The following post was inspired by Barack Obama’s acceptance speech for the presidential nomination of the Democratic party. There was one particular portion of his speech that really caught my attention, so I wrote this post.
During election season, you will almost always hear the arguments between members of both political parties accusing the other of significant flaws in their philosophy of government. I watched Senator Obama’s speech at Invesco Field at the culmination of the Democratic National Convention. During his speech, he declared the Republicans have a “you’re on your own” philosophy. His words:
For over two decades — for over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: Give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the “Ownership Society,” but what it really means is that you’re on your own. Out of work? Tough luck, you’re on your own. No health care? The market will fix it. You’re on your own. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don’t have boots. You are on your own. Well, it’s time for them to own their failure.
This got me to thinking. Is that really the way I think? Am I that heartless? Is Obama right?
As I began to really analyze my beliefs, and those of the leaders for whom I tend to vote, a light turned on in my head. I remembered these words from the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
You’ll notice that the founding fathers said that we are created equal, not equally. As Americans, we are afforded the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. But this also means that we have the right to fail and underachieve. It is not the responsibility of those who have achieved to carry those who have not. The fact is, there are churches and agencies all over our great country available to assist people in need. That is where this belongs, not in government. We are born with “certain unalienable rights”. From that point on, we’re the responsibility of our families or guardians until we’re adults. Then…it’s up to us.
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus shares a story of a man who was going on a journey. Before leaving, he left some money to his servants, “according to their ability“. His point in doing so was essentially a test to see what they’d do with it. You’ll notice in this story that none of the three men to whom he gave this money were given equal amounts. To one he gave five talents, another two talents, and to the other, one talent. When he returned to them after his journey, the men with the five and two talents, respectively, each doubled the amount they were given. The third man literally buried what was given to him, doing absolutely nothing with it. What he was originally given was then taken away and given to the man who now had ten.
Well that seems hardly fair, doesn’t it? I mean, that guy already has ten. How can you take away from the guy who only had one? Shouldn’t the guy with ten give up some of his to help the poor dude with only one?
Justice can be harsh.
Notice the reasoning given by the man who buried what was given to him. He blamed his master saying that he was harsh and cruel. He didn’t take personal responsibility. He was given free money, but did nothing with it because he had a knot in his boxers over his boss.
And you thought class warfare was something new.
With all this being said, I come to this conclusion. These three men had developed their own resumes. They had their own personal histories and reputations based on their own abilities and work ethic. Not based on their parents, where they were born, where they went to school or anything else. They were each servants of the same master. The first two men were given different amounts. They each doubled what was given to them. Their master’s response to them was identical. He was not more pleased with the man who now had ten than the one who now had four. He was pleased with their results and their integrity. And to them, he gave more.
When we’re “on our own”, what is in our hearts will be revealed. Had the third man doubled his money, though he would have had only two, he would have pleased his master equally. Heck, maybe he could have tripled it and changed the story completely!
But he did nothing with it.
I commend Barack Obama for coming as far as he has considering the family life and racial confusion he must have felt and endured while growing up. That’s very impressive and inspiring. However, I still subscribe to the ideal that we are on our own to pursue those unalienable rights described by our country’s founding fathers. I do not expect or want government to be my great equalizer. I do not have the same abilities as others. To whom much is given, much more is required. I have to look in the mirror when I consider my own personal journey.
There are many who are born with disabilities. For one reason or another, and to one degree or another, they are dependent upon others. Poverty, underprivileged, lack of motivation or intelligence…these are not disabilities. These are obstacles. To one with resolve, they are opportunities.
God is my equalizer. In cooperation with Him, I can do “all things”. That is, as long as I don’t bury what HE has given me.