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Whatever happened to good ‘ole Personal Accountability?

I just learned of a firestorm created by a millionaire entrepreneur from Australia by the name of Tim Gurner.  Gurner was asked why Millennials are not buying homes in a manner consistent with previous generations.  Gurner attributed the main reason to wasteful spending.  Gurner justified his belief when he postulated, “When I was trying to buy my first home I wasn’t buying smashed avocados for 19 bucks and four coffees at $4 each.”  To summarize Gurner’s contention, he believes wasteful spending is the major crux of the issue.

Not surprisingly, Millennials have immediately responded with a defensive posture and lamented about the difficulty their generation faces concerning purchasing real estate. They pointed to lack of high paying blue collar jobs and an escalating level of debt due to student loans.  Millennials believe there are “structured economic reasons” Millennials find themselves in comparison to their parent that places them at a economical disadvantage.

It would be foolish to disregard the legitimacy of contributing factors such as loss of high paying jobs and increasing debt due to student loans.  Yet, what about the issue concerning purchasing multiple $4 coffees and $19 for “toasted avocados.”  (I must confess I had no earthly idea what “toasted avocado” was). After “Googling” the term it appears it is a vogue sandwich which Millennials are gravitating towards.  Please keep in mind this is apparently an appetizer, not even a main entree.

The aforementioned issues, notwithstanding; what about a more compelling factor: moral choices or personal accountability.  Recently, I was embroiled in a friendly but spirited debate with a dear friend about the comments (which at the time I was not aware) made by the newly crowned Miss America.  She created an uproar herself when you opined health care is a privilege, not a right.  Our discussion delved into the debate about the proper response to individuals who find themselves without proper medical coverage.

I attempted to address the matter from a Christian Worldview that first gave priority to personal accountability.  You know, like when Bible teaches, “If anyone is unwilling to work, he shall not eat.”  One of the surest means of economic viability in American is clearly through education.  While the educational systems has it challenges it still affords those who choose to to take advantage a viable chance of reaching the cherished middle-class.  It should be without dispute if a person completes a college education or acquires a technical skill they would be able to acquire a reasonably well paying job.  Reasonably paying jobs offer “acceptable” health care as a benefit of employment.  I believe I can make that case anecdotally as well as statistically.  In fact, a recent survey by the Brookings Institute revealed a sure mean of avoiding living below the poverty line is to avoid contact with the police, avoid getting married and having children before the age of 21 and to graduate from high school.

Simply put, there is a direct correlation between making good moral/ethical decisions and deriving the proper benefits one needs to flourish in our society.  If you don’t want to be at the mercy of an employer who offers sub-standard wages then put yourself in a position where it is a reasonable expectation you can acquire a job that will provide health and dental, along with other needed or desired benefits.

Similarly, if young people want to achieve the American Dream of home ownership then they have to do what all other previous generations did.  Develop a plan as every generation has had unique challenges but every other previous generation was able to adapt and overcome.  Here is a novel concept: quit buying $19 appetizers and expensive coffees and “save” like the rest of us.

Discussing the health care issue with my colleague he attempted to “paint” my worldview as callous and “compassion-less.”  The last thing I ever want to do is NOT display compassion to those less fortunate.  My family grew up in the midst of tough times, I never forget our church collecting an offering for my family due to my father being out of work for an extended period of time.  Consequently, I have endeavored to never forgot where I come from but the Bible presents a healthy tension.  We are certainly to help the less fortunate.  That is certain and unassailable.  Yet, at the same time there is a requisite personal responsibility to be responsible for your actions.  Hence, the Biblical admonition that a person who would not work would not eat.  There is to be a negative consequence for people who display bad stewardship.

I remember while living in Chicago there was a provision in Illinois for young people who did not have access to medical care.  Every right thinking Evangelical would support this safeguard for “innocent victims” without reservation.  But Evangelicals should righteously oppose being responsible for otherwise healthy able-bodied “adults” who did not take advantages of the opportunities afforded to them.

Listen, there will be always be exception: in fact my debate partner attempted to use veterans  suffering from PTSD as an example of individuals who “fall through the crack.”  I simply reminded him there are already safeguards in place to help veterans suffering from PTSD.  Again, no perfect system but you do not “throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Our society seems to always be ready to place the blame on “external” factors instead of looking at the first potential source of the problem: negative persona moral choices. Listen, we live in a fallen world, a world of discrimination and persecution and all other kinds of chicanery.  I get all of that and in no way am I naively believing it is easy but one thing that has been impressed upon me and I impress upon the young people I interact:  Pay no or Pay later, but you will Pay.

The challenge is to pay now with good choices, instead of living out the consequences of the bad moral choices.  Another maxim is, “when there is a will, there is a way.”  For instance, a person who does not want to incur a lot of debt from college can choose to join the military and have “Uncle Sam” finance their education or they can have work hard to secure a scholarship.  Life is tough and there is no “free lunch,” at least not for most of us.  We have to deal with the hand we have been dealt.  We have to assume responsibility for the choices we make. Period!

Bad choice: buying $19 appetizers and $4 coffees.

Good Choice: saving for a down payment on your 1st home.

Bad choice: not taking full advantage of the the educational opportunities and consequently struggling in your adult life.

Good choice: taking advantage of the educational opportunity and living in the “middle class.”

I know people will lament about my inability to appreciate all of the obstacles a person faces. All I know is our country is replete with people who when faced with a challenge, rose to meet the challenge.  In some small measure my life is indicative of such a life.

I close with the following Biblical admonition:  “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.”

The Word of God ALWAYS has the last word for me.  Maybe if did not insist upon taking God out of the conversation our lot in life would be a heckuva lot better.

I welcome your comments.  Until next Friday, Lord willing.

With much fear and trembling,

Ricky Kyles

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