October 11, 2023
Around about the time my brother became a millionaire, a status which he achieved in part to an inheritance, he started resenting the fact my mother has a significant income from the government. Last time he was here, he sat her down and said,
“You don’t realize how lucky you are. The ONLY reason you have money coming in is because dad died.”
I was appalled. I told him to stop it, that she doesn’t need to be shamed like that. She doesn’t deserve it. He looked at me and said,
“Well, it’s true. If dad hadn’t died, she wouldn’t have an income.”
My father died from complications of an on-the-job injury in 1984. My mother was awarded a monthly income from the Department of Labor and Industries. Cost of living increases over nearly 40 years’ time have resulted in her receiving a monthly influx equivalent to a healthy upper middle-class income. This, plus her social security, based on my dad’s wages, plus a small pension she receives from having been a part-time teacher’s aide for the deaf, ensures her financial comfort.
My mother raised us with very little input from my father. He was physically present, but emotionally absent. He was abusive psychologically, physically, and sexually. He was a rather horrible man.
In her early 60s my mother quit her job as a teacher’s aide to care for her father. She cared for him until he died at the age of 93. Shortly after that, she began caring for her mother. She cared for her until she died at the age of 98. Shortly after that, my brother’s first wife absconded to Texas with her lover, leaving him to raise a 13-year-old and an 8-year-old. My mother moved in with him to care for my nieces so he could continue to work full-time. The divorce was contentious, my mother helped him with legal fees.
After the divorce, my mom found 10 acres in the country, and she and my brother each built a house on the property. My brother married his second wife. After just a few years, I don’t recall how many, his second wife left him for another. My brother had to sell his house and property. Mom gifted him the amount of the property so he could take the proceeds from the sale to purchase a new home and start a new life.
In 2015, my mother gifted my brother and me $50,000. I’ve nothing to show for that, I’ve never been good with money. I say this to explain that my brother is not the only one who has received unmerited gains. My brother has always invested wisely. His current financial state is not only the result of gifts and inheritances, but he has always invested wisely. Over the years, he has risen through the ranks and achieved great professional and financial success. He’s a very hard worker and well-respected in his field. I give him credit where credit is clearly due.
My brother is a fundamentalist Christian. He does not attend church but has strong opinions on other’s degree of holiness and adherence to what he believes are God’s commands. In my opinion, his lifestyle does not bear out the moral standards he imposes on others, but I most certainly don’t claim to be free from hypocrisy. We are all on our own path. I need only tend to my own journey.
This is what perplexes me, although it’s actually not very perplexing. My brother is a product of a capitalist mindset. He lives in a wholly transactional world. Although he has received money in the form of gifts and inheritance, he largely perceives his wealth as having been accumulated through his life’s work.
1 Timothy 5:3–8 states that family is responsible for caring for the widows:
“Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Now. Here’s my logic.
· Families, by and large, no longer provide for family members, although it is one of God’s commands. There are many more scriptures to prove this out I’ve not listed here.
· Society has set up a tax structure, some of which goes towards supporting those in need. My mother is a woman in need. My father paid into that system, my brother did, I did, we all do.
· My mother has gone over and above in caring for her family, both in terms of caregiving and financially.
· Perhaps my mother did not “earn” her wages through conventional means; she did not have a career outside the home. But she worked, oh my goodness, did she work. She has sacrificed greatly to provide for those she loves.
· In terms of her contributions to the welfare of others, my mother has more than earned the income she now enjoys.
· To tell her she only has the financial status she has now because my dad died and to make her believe she is somehow undeserving goes against the truth of God.
My brother not only says he is a Christian, but he is also a very intelligent man. How can he not see that a living wage is not, nor should it be, given only to those whom society deems as “deserving”?
I have grace for him, because I only got a hold of this stuff since I fell so ill in 2017 and lost my six-figure income. Would I have seen this dynamic so clearly had I not lost everything? I don’t know. I was on a path, am on a path towards developing more grace and compassion for others. Long, long ago, I was growing in knowledge that living in an exclusively transactional world simply doesn’t work, and that we all have a responsibility to care for those less fortunate.
I don’t condemn my brother, but I do have great pity for him. He lives in a world of scarcity. And it is only because I lost everything that I now live in a world of abundance.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” -John 10:10