Labels are helpful, to a point, but they fall short when it comes to teasing out the nuances of an individual person’s positions. Labels depend in large part on context. In conservative religious and political circles, a moderate will be dubbed liberal, while liberals will dub the same person quite conservative. People are constantly in motion, as well. Religious, social, political and moral views are not black and white. They are a spectrum, and we move along that spectrum throughout our lives as we have experiences and rub shoulders with different people.
I’ve moved, or bounced in some cases, quite a bit in all those areas. I was raised with traditional Judeo-Christian values. Our work ethic was undergirded with Bible verses like “He who does not work does not eat.” If I wanted to go to summer camp or get a new bike, I had to earn the money myself. My sisters and I did all the laundry in our house starting when I was 9 or 10 (I am the oldest sibling). To get my driver’s license, I was required to obtain a real job to guarantee my ability to pay my part of the car insurance. I worked multiple jobs all the way through college because my parents required that I foot at least half the bill. I rarely had fun money in college because every penny went to tuition, room, board, and books.
I also learned generosity and saving. When we earned money, our parents taught us to save some and give some, not just spend every penny. These lessons and habits served me well. I moved into my own apartment prepared to care for it and manage my money. I graduated with only 1 small student loan. However, I have come to learn that circumstances also played a huge role in my solid start. My parents had worked their way to a stable financial situation and did not encounter any significant financial crises while I was growing up.
My background and basic views about people and work and our purpose on earth is important. I need you to understand my starting point. I believe that work is good and honorable and valuable and a significant part of who we are as human beings made in the image of God.
I believe that in an ideal world, we would all find work that fit our gifts and talents perfectly, and we would all respect and honor each other’s work as equally valid and enriching, whether it’s garbage collecting, disease treating, art creating, food preparing, new idea uncovering, or anything else. We would all earn a fair wage and live content within our means. And “within our means” would mean that we keep enough extra to lend a hand when a friend, neighbor, or family member found themselves in need.
In an ideal world, nothing would go wrong. We would never lose a job or contract a terrible disease or wreck a car or give birth to a child with a life-threatening condition requiring half a million dollars of medical care in their first month of life. We would never make a mistake that devastates us financially. We would never divorce or be divorced, sue or be sued, disown or be disowned.
But. We do not live in an ideal world.
My husband and I worked hard, followed a budget, stayed married, paid our taxes, and gave our ten percent to the church. We loved God and did all the “right” things. We followed all the rules of good Republican white-collar Christians. But in spite of all that, we found ourselves face to face with devastating medical news and medical bills topping a quarter of a million dollars at the same time we had to care for an infant who needed 24-hour care. I couldn’t return to work, so we lost our extra income. Cars needed transmissions, houses need air conditioners, and our savings account emptied faster than my dog’s water dish on a 90-degree day.
We experienced first hand how being “down on your luck” or “in need” can happen to anyone, regardless of their life choices.
This is part 1 of a series exploring fiscal responsibility, generosity, and social good. Read part 2 here.