Wealth and Education
Yesterday, I gave a laundry list of issues affecting the justice of our education system as a whole. Some of them surprisingly are paradoxical. But the first one I gave was probably the most controversial, especially these days. I suggested that “money is the key resource that enables action in this world system. It is the most logical thing that more money should have the best opportunity for the best education, at least partly because the wealthy have the freedom of time and other resources to search out the best education for themselves or their children.”
Our culture has taken the Christian idea of charity and in many ways, perverted it. What is Biblically meant to be a duty of love toward God in voluntarily sharing one’s abundance with others has been twisted and yanked away from the giver. Now the recipient demands it on their terms and has partnered with the power of the State to enforce charity without accountability, even to the point of attempting to make those with means feel guilt for the fruits of their hard work and/or blessings.
Without getting into the “evil rich/victimized poor” false dichotomy, Scripture seems to offer the principle that it is appropriate to use one’s wealth to care for one’s family, without neglecting tithes (which come as the firstfruits before anything else), offerings and charitable giving. Regardless, it is clear that those with any means should give to the poor, and there is no provision for the poor to demand it from the giver, much less with the threat of force imposed by the State.
This attitude bleeds over into the education market, where an attitude is growing that it is not fair for someone who has wealth to use it on their own children to better ensure their success in the proceeding generations. There is real logic in the idea that those with wealth should invest part of it in training their offspring to preserve and increase it, so that it can do more good in greater proportions, than to spend no more on their children than anyone else is able to and replicate mediocre results, risking not just the increase of the wealth but its principal as well. Then with humble charity, the way is open to helping other children have a better opportunity to create their own wealth and enlarge the circle of prosperity, but let’s not do anything to shrink that circle out of a misguided notion that all must rise or sink together in the same way at the same time.
As Christians, we are to give richly, and to give in such a way that helps others have a better opportunity for education than they would normally is one worthwhile use of the money. Furthermore, there are numerous organizations such as World Vision that have developed successful ways to create new educational opportunities around the world far more efficiently than most government sponsored schools in the same areas. Furthermore, it is appropriate to sacrifice comforts to support such efforts.
However, the education of one’s own children is not a comfort, but the primary duty of a parent. Hence, it is off the table in principle from the sacrificeable expenditures for the sake of other kids. In spending for the education of one’s own children, it is assumed the parent is truly looking for the best education for their child’s needs rather than a fashionable academic pedigree, yet the two are not mutually exclusive.
The very argument of demanding complete egalitarianism in educational opportunity testifies to the necessity, rather than comfort of a person’s academic expenditures. While there is selfishness on the part of many rich, and it is a sin, it is no less a sin to scream with envy against the success of others and demanding that success be punished and its rewards confiscated.
A case in point: the other day, a high school acquaintance posted on Facebook a link to a website that would calculate how long it would take (to the day, hour, and minute) for Mitt Romney to earn your annual salary. She and several of her friends were griping how it would take him less than two days to earn their entire annual income, and cursing him with the worst language. When I suggested that instead of cursing him, we learn how he managed to achieve that success and begin to emulate it, she unfriended me.
It is appropriate to remind each other that in God’s eyes and His economy, we all have a noblesse oblige to others, poor or not, and part of the equality in which we are created includes an interdependence we ignore at our peril. This interdependence goes both ways—God allows gifts, talents and resources to be spread irregularly to enforce this interdependence, and it is our fallen nature that impedes its realization, not the possession of greater resources. That fallen nature is however uniform across the fabric of humanity. The rich do not automatically receive a greater share of sinful desires along with their greater wealth, and the poor do not automatically receive less. The whole concept of class warfare is rooted in the notion that the poor’s sin stinks less than the sin of the rich, and it is a lie, straight from the pit, designed to disrupt our interdependence even more than it already is.
The solution is quite simple, though it is anything but easy. Whether rich or poor, educated or not, Christians are to live Christ in spite of the pressures to do otherwise. It is largely counterproductive to try to force, through legislative means, all conform to that standard of behaviour. Man’s law is imperfect and arbitrary, regardless of the goodness of its intentions, and legislating charity, in whatever form, has the appearance of wisdom, but in practice tends to fall far short. Perhaps a compromise might be to dictate a percentage of one’s income go to the needy in some fashion, and the choices of which to support is up to the giver, though the amounts and recipients are reports. This is fraught with perils of the law of unintended consequences as well.
Regardless, the Church has an opportunity to clean its own house and work together to really solve problems, thus serving as an example and a seed crystal for replication through the culture. The first step is to stop hating those who have greater resources than us and viewing those with fewer as being helpless. The second step is to challenge each other at all levels to look outside themselves, and seek out the roots to problems rather than batting down symptoms. God has given us a planet of untold riches, and asks that we mutually submit to each other in sharing and receiving them, without begrudging anyone some degree of enjoyment of their own blessings, especially if that enjoyment is spent on providing for their family, including their education.