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When I first started reading your post I immediately thought - foodbanks, and yup - you got to them. Here they have become a way of life, and a way for the government to avoid its responsibilities.
A pamphlet our church has talks about the charitable situation in Pre WWII Germany. The example given was a Jew who married a Catholic and converted, and then sought charitable assistance. They would be ineligible for aid from the Catholics because they weren't Catholic enough, and ineligible for aid from Jewish charities because they weren't Jewish enough. This is the direction I feel the US is headed.
While I will disagree with your stand, I want to make it clear that I believe you have a strong, excellent, important point that you have made.
I suspect that it is actually a conflict of interest for business to engage in charity. The issue of profit vs donations is such a possible problem.
Let me disagree with your stance for the following reasons:
for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.
What good is a government that does not do what it can and leaves a second-class charity to its citizens to pick up? Still, there is always room to help others, no matter how much good the government does. "Am I my brother's keeper?" Yes. There is always room for charity.
aspiring to genteel poverty
I have always read Mathews comment as being to each of us as individuals. And in fact was a very personal comment, and not directed at the government. I'm responding to "What good is a government that does not do what it can and leaves a second-class charity to its citizens to pick up? " we as individuals don't have a lot of control over how the government spends its money (except through advocacy, and one vote counts). But I've never taken my tax bill and computed how much is going to helping my brother--maybe I should. And Mathew was talking about each of us doing this from the heart--when we do it through tax policy, we force some of the people who are paying taxes to give,,,,and it may not come from their heart at all. I don't mean to argue on the other hand that the government shouldn't do this--it's effective and needed in many areas. It's just the linkage of the reason for this scripture somehow doesn't fit with government spending for me. Sorry to ramble--I probably need to think about this more.
I like the idea that one of the responsibilities of government is charity, or to remove it from charity entirely and say this is basic to our society. We don't do food banks because everyone in society has enough to eat. It isn't charity; it is because this is what civilised people do. (I wish.) Ya - I'm going beyond Matthew.
In Canada various conservative governments have tried to court the popular vote by promising to lower taxes. It doesn't work very well. Maybe on some level we really are giving - at least some of our taxes - from the heart. At least enough of us to keep the taxes going. If it isn't from the heart, I guess it isn't charity, but government policy and taxes. I don't think that this would make it wrong though.
Instead of calling what we do at the governmental level charity, maybe we should call it human dignity. Ours and theirs. (Just as torture states degrade themselves as they degrade their victims, so to - we degrade ourselves when we allow others to be degraded poverty and hunger.)
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