We want every penny due us in dividends, interest, labor income, consulting fees, writer fees, honoraria, sale of chattels, refunds, rebates and legal settlements, so we search for every discount, bonus, rebate, tax credit and deduction. Of course, we recognize that spending an hour of time and a dollar’s worth of gas to save 10 cents on a pork roast is not cost-effective. We seek gains as long as the marginal benefit exceeds the marginal costs.
This is not being greedy or mean. It is being prudent, frugal and responsible. We encourage everyone to adopt these habits as best they can. And here is why: to be a Good Samaritan.
Remember Jesus’ story of the Jewish guy who got mugged on the road to Jericho? The fellow who helped him was a Samaritan, a group the Jews hated—and who hated the Jews. Luke’s gospel (10:33-35 NIV) tells us the Samaritan took pity on the man and, “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.’”
Note the Good Samaritan paid for the care and well-being of the stranger from his own pocket. He did not stiff the innkeeper. He did not send a bill to the Sanhedrin or to King Herod.
As far as we know, he did not organize a March on Jerusalem or Rome demanding state-paid social services. He did not proclaim health care was a human right, nor talk about how the victim’s attackers were themselves victims of institutional injustice. The Good Samaritan was not a Social Justice Warrior. He responded to the immediate need of a suffering person. He showed loving kindness by his actions. As important was the fact that he had the financial capacity to do good deeds. His actions would have been severely compromised had he not had personal wealth.
This doctrine is well expressed by the 18th century minister John Wesley: “Earn all you can, give all you can, save all you can.” Wesley was an Anglican minister who is widely credited to be the founder of Methodism. Oh, that his spiritual descendants would embrace his wisdom.•
Bohanon and Curott are professors of economics at Ball State University. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.