Part 1 (if you missed it)
I continue to be a little bothered by the lack of GRAND vision communicated by the political right. Called the "Ten Cannots" this has been long misattributed to Abraham Lincoln. It was actually written by William John Henry Boetcker, a leading Presbyterian minister, thinker and speaker in 1916. It's thoughts are incredibly important, especially for those of us who care about the prosperity of EVERYONE instead of only a few.
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
You cannot build character and courage by destroying men's initiative and independence.
And you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.
It's a mindset issue and an important one. I think it depicts a scenario in which good men can ensure MANY needs are BEST met. In my article in this month's Brant Advocate, I tell a story about many years ago while on a date in downtown Toronto where God confronted me about how to treat "wealth".
When I was in my early 20’s and could finally afford some of the things I really wanted, I could only think of one thing. A brown leather jacket. One like Kevin Costner wore in Field of Dreams. He was one sharp lookin’ man in that movie and when I wore my bomber jacket that smelled like an old baseball mit, I knew I looked GOOD. Costner good.
Before we were married, while on a date with my wife in Toronto to see the Phantom of the Opera, we were walking down Yonge Street and saw a homeless man. He was not the first nor last we saw that night but this situation was different. As we walked past, I heard that little voice inside me (the one we all hear but too often ignore) say the words, “Take off your jacket and give it to this man”. I instantly went into internal spin mode with a litany of great reasons why NOT to give my coat away.
I was on a date. It was cold out. He HAD a coat,. What did he need a Kevin Costner jacket for? How would I explain “the voice that told me to do something irrational” to my girlfriend? There were lots of reasons to continue walking and ignore the unmistakable burden on my heart. So I did because it was easier and it didn’t disrupt my evening.
Soon after, I got rid of the jacket. I couldn't even look at it because it was no longer MINE. What it did was make sure that the next time I was confronted with sacrificial generosity... I did what was right. And it changed me. Forever. That jacket taught me something about how we should treat “stuff” that has stuck with me for 15 years. There is nothing wrong with having “stuff”. Stuff can be pretty great. But we can never make the mistake of believing any “thing” isn’t expendable for the benefit of others. Life is about others.
Too often the "Ten Cannots" are broken in attempts to solve social issues that EVERYONE cares about. But when it happens, it feels as if during that night on Yonge Street, someone stopped me, pointed at the homeless man and forcibly demanded my jacket because I could afford it. Even IF I agreed to such a scenario, it would have been grudgingly. And while an immediate need MAY have been met, the chance of me doing it again or meaning it would be squashed on the spot. It’s not an exponential scenario for any party involved. In fact it actually bypasses the very opportunity for heart-change that can mean the difference between someone choosing to LIVE generously and motivated to personally meet needs repeatedly ... or stagnant solution, ending in bitterness and worse... apathy. You cannot legislate care. It has the opposite effect.
"All thinking will be moonshine unless we realize that nothing but the courage and unselfishness of individuals is ever going to make any system work properly. It is easy enough to remove the particular kinds of graft of bullying that go on under the present system: but as long as men are twisters or bullies they will find some new way of carrying on the old game under the new system. You cannot make men good by law: and without good men you cannot have a good society."
CS Lewis in Mere Christianity
We've tried legislating care. It doesn't work. The answer lies in the ensuring of the freedom of man. As fallible as the human being is, God has put His eggs in man's basket. Leaders need to challenge and open space for good men to be generous. We need to GIVE seed to the sower instead of taking it from them. People taking care of people may sound Utopian, but imagine what free people caring for each other would look like. You personally KNOW the needs of your neighbors... Your family... Your community better than anyone. And you'd be shocked at what a little thought, time, talent and money can do to completely revolutionize a life and neighborhood. When WE do it because it comes from out hearts, instead of someone doing it for us, it is MASSIVE MASSIVE. One changes man and creates ripples... the other barely gets anyone by.