(My apologies to those who somehow received this post in a very incomplete form in your email yesterday.)
A woman was cleared of benefit fraud after failing to declare her £50K inheritance from her mother. She spent the money on her mother’s cats and continued to receive benefits.
The money for benefits does not really come from government. Everything the government spends comes from somewhere else.
- Most of it comes from our friends and neighbours who work.
- Most of the rest of it comes from borrowing, which means it will come from our children and grandchildren when they work, and from their friends and neighbours who work.
- Some of it comes from the government printing money, which lessens the value of the money of people who have responsibly worked and saved.
In other words, benefits come from people, almost entirely from people who have worked (or who will work in the future, when the debt comes due).
If you are receiving any need-based government benefit, you have an ethical responsibility to use the resources at your disposal to reduce your need. You are taking money from your friends, neighbours, and children.
If you were paying to put up a conservatory to provide more spacious accommodation for your cats, and then went to your friends and neighbours and said, “Please give me money to meet my necessary living expenses,” they would look at you as if you were from Mars, or something.
If you had a daughter who was truly in need, and legitimately so, you would not leave a large sum to your cats in her care, and expect her to spend it on the cats while she starved. Nor would you expect her neighbours to give her money for her food and housing while she spent your money on your cats. You would expect them to say, “Spend your own money on food and housing, and give the cats normal cat food, and maybe give some of them away to a good home where there’s a child who would love to have a cat. Don’t expect ME to take care of this.”
The judge may have determined that Mrs Howes’ actions did not violate the law, but no Christian should do what she has done. If you are going to spend large sums on things that are not necessities, you should not expect someone else to then take care of your necessities because you don’t have enough money to do so yourself.
We have a lot of sloppy thinking (and sloppy actions) in our society in regard to benefits, especially needs-based benefits. Most of the money comes from your friends and neighbours, money which they have worked to earn. It was taken from them by force of law. Much of it will be taken from our children and grandchildren by force of law. We have no inherent right to their money. We may have a legal right, because we live in a society which has chosen to provide funds to the needy — but if so, it is unethical to claim those funds unless we are truly needy, unless we have done all we can to lessen our need for them.
Christians should lead the way on this. Just because you have a legal right to something does not mean you have a moral / ethical right to it.