Our Government stimulus “checks” have arrived (technically, direct-deposit). Each of the three of us got our $1,400, including 19-year-old daughter Karlyn.
Make no mistake – it’s nice to have that extra money. However, for me, it presents a major ethical challenge. Cutting to the chase: I feel that I should find people or places to give Evelyn’s and my entire amount away. Why? Because the intent of the stimulus program is to help those who are having financial difficulty to meet their expenses (rent, food, loan payments, etc.) due to the impact that COVID-19 has had on them. Many have been laid off, for example, and that government aid is meant to help them until they can begin earning a living again.
By the grace of God and an excellent pension program, Evelyn and I have been spared having to face such circumstances. We continue to be able to meet our financial obligations and have sufficient to fill our refrigerator, pantry, and freezer. “To whom much is given, much will be required,” says the Good Book. And right now, I’m feeling the pinch of being equal to the task of meeting what’s required.
We don’t need that stimulus money. We have resources. We are blessed. As a faithful United Methodist striving to follow in the footsteps of founder John Wesley, I want to give it all away (it was Wesley’s desire to have no money to his name at the moment of his death). And, as a faithful Christian striving to follow the teachings of Jesus, I want to give it away because we’re called to care for those with less than we have (identified in Scripture as “widows and orphans,” but meaning anybody in need).
My quandary, of course, is in convincing my family that it’s the right thing to do. As soon as Evelyn knew the money had been deposited, she began shopping for new porch furniture. As soon as Karlyn knew that her portion had arrived, she and her friend traveled to Maryland and stuffed themselves with a Cracker Barrel dinner.
(My frustration heightens when I consider Karlyn and her stimulus money. Evelyn, being the ever-hopeful mom that she is, has suggested that Karlyn keep those funds in her bank account so she’ll have the $1,000-plus that she’ll need in June to pay for her car insurance, since she is currently unemployed and has only the few dollars she earns on the weekends babysitting, certainly not enough to pay for her insurance. Using gas to travel to a neighboring state to spend even more money on a meal that was totally a treat and not a necessity does not send a message that she’s at all concerned about June. She accuses Evelyn and me of not being there for her, but we have offered her this kind of guidance for years. The teacher can do only so much. If the student chooses not to learn or to risk another choice that the teacher thinks is unwise, then the teacher can’t be blamed. Karlyn practices very much the mindset of the prodigal: “I’ve got money! Let’s party!”)
But I digress.
I will end up not giving away any more than a tenth (tithe) of our stimulus payment. That’s because I have to live with my family; however, I must insist on that tenth as the bare minimum. I don’t think I’ll get any argument about that.
If I must rationalize using the money for ourselves instead of giving it away, I suppose it could be argued that our support of local businesses is helping the economy, but that’s just not what’s in my heart. We can afford porch furniture without using the extra little windfall with which Uncle Sam has gifted us. Not giving it away is something for which I know I will be held accountable when I stand before God, and the only thing I’ll be able to say is, “I didn’t have the courage.”