Yes, I think they're right... but it depends on how you look at it, too.
And a lot of my beliefs about this have to do with one big word:
Are you willing to stay off drugs, and limit your alcohol -- even if no one else you know is doing that?
That may mean limiting your contact with 'friends' whose major aim in life is drinking themselves unconscious every weekend, then posting Facebook selfies, bragging about it.
Are you willing to keep studying and educating yourself -- even when no one around you thinks that's important?
Youtube is filled with videos on fixing appliances, growing productive gardens, building things. Books not only educate you, but let you 'go away' for a while, from situations you can't control -- like staying 2 1/2 months with a mom who needs you.
Are you willing to take a lower-paid or less flashy job, even if it's 'demeaning,' to pay the bills until you can find a better one? This includes (oh, the horror!) minimum wage.
The Brick and I have both worked at jobs that weren't fun...including scrubbing toilets in a church, scrubbing produce at the grocery store, shredding cabbage for umpteen eggrolls at a Chinese restaurant. Even working at Walmart's corner grill -- I became a dab hand at cotton candy, even though it meant coming home late at night covered in stickiness, with a light accent of hotdog juice.
We have good friends and family who washed dishes, cleaned houses, babysat, walked dogs, worked at Taco Bell, slopped pigs...all to pay bills and save a little extra.
One of our young friends refused to apply for any jobs that paid minimum wage, "because I'm better than that." She has continued to live at her folks' house, rent-free and with her hand out, for years. (She's still there, in fact.)
Are you willing to give up some things now, for more security later? Are you willing to save, even a little bit, for the future?
You don't HAVE to have cable, a fancy car or the latest cellphone. You can live in a smaller place -- or even just a room! -- until you can save up enough for a down payment on something bigger.
Are you willing to stretch your money as far as possible? Use every trick in the book to keep yourself solvent and debt-free? Keep your food budget down so you can use the money for other purposes? (Even though technically you don't have to.)
Are you willing to get up and go to work, even when you don't feel like it?
Are you willing to chip away at larger bills, even medical expenses, a bit at a time, until they're paid?
Are you willing to make your family a priority -- even when it's difficult, or you don't feel like it? Are you willing to do this, over and over and OVER, until you are well-nigh sick of it?
That may mean sewing up ripped seams at midnight, after you've put in a full day's work at a crappy job. Cooking, when it would be so much easier just to go to McDonald's. Cleaning up -- over and over again -- a child with the flu. Refusing to date people who are less than reliable, even though you're lonely. (Think of all the child abuse cases out there, including this horrendous one recently in Denver. They're almost always the boyfriend, who, like this case, has already been in trouble many times. Blame the system, if you want -- but it was the mom's poor decisions that let this monster near her child.)
If you're willing to do these things, you're acting like an adult. And that, in turn, gives you:
It lets your mind grow stronger, even when you're currently in a hard place.
It teaches you patience and perseverance.
It shows you what's most important in life -- and that ain't MONEY.
And with time, it gives you the opportunity to choose what you want -- perhaps because:
*You have the money to do so
*You've learned to live on less money, to begin with
*You've taught yourself so many different skills that you can find a job practically anywhere
I'm not just saying these things out of pompousness. I know them -- because
I've been there.
Others have, too.
And in time (it didn't happen overnight), following these 'willings' has let the Brick and I take advantage of opportunities that we never dreamed of -- to travel, to try new things, to make friends in unexpected places...and even to consider retiring early. (More about that soon.)
Now -- how does that affect my responsibility to those nebulous 'POOR?'
It means I share my good fortune.
We both strongly believe that a certain percentage of our time, money and energy goes to help someone else who needs it. In our case, this is at least a tithe: 10%. But that's just the starting point.
It means that I don't waste it.
We worked hard for this. Why would we donate that to an organization who lies about how they use their money, pays their executives big bucks, and isn't nearly as quick to respond to emergency situations as other groups?
In this case, it's why we won't be donating to the Red Cross. -- but we will donate to the Salvation Army.
We look especially for groups whose members are donating their time and energy -- like:
Habitat for Humanity --whose recipients are required to put in their own time working on the homes they benefit from
Mennonite Central Committee --especially proactive on clean water and better living conditions for small villages around the world, with nearly every penny of your donation going directly to the cause
Samaritan's Purse --yearly Christmas boxes to kids all around the world -- and Johnny-on-the-spot for emergency situations, like the earthquakes in Tibet, faster than most organizations
The Bible is crystal-clear about helping the poor and needy. (It also talks a lot about encouraging people, especially singles, the elderly, 'widows and orphans' -- have you done that today?)
But it is also straightforward about the importance of responsibility:
Even while we were with you, we gave you this command:
"Those unwilling to work will not get to eat." (II Thess. 3:10)
The Brick and I are both Christians. We owe our lives and hearts to our faith in Jesus Christ. In return, the Lord has given our lives back, to be used for Him, and to help others. If He gave His life for us, would He want that sacrifice to be wasted, or taken lightly?
"You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)
And that, dear readers, is true freedom -- and responsibility.
Your comments are welcome -- even if you disagree with me.