of Proverbs:
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.
— Proverbs 31:8-9
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—when you already have it with you.
— Proverbs 3:27-28
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
— Proverbs 14:31
The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.
— Proverbs 22:9