He brought upon himself his misery

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Several weeks ago, a Mormon friend and I were discussing politics, and the conversation turned to the unemployed. He said something to the effect of persons unemployed in today’s climate are such because of their own doing; anyone can get a job in Canada today.

I was reminded of this discussion yesterday during family scripture study, when we read Mosiah 4:17.

Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just

Even though King Benjamin is talking about the poverty-stricken, I think his words apply in the situation described above.

For charity to be truly the pure love of Christ, it needs to be unconditional. Placing a condition on our giving to the poor ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù he brought it on himself, for example ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù means we aren’t truly giving.

Is teaching self sufficiency to the poor a preferred alternative to simply giving handouts? Sure, but to use that as an excuse not to give spare change to the drunk beggar is insufficient if we actually do nothing to encourage self sufficiency.

Too many people say, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìI?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m not giving him even a penny because he?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll just spend it on drugs.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù Yet they contribute nothing to programmes to get them off drugs or make them employable.

If we want to be charitable, then we should be charitable. It’s not up to us to be judgemental.

13 thoughts on “He brought upon himself his misery

    1. Remember the good Samaratin.

    2. D&C 56: 17
      17 Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!

    Two instances of need two different responses. Where is Solomon to help us decide…?

  1. When the apostles begged Christ for fish, he didn’t give it to them. He told them where to cast their nets in to get them. If they disobeyed, they would have gotten no reward. Obviously this was to teach them about missionary work, but He did not eliminate their own personal responsibility to work for their reward. No one gets any reward from God without doing something. Most of the time it just takes believing. Other times it takes much more, like going into a river and bathing to remove a disease (Like in New Testament).

    My point is this. Money can be used for many other things besides what the person is asking for. Who are we to judge? We should judge righteously. Yes, with that same judgment we too will be judged, but if its a righteous judgment then I welcome that same judgment from God. If its obvious that the person is going to use your money to get drugs because the guy is a burnout and high already, then you need to judge wisely. If he is begging for food, then take him down to the store and buy him food. If he refuses, then he gets no reward. I have witnessed this myself. He must have not been that hungry after all.

    I strongly appose giving someone money just because they ask for it. For one, it is against the law were I live. For another, there has to be a good reason for why they need it. I have to make sure it is going to be used honestly. That is the judgment. That is ok to do – In my opinion… I don’t mind being judged by the Lord in this manner. I would not want the Lord to give me something he knew would harm me. I too should be careful not to give something to someone that I know could harm them.

  2. “Placing a condition on our giving to the poor — he brought it on himself, for example — means we aren’t truly giving.”

    I think you here overextend Benjamin. First, charity is not equivalent to “giving”, which I’m sure you know, but nevertheless this seems to have been the false association that lead you from the preceding thought to this one.

    Second, while I would agree that charity must be unconditional, I don’t think that the expression of that charity is context-independent. Rather, I would hold the the expression of our charity must be contextually appropriate. That is, it must be customized; personalized for the individual and the situation.

    A good counterpoint to your assertion is found in D&C 90:25-27. I’ll sum up the applicable principle as follows: The things we have are not just gifts of God, but a sacred stewardship. The things we have are to be used for the promotion of goodness and righteousness (and for the accomplishment of the purposes which God has in mind for us). This requires discrimination in our giving habits.

    I would also endorse what Joe said, “I … should be careful not to give something to someone that I know could harm them”.

    I have quite a little spiel to share on the subject of judgment as well, as it is one of the most misunderstood principles of the Gospel, but that is of mere tangential interest.

  3. While I agree that charity and giving are not synonymous, in this case giving is part of charity. As such, I am not sure I made a false association.

    The things we have are to be used for the promotion of goodness and righteousness

    Completely agree.

  4. While I agree that charity and giving are not synonymous, in this case giving is part of charity.

    I do not recall that your comment was applied to any “case” except possibly the broad class of cases where one meets a person who one might call a beggar.

    Nevertheless, the premise “giving is part of charity” is not really sufficient to make the leap you made. (“Giving is a subset of charity” does not imply that “the application of charity requires giving”, hence conditions are still possible.) As I said: “I would hold [that] the expression of our charity must be contextually appropriate.” Do we kiss the beggar, hug the beggar, give the beggar money, give the beggar food, smile at the beggar, refer the beggar to a shelter, offer the beggar a job, invite the beggar to a family gathering, or what?

    There are lots of things we could do, that make up our charitable arsenal. The fact of the matter is that depending upon the context, the specific act of giving might actually be harmful to the individual (per Joe) and/or contrary to the principles governing our stewardship (per D&C 90 and, arguably, King Benjamin). Since that is the case, it follows that “giving” is not always truly charitable.

    I used to think that offering work was the best all-around alternative. After all, work is a bedrock of the Lord’s system of welfare (D&C 42:42). However, the Smart family did so much and had one such laborer return to kidnap their daughter Elizabeth. (I don’t want to suggest that I know their situation well enough to pass judgment on it. I’m much impressed with the effort and how much real charity went into it.)

    Obviously, though the risks are anywhere from bad to frightening, I wouldn’t suggest that we not give at all, but I do suggest that the idea that “Placing a condition on our giving to the poor — he brought it on himself, for example — means we aren’t truly giving” is not an accurate statement. (True, the one justification you cite is a bad one, but this does not properly extrapolate to the invalidity of all conditions. Benjamin himself offered up a valid condition, which is a sufficient proof by contradiction: “I give not because I have not.”)

    True, God rains some blessings on both the just and the unjust. Others, however, are very conditional, and God is the perfect example of Charity. (God is love.) Christ also, like his father, divided up giving in this way.

    Such bifurcation in the concept of charity is fundamental to the gospel, and causes many modern traditional Christians much headache as they struggle to understand a salvation by grace and/or works. Because of Christ, all shall live, but exaltation comes only to those who have proven themselves worthy… so to speak. (Even then I’m not sure that we can properly say that we’ve “earned” it. It is still a gift after all.)

    One interesting line of inquiry, I would think, would be into the nature of the gifts that are unconditional, and those that are conditional. My thoughts on that subject are newly developing.

  5. I do not recall that your comment was applied to any “case” except possibly the broad class of cases where one meets a person who one might call a beggar.

    What I meant by “in this case” was King Benjamin’s sermon.

    Anyhow, the point of the post was about giving specifically and only generally related to charity, so I am not quite sure why you’re getting hung up on charity.

  6. Anyhow, the point of the post was about giving specifically and only generally related to charity, so I am not quite sure why you’re getting hung up on charity.

    Hung up on charity? I’m very clearly talking about “giving”. the only reason charity comes up at all is because you keep trying to justify your conclusion regarding “giving” in terms of “charity”. My main point is and always has been, that your conclusion regarding giving is incorrect. Secondarily I point out that it is incorrect because the reasoning that led to it (reasoning based upon the over-generalization of the principle of charity) is fundamentally flawed.

    If you have a non-charity-based rationale for your assertion, that giving must be unconditional, I’m all ears, but until then, I’d have to say that your own assertion is hung up on charity like a hat hung up on a rack. (Don’t be surprised if the rack wiggles when I take the hat down and tell you it needs to be thrown out.)

    I’m not sure how you can so misread me here.

  7. Sigh.

    Am I just a poor communicator? This is my fifth conversation this weekend where I have had to repeat myself.

    Anyhow, let me try this again. Hopefully for the last time.

    King Benjamin talks of giving in the verse I quoted above(i.e. “will not give unto him of my food”). Later in the verse, as well as in the other verses in this chapter, he talks of imparting our substance to the poor and succouring them. I assume imparting and succouring are forms of giving based on the context of these verse.

    This giving is not charity in the sense that charity is not defined as just giving to the poor. Of course, charity is so much more than helping the less fortunate. After all, Jesus did more to show love than simply give to the poor.

    Mormon taught that charity consists of long suffering, kindness, contentment, humility, patience, righteous thoughts, rejoicing in truth, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, and enduring all things. While extensive, I tend to think Mormon’s list is not exhaustive.

    That being said, I think it would be difficult for anyone to argue that giving one substance to another is not charitable. So while charity cannot be defined solely as giving, giving can certainly be defined as charity.

  8. The only thing I can think is that you have expanded your definition of “giving” to be so large that any charitable action is regarded as a kind of giving (including comforting, hugging, nourishing both spiritually and physically, etc.) and conversely, any non-charitable giving would not be considered giving. (A valid point of view, but certainly one that requires clarification.)

    In that case charity could be defined as “giving”.

    So, I must consider that this is not what you mean. So long as charity is not defined as giving, then I must presume that you regard the possibility that there are charitable actions which do not qualify as “giving”. (I would further hold that there exists a form of giving which is not strictly charitable. Christ also spoke of this type of thing when he spoke of this sort of thing in another sense which I had not yet mentioned. Matt. 6:1,5, however the point is immaterial so long as you do not hold charity to equate with giving.)

    Anyhow, I’m less certain than ever as to what you’re trying to say, but the danger I see is that we will tell each other that charity requires us to give money to every drunk who says he has need of it (so long as we have the money to give). This would not likely be good for us, or the drunks, or the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God requires a more conscientious and principled charity.

    I believe the original idea that begins your critique in this post is clearly in need of critiquing, but I don’t think that to say “placing a condition on our giving to the poor … means we aren’t truly giving” is accurate, or even safe, either.

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