It is worth wondering why the majority of the law in the OT ascribes negative rights to people instead of positive ones. Dietrich Bonhoeffer thought about this same thing while his imprisonment during World War II which ending in his death at the command of Hitler. When I say negative, I simply mean commands which have “not” in them: “You shall not murder, you shall not covet, you shall not commit adultery.” The Entitlement mentality says, “I am entitled to something, I have a right to . . .” But having an attitude of negative rights (“I am not entitled to, I do not have a right to”) changes how we receive. The ramifications of allowing this “negative rights paradigm” to sink in through daily life, whether it be political, economic, or social, will create a brand new way of life, seen most clearly in our attitude about what we receive from others. But is entitlement really that bad a thing? Are we not due something? Do we have to define life by what we are not entitled to (e.g., not entitled to kill someone)? Granted, being self-interested is not always to be selfish. Nevertheless, an entitlement attitude is defined by its concern for self preeminently and not with someone else. In the negative paradigm, another person enters the conversation: “I am not entitled to murder someone.” In the entitlement way, the same thought sounds like this with another not entering the thought: “I am entitled to live.” This is only a small matter of phrasing but how we phrase it is foundational to how we understand our relationships with others. Does our sense of entitlement damage another? This is crucial: there can be some self-interested activities which benefit others and there are some which are detrimental to others. Entitlement, as conceived in what follows, does harm to another and thus is rightly classified as selfish and not merely self-interested. For instance, if we say that we deserve an education paid for by the government, what have we really said? We deserve an education paid for by others who have labored through their jobs, risks, stocks, what have you, and then had their money taken through taxation and redistributed by government. And who gets the renown for this? Likely government and not the rightful men or women who earned the money. Entitlement benefits received through government necessarily involves oppression of those from whom the money is taken in order for their money to be redistributed. What degree of taxation? Or for what purposes will taxes be used? How we answer these questions will determine whether taxation is oppressive taxation. Taxation per se is not evil. Will Christians, through entitlement and taxation, support enslaving many in this manner? Bear in mind that I am not saying that Christians should not give; I am saying that Christians should give but taxation, required as it is, for the sake of government-discerned-entitlements is not “giving.” For one, determining who receives your money is no longer up to the one who is giving the money (in many regards). For two, giving based on Christ is to be freely done just as He freely gave. For three, the one giving should receive credit for the gift rather than the one who is redistributing. We even use different language to describe the difference between paying taxes and giving. Intuitively we say, when we give the government money through taxation, “I paid my taxes,” rather than, “I gave my taxes”: different words for different actions.
B. T. Scalise
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