“I make over $250,000 a year, between my wife and I,” Thomas Jacoby, a 62-year-old contractor, tells me in Woodbridge. “I don’t want to share it with anybody.”
“MINE!” It’s something that any parent with more than one kid has heard at least a hundred times. “NO! YOU CAN’T PLAY WITH THAT BECAUSE IT’S MINE!” we hear coming from the den in a shrill voice louder than a fire engine siren. And being the good, loving, Christian, progressive parents that we are, we head into the den and say in a loving and gentle voice “YOU KID’S QUIT FIGHTING AND SHARE!”
Sharing is a value that most of us try to instill in our kids. Yes, we tell them, that is something that was given to you, but the nice and proper thing to do is to share with one another. It’s a value that is lifted up in the Bill Bennett’s “The Book of Virtues,” and something that our mother’s taught us — a value that has been transmitted from generation to generation.
So why then are so many people acting as if they are two years old again?
Thomas Jacoby, the contractor mentioned above, isn’t unique. He represents a tip of the iceburg of those who participate in the “ownership society.” These persons understand the value of hard work, and thus believe that they deserve everything they own and every dollar that they earn. They are the “owners” of their wealth, and pity the person who comes along and asks to share. “It’s MY money!” they shout like a couple of schoolgirls arguing over a Barbie. “Why should I care whatsoever about you?”
Dave Ramsey, the radio host and financial guru, lives in Nashville and I have been following him for many years. Dave has offered much good advice to folks in need (some of which I needed to listen to a bit closer) and I appreciate a lot of what he says. I especially appreciate his emphasis on giving to the church, as he understands that financial participation in the life of the church is part and parcel of church membership.
However all of that was called into question a few years back when the state of Tennessee was considering a tax increase. Revenues were down and the governor (a Republican) was considering how to fund services in the midst of the shortfall. Ramsey was one of the leaders in against any tax increases, using his platform on the radio to encourage resistance. What was his primary justification? That it was HIS money and he didn’t think that the government should have ANY of it.
Now understand, none of us particularly likes taxes. As our incomes have stayed relatively flat, the dollars taken out of our checks become more and more precious to maintaining the lifestyles to which we’ve become accustomed.
But we can’t forget that “government” is not some big monster that landed from the planet Zurg. Government is the thing that our ancestors set up years ago so that we might share what we have with one another for the good of our communities. Yes, government might be bloated and slow in responding at times, but it has no agenda to take your money with no return. It is a mechanism for sharing what we have, and often we find ourselves getting back much more than we put in.
The problem we face in our society today is that we have lost the value of sharing. Sharing is something for babies, for the weak, and frankly we don’t give a damn about them. We have to look out for numero uno, my interests, and screw the rest, because it’s all mine anyway.
And in saying such things, we sound like a bunch of two year olds.
And God shakes his head and wonders if we’ve heard ANYTHING that he has tried to tell us over the years.