Tonight I was reminded again that self reliance, while a worthy goal, is sometimes at cross purposes with other values I hold to. As a Christian, I also believe in looking out for my fellow man. While I do not believe in just giving a man a fish, I sometimes may need to allow a man to fish in my pond. Allow me to explain.
There is a person in our church who supports his family by cleaning buildings, mowing lawns, painting houses, and any other odd jobs he can find. He works hard–a lot harder than I do, most likely. He knows how to fish, so to speak, but then so do I. Very little of what he does is something that I can’t do for myself.
Self reliance says I should hold on to my money by doing those tasks myself. My Christian values say I should reward this man’s industriousness by paying him to do some work for me, at least now and then. Which one wins when my values clash in such a manner? Which one should win?
Right now it’s not an issue. I don’t have the money to pay him, because I am still struggling to support my family. My business, while showing some signs of progress, is not yet putting our bank balance on a positive trajectory. But someday I will have enough money to meet my family’s needs and perhaps some to spare. At what point do I decide that while I can take care of my lawn myself, it is my Christian duty to give this man the opportunity to do it for me and thus allow him to take care of his family?
Technically, self reliance doesn’t mean you have to do everything for yourself, you just need to know how to do as much yourself as makes sense. Should I ever fall on hard times again I’m pretty sure I won’t have forgotten how to mow my own lawn. I doubt I’ll have thrown away my mower. But since my my desire to please my God is more important to me than my self reliance, I suspect I need to be taking a careful look at my finances as my business becomes more and more successful. At some point I will need to switch over from securing my own self reliance to helping others achieve it for themselves.