Recently, Ivanka Trump did an interview on Foxnews and was asked about a guaranteed job that is apparently promised in the Green New Deal.
Her response to the question was:
“I don’t think most Americans, in their heart, want to be given something. I’ve spent a lot of time traveling around this country over the last 4 years. People want to work for what they get,” Trump told Hilton. “So, I think that this idea of a guaranteed minimum is not something most people want. They want the ability to be able to secure a job. They want the ability to live in a country where’s there’s the potential for upward mobility.”
Leaving the politics aside on this, I think she is right and wrong. I think she is right when she says that “I don’t think most Americans, in their heart, want to be given something.” I think most Americans would agree with the sentiment in theory. The underlying idea is the old lift oneself up by the bootstraps idea – the self-made person who did it on their own. Rugged individualism. Frank Sinatra – I did it my way.
Yup, most Americans believe this – I think it’s safe to say that. Doesn’t mean it’s right. Doesn’t mean we practice it. Doesn’t mean we are even consistent with this. In fact, I think we’re all a bunch of hypocrites.
Most Americans also claim to be Christians. Christian doctrine doesn’t believe in karma. (Although that’s a debatable statement when you start talking about decision theology, etc). Karma is that you get what you deserve. If you are a good person, you deserve to be rewarded for your good behavior. If you are bad, then you are punished.
Ivanka’s statement is very much in line with this belief system. It’s rather karma-esque. You get what you deserve and work for.
Christian doctrine, at least mainline Christian belief, is different. We believe in Grace. Grace could be defined simply with two key ideas – you don’t get what you deserve and you get what you don’t deserve.
Why is this important? Simple. If you agree with Ivanka’s statement that most Americans, in their heart, don’t want to be given a handout, and yet most Americans claim to be followers of Jesus which believes in divine grace – then we have a conflict. Which is it?
Most Americans do believe that they should earn what they get. Often times, we apply this idea to church and salvation too. How much better, we think, if we can earn our own salvation. Then God would owe us and we can set up the relationship with God on our terms. We can be in control. We can tell God what to do and what part of our life to stay out of.
Earning things and working for something can be rewarding – no doubt. But it also has the potential to become an idol. We start to think we are in control. Except we aren’t.
The first sin in garden of Eden was a sin of control – to be like God.
But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’
(Genesis 3:4-5, NRSV)
“You’ll know” was the temptation. You’ll be like God. You’ll be in control.
Except you won’t.
That’s not how it works. Salvation is a gift from God. It is grace. We don’t deserve it. We can’t earn it. We can’t work for it. We aren’t in control of it. This is really difficult for people to grasp – even faithful Christians. Because of the grace of God, we are given a free divine handout. Nothing that we earned. Does it make us lazy with our faith? In some cases, yes. In others, it spurs us to act out of gratitude for this amazing gift that has been given.
While most Americans say they don’t want a free handout, I’m willing to bet when it comes down to it – they do. At least they profess the biggest free handout in creation in their religious beliefs.