Thursday, March 05, 2009

No earmarks or pork in this plan!

I like many Americans find themselves worried more and more as the stock market continues to drop. I just asked Josh and a few others this week, at what point do you sell off your stocks and only have money in cash and bonds? One person who I know is financially savvy answered he had spent the entire morning converting his stock into 3-year industrial bonds. It’s a crazy time. Even wealthy Americans are concerned as they see hundreds of thousands of dollars gone. Older American’s retirements, gone. Other Americans who don’t have much (or any) invested in the stock market, are either unemployed or worried they are about to be unemployed.

If you even somewhat know me you know that I am perturbed by our government’s excessive spending by BOTH parties and DEEPLY concerned about Obama’s financial policies. The first paycheck I received as a teenager I looked at it and didn’t understand why so much money was taken out of my check. And it’s irritated me ever since.

Then once I got to college, my parents sent me to a week-long financial series led by Dave Ramsey. So while many of my friends were racking up credit card debt, I was working on Dave’s steps to Financial Freedom and “living like no one else so that later I could live like no one else”. I was motivated! So it made me mad to see money taken out of my check by the government, and then spent carelessly and excessively. I knew the sacrifices I was making in order to stick to my budget and save and felt the government should have to abide by those same standards.

Now Republicans who have these viewpoints are often wrongly accused of not caring about those in need. And I want to make it VERY clear that just because we want to decide where our money goes, does not mean we are not as compassionate or charitable as the Democrats. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Here are some interesting numbers from a March 2008 Real Clear Politics article.

-- Although liberal families' incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).
-- Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.
-- Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.
-- Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.
-- In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.
-- People who reject the idea that "government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality" give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

In 2000, Vice President Al Gore's charitable contributions, as a percentage of his income, were below the national average: He gave 0.2 percent of his family income, one-seventh of the average for donating households. Talk about an “inconvenient truth”. From 2000 through 2004, President Obama never gave more than $3,500 a year in charitable donations -- about 1 percent of his and Michelle’s annual earnings.

So while very diligent while in office to give away other people’s money to government programs, they weren’t nearly as diligent at home at giving away their OWN money.

Being around the people and work I am around (my husband is a lobbyist…hello?!) and being involved in the political arena myself, it is so easy and quite natural for me to look at everything politically. But last Sunday my preacher Bobby discussed the economic crisis. And it was his sermon that has really prompted me this week to start thinking of this crisis more from a spiritual perspective instead of political one.

While thankful to my parents for sending me to Dave Ramsey in college, I am most grateful for the example they set for me and my sisters. You will never meet more generous people than my mom and dad. My dad grew up with nothing and would be content to this day if he still had nothing…as long as he was still able to help out other people. I have witnessed my parents forfeiting items I know they would have enjoyed, just so they can provide something for someone else. They have assisted numerous students throughout the years with their college tuition (in addition to paying for their own children’s education). They have helped people with their mortgages, furnished houses, cars, the list could go on and on. But they did not just do this because they are good people, they did this because it is biblical to do so. And as a result, they have been richly and abundantly blessed.

I remember as a young child sitting in a gospel meeting at my church and a guy by the name of V.P. Black came and talked about the importance of stewardship. His entire message was this: ONE CANNOT LIVE OBEDIENTLY BEFORE GOD AND WALK IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST WITHOUT DEALING WITH MONEY AS A SPIRITUAL ISSUE IN HIS LIFE.

Now I know there are many reasons for tithing. It shows you where your priorities are, “For where your treasure is, there your HEART will be also” (Luke 12:34), because “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) and because it doesn’t really belong to us anyway!

But you will also find this in the scriptures: “A generous man will himself be blessed” (Proverbs 22:9), “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever SOWS GENEROUSLY will also REAP GENEROUSLY” (2 Corinthians 9:6), and
Malachi 3:8-10 "Will a man ROB GOD? Yet you rob me.” But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In TITHES AND OFFERINGS. (9)You are under a curse — the whole nation of you because you are robbing me. (10) Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

Talk about a stimulus plan!

So while no one in the United States government seems to know how to fix this economy (or apparently pay their taxes), part of me wonders if the answer is not a political answer or policy, but found right here in the scriptures. Because while it is easy to point out Al Gore and Obama as politicians who don’t give to charity, it is much harder to look at Christians (and in the mirror) and admit that we are not doing our part either.

Non profit organizations are now concerned because it's been predicted that President Obama’s proposal to limit the tax breaks for charitable giving would cause giving to decline by an estimated 1.3 percent a year. A second study released this week by the Center on Philanthropy shows 47 percent of affluent households say they would give less if their tax deductions for charitable giving was reduced. Now I will be the first to admit that any tax breaks are welcome and I think his proposal is absurd, but what does it say for our country when we will only give if we receive a tax break?

I would love to know what the number would be monetarily if all the Christians in the United States simply tithed. I can’t help but think the WORLD would be dramatically different, not just the United States. There would be far less hunger, far less homelessness and far less would have to be spent on government programs if we as Christians were doing our part. But historically, when times get tough guess what happens? We stop giving as much to church and charities because we live in fear and want to hold on to that money in case WE need it.

But remember the parable of the Widow’s mite and how she gave everything she had while others only gave small portions of their wealth.

John D. Rockefeller said, "I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week."

So I guess I would just love to see what would happen if everyone in America started doing this. Would the stock market automatically start gaining? Would the housing market and businesses start to flourish again? I don’t know but why not give it a shot? Be faithful. Be brave. Look at what he says again, “Test me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

I don’t know about you but the words of the Lord mean a lot more to me than the words of any politician. And America needs all the blessings we can get right now. So I’m going to do my biblical duty AND patriotic duty and work on giving, even when my gut (and media and stock market, etc…) tells me to hoard it away. And I encourage everyone who has financial concerns to do this too, as counter intuitive as it seems.

And while Obama very well may be able to feed a crowd of 5,000 with just 2 taxpayers, he never has and never will – have a stimulus plan as good as God’s. (I know...he's just such an easy target!). :)

1 comment:

kristyriggsrowe said...

I agree 100%...now if only everyone else had such good sense!