Helicopter Money Drops

I made an off-hand comment in bible study a few weeks ago that I’m a big fan of helicopter money drops. That was a slightly snarky way of saying two things: 1) I don’t believe in complex charity or any complex programs and 2) I think that people who are in poverty, relieving the immediate cash crushes often leads to the ability to think longer term.

I look at those two reasons as more or less extensions of simple theology. 1) Complex programs are functions of the law. No matter how perfect the law, we can’t keep it. The law does not save. If we could cure poverty through the application of the law, it would be done by now instead of getting worse. The biblical fact is that the more the law increases the greater the trespass. 2) Just giving people money to solve immediate needs is a simple application of the gospel. We needed our sins forgiven. Absent that, nothing else really matters because we would still be damned. Christ forgave our sins first, and called us to freedom. Absent eternal death hanging over us, we can start to look further down the road. In a much smaller way, just giving money is an act of grace that removes immediate needs and allows greater vision.

The reason I bring it up is I saw this article with the headline: Free Money might be the best way to end poverty. The article runs through a bunch of social science experiments that basically support what I said snarkily. Now the writer and I would viciously part company on who and how and why this works. My reason why it would work is that it is the gospel – alms freely given and received change lives. (If you have ever seen Les Mis you should know the lesson.) The author instead takes it as the call to build a government program to give free money and to disparage “workfare”. The author would make a law of the gospel, and in so doing steal all its power to change lives. He would by force of law take money from some to give it to others. When the government does this, it is not love or even the attempt at love, but part of a transaction of which both giver and receiver and everyone part of the transaction remains guilty. It might be justice, but a justice without mercy and true love. The law does not save. Love saves.

But of course this is the tragedy of 1960-today America. We have abandoned the gospel, yet attempted to achieve its goals through the law. Ever more onerous and terrible laws. Laws that drain away the grace and replace it with cynicism and mandates. Mandates that the connected can get exemptions from or buy indulgences for. Because they like to parade around in splendid clothes (Luke 20:46-47).