It is very common for the the very wealthy and politicians to start foundations for a charity or cause. This is both a publicity coup and also an opportunity to raise cash under the auspices of a greater good. But very often it is more cynical than sincere and probably for the tax breaks or as a money laundering scheme more than anything else, in some cases these organizations spend all of their donations on administrative salaries and not the stated mission.
Virtue signaling is a social phenomenon where a person, with a very small actual personal investment or self-sacrifice, can gain a great benefit or standing amongst their peers. This can include social media activism, yard signs declaring virtue, and any other low effort high reward way that people try to distinguish themselves as better than their neighbors. It is more often token giving or symbolic compassion, lacking substance, and is something that Jesus encountered and condemned.
Good Samaritan and Poor Widow Versus the Rich Boastful Givers
Most of us are a mixed bag of motivation, we can intend good and yet too often our self-interests corrupt the effort. The greater problem being that we’re not even ourselves fully aware of our hidden ambitions. We can easily and do often delude ourselves about our own righteousness compared to others, especially our ideological enemies and truly be more exploitative than those who we would condemn. The teachings of Jesus are an opportunity for self-reflection, a chance to grow in self-awareness and learn about how true compassion compares to the phony variety and counterfeit virtue.
First, consider the example of a boastful virtue signaler:
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.(Matthew 6:1-4 NIV)
It is fairly obvious, in this extreme to make the point, that this hypocritical giver is in it for themselves. They want the attention and good publicity, they desire the honor of their peers, and it isn’t truly about the needy who are receiving the help.
Here’s the genuine article:
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”(Mark 12:41-44 NIV)
It is nothing for a billionaire to write a million dollar check. It is nothing for a politician to promise billions from the public treasury as a ‘sacrifice’ for a supposedly just cause. But, in both cases there is often a big political or social reward for this ‘charitable’ act, it can mean reelection or personal access to even more resources. But, in this example above, this poor widow put in 100% and got nothing in return—at least not in the short-term. Her sacrifice is more condemnable and true than those dumping a fraction of their excess.
And then there is the classic case of the good Samaritan:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”(Luke 10:25-37 NIV)
Not only was this a great answer to a trap question, but the Samaritans were the low class and looked down ‘deplorables’ of their day who lacked the right pedigree to be the social elites. The priest and Levite, on the other hand, were the important and looked up to. They would be the religious bloggers of their day, preaching about the equivalent to social justice or other popular ‘righteous’ things, but made excuses for themselves and looked the other way when their love was tested.
The good Samaritan’s love was genuine. It was not announced to the world. It was not only a gesture or incomplete aid. And, more importantly, he gave completely of his own resources. There was no GoFundMe or calls for others to see the need and help him to distribute the cost. Nope. He saw the need, he dug into his own meager resources, and finished the job without any need of the help, attention or affirmation of others. Only this poor beaten man knew of his goodness.
The teachings of Jesus are always always about changing us, as individuals, and not the systems of the world. The priest and Levite, like the unnamed rich man of Luke 16 (who stepped over a poor very sick man on his doorstep, named Lazarus), all had their important things to do. They were the social elites and responsible people. In their own minds they had justified their response to the need directly in their paths.
Giving Self-sacrificially Is Christian Love, Forcing Others Give Is Not
Modern Western ‘democracy’ is full of virtue signaling and a favorite thing to do is decry the ‘racism’ of denying entry to the unvetted masses driven to our borders. It is the one issue where those who call out the “Christian nationalism” of their neighbors suddenly will find Jesus—albeit only to distort and use His words to bludgeon others, like Judas.
Now, before I get too far in, I do believe there are many who do have genuine compassion and care for refugees. Indeed, it is Christian duty to welcome the stranger and even invite them into our homes. My grandma was one of these open-handed people. No, they did not have that much themselves and yet her table was always open to those who needed a warm meal. This is the charity Jesus was talking about, not a social program.
Politicians will routinely make a display of the vulnerable as a cynical ploy to promote agenda. It is not out of love, it is simply a way to exploit our pity and silence objections to what is often a cover for a power grab. It is always “think of the children” when they are the true beneficiaries. They call for the “rich” to “pay their fair share” while having an abundance themselves. They may want to change the world and yet should start by changing themselves.
Again, I’m not saying that social activists are not well-intentioned. And yet I will say that they might not comprehend the costs that they incur on others (some who have less than them) nor fully consider the complexity and consequences. It is one thing to want to fix climate change or have a world free of borders, but quite another to pay the price for these ambitions. Many want to ride the compassion bandwagon, few want to be in the mud pushing this load of crocodile tear crying virtue signaling fools.
We have an inversion of Christian morality in the West where now the ‘first’ are demanding the ‘last’ pay for their virtuous acts. It is our most powerful, wealthy and privileged, who hold the money bag like Judas, demanding that common folk sell all to give to the poor while they keep their private jets, mansions and lavish lifestyle. The poor now subsidize the ‘compassion’ of the rich and many seem not to see how perverse this really is.
It is bad enough to give only for the attention of others. But, to guilt, shame or force those with less to subsidize your own altruism and compassion? That is a whole new level of self-serving, psychopathic and evil. It was always those confronting Jesus, and His followers, tithing even their spices, going to these extremes impress and try to establish a themselves as better than. Today it is the same, it is those who proudly preen their love and tolerance who are oftentimes most selfish and cruel under their costumes of righteous.
The Cruelty and Compassion of Martha’s Vineyard
Border states are being overwhelmed by the flow of unvetted migrants. But, for the most part, this growing humanitarian crisis has been ignored. Out of sight is out of mind for most people and this has been the case on our Southern border. I’m not a big fan of political stunts and yet sometimes to make others aware of an issue does require a little creativity or some coloring outside of the lines to illustrate the point to those in denial or oblivious.
And there was outrage, wild accusations of cruelty, even human trafficking, when Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, provided free airfare for fifty migrants from a nasty red state to a very blue Martha’s Vineyard.
For those who do not know, Martha’s Vineyard is a popular hangout for the very wealthy and most privileged—an exclusive enclave where these social elites have their summer homes. And, yes, ironically, while most of us could only ever get on there real estate as the help, they do have those virtue screaming “all are welcomed” signs. How this free ride to this liberal “sanctuary city” is cruelty, I’ll never know, but how quickly the new arrivals were deported tells a bit of the true depth of the compassion under their righteous bluster.
Interestingly, the Biden administration has also sent new arrivals to interior cities, less resource rich, and never had been accused of human trafficking or cruelty for this. But apparently, when you send these people to one of the wealthiest and most privileged enclaves in America, that claims to be a sanctuary city and welcoming of all, it is a terrible crime. Or, in the eloquent parlance of a “founding member” of an organization to help refugees, this is throwing your “trash” in someone else’s neighborhood:
Cognitive dissonance anyone?
I mean this blurb takes the cake. The lack of self-awareness to say, let alone publish, such a statement is astounding. The media has glowed at how these resource rich people fed these asylum seekers for a day, but has yet to speak of the cruelty of these new arrivals being deported from the exclusive island within 24-hours. Apparently nobody had room in their mansion or second home to provide long-term shelter?
But the whole ordeal is a classic example of what virtue signaling is and how it is vastly different from true compassion. A virtue signal is all about a person trying to glean the social benefits of holding the correct beliefs or the good deed and requires very little actual sacrifice. While the cameras rolled, the hot food trays came out and the picture looked very virtuous. And yet, rather than keep on caring, they literally called up the National Guard and almost immediately offloaded the expense to the taxpayers.
The people who could afford to build brand new houses for all fifty sent, who could have easily created a place for them in their own community and made real on the “all are welcomed” sign, only had a minor day long inconvenience. They’ll probably spend more on litigation, against the state of Florida, than they did on this fortunate handful of the thousands pouring into this country every day and overwhelming the resources of border states. So the compassion is fake, they claim the moral high ground while others shoulder the costs.
Compassion Claimed, Costs Diffused
Costs don’t matter to the privileged and social elites. They have never had to pay for anything themselves. As trust-fund babies or politically connected, they could always snap their fingers and someone else would clean up the mess behind them. So, yes, of course they will support open borders for us, proclaiming the virtue, and the Levites (story of the good Samaritan) will simply follow their example. Others bear the cost.
What are the costs?
Wage suppression. Old Socialists, in contrast to the wealthy factory owners and industrialists, always wanted strict border controls. Why? Well, because a never ending flow of low skill labor takes the feet out from under those trying to bargain for better compensation. And this is a real problem in the South. Why hire from the local population, with the legitimate process paperwork, when you could pay half the money to an illegal immigrant, under the table, and they dare not complain?
Another cost is to the local government resources. A flow of unvetted immigrants, even if most are very good people, is a huge burden and much more than some catered trays brought out for the eyes of the media in New England. There’s the need for ESL teachers and more classrooms, additional policing, the welfare benefits, and the tab for this is not distributed evenly despite some Federal aid. And that’s not to even mention the quality of life issues. No, immigrants aren’t trash and yet they do bring problems with them. The states in the South are overwhelmed.
But the real cruelty and inhumanity of all this is how much work it is for some to enter this country while others can just jump line and be treated as victims. While political elites talked about family separations, a necessary precaution to establish the identities of the adults and prevent human trafficking, I could not even travel to be with the child who calls me “daddy” and my love. As one of those going through this expensive and completely frustrating process, with the trash websites, poor communication and the many tons of requirements, I know.
If you do not have equal love for the MAGA hat wearing ‘deplorable’ that American, living in the rust belt, having to bear the cost of your ideal, then maybe your love isn’t all that real. True love shoulders the entire cost, it never tells others to make a sacrifice for sake of our own compassion. We should welcome the stranger, yes, but we must also love our actual neighbors and give our all before asking anything of others. It is not love to virtue signal, it is just another form of ignorance.