I recently filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy case for a client who owed a significant amount of money to some local loan shark companies. (I call payday and title loan companies “loan shark companies” because they routinely charge up to 300% interest per year on money that is loaned to customers.) My client also had several thousand dollars in accumulated debt that he owed to credit card companies and medical providers. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call my client “Jim.”
In a chapter 7 bankruptcy, the person filing the bankruptcy is allowed to keep up to $15,000 equity in a home (homestead exemption), up to $2,400 equity in a vehicle (vehicle exemption), and up to $4,000 of other personal property, which includes cash on hand, money in the bank, and household goods and furnishings (wildcard exemption).
Jim’s bankruptcy petition included a breakdown of his household income and expenses. The breakdown showed that Jim and his wife have expenses that currently exceed their income by more than $350 per month.
After I filed Jim’s bankruptcy, a hearing was scheduled to allow the bankruptcy trustee to ask him questions. The bankruptcy trustee is an attorney who is paid by the government to review all bankruptcy-related documents and to determine whether there are any assets that can be recovered to pay to creditors.
At the hearing, the trustee asked Jim what he and his wife did with their recent federal tax refund of more than $5,000. Jim testified that some of the money was used to repair a vehicle and to pay current bills. He then testified that he and his wife used $1,700 of the refund to play the slot machines on the riverboat casino.
I have a question for you.
What was the first thought that came to your mind after you found out that Jim and his wife wasted $1,700 on gambling? I’ll tell you what my initial thought was. One word jumped into my mind: “Dummies!”
Jim and his wife have the right to do whatever they want with their money, as long as the money was excluded from the bankruptcy as a part of Jim’s wild card exemption. Since the refund was shared by Jim and his wife, 50% of the refund was attributable to Jim and 50% was attributable to his wife.
I want you to know that Jim is a decent man who works hard and is devoted to his wife and family. His rate of pay is $12.35 per hour and his wife earns $11.90 per hour at her job. Their combined income is barely sufficient to support their family, yet they knowingly went out and blew $1,700 of their hard- earned money on the hope that they would hit the jackpot. They should have known better.
Last week, I wrote about our former U.S. Congressman Aaron Schock and his resignation from office because he got caught violating several federal laws. One of the reasons I wrote about Schock was that several individuals had previously asked for my opinion about his resignation, so I decided to share my views about his decision in an article.
After I wrote the article, a devout Catholic woman who I’ve known for several years told me that she felt sorry for Schock. She said that it was “not fair to judge him for what he did.” I responded by saying, “I agree with you that we should not judge what’s in a person’s heart or soul, but we should at least be willing to acknowledge that it is often necessary to judge a person’s behavior.” I went on to explain to her that in courtrooms throughout the country there are thousands of individuals who are sent to prison every year because a judge or a jury passed judgment on their criminal behavior.
The woman explained that she thought Schock was “too young and innocent” when he was first elected to office and that he was later corrupted by the people he was exposed to in Washington, D.C. I responded by telling her that Schock is a 33-year-old man who was caught charging the government for several thousand dollars of mileage costs that he had not incurred. The woman’s last statement to me was, “I know, but I still feel sorry for him.”
In our upside-down, politically correct culture, we are constantly told by the politicians, activists, celebrities, news reporters, and college professors that we should never judge anyone’s behavior. Yet we are constantly being judged by those same people because of our religious beliefs. We are told that we are bigoted and hateful and that we must modify our beliefs and behavior to show support for the illicit and immoral behavior of others.
I started out by telling you about my bankruptcy client to prove a point. When you learned that my client had filed bankruptcy to get out of paying his past-due bills, and then turned around and gambled away a large chunk of money, you immediately formed a judgment in your mind. Like me, you may have concluded that he was stupid. Or you may have concluded that he was irresponsible or that it was not fair for him to get away with not paying some of his bills while at the same time gambling away his money.
While you and I are free to form a judgment about my client’s behavior, it is not fair for us to judge him as an individual. We don’t know anything about his upbringing or what kind of examples he had around him during his formative years. We also don’t know if he suffers from a gambling or other type of addiction.
The same reasoning applies when we form a judgment about the sinful behavior of others. We have every right to refuse to associate with people who engage in sinful behavior. We also have the right to keep our children away from those same people, especially the ones who engage in immoral behavior such as adultery, pornography, sexual promiscuity, or homosexuality.
The forming of a judgment about the behavior of other people doesn’t mean that we are judging them as individuals. We were told by our Savior to love the sinner, but hate the sin. The job of judging the hearts and souls of individuals is within the sole domain of our Creator who will render judgment upon each of us after we have departed from this Earth.
It takes humility and courage to stand up to the real haters who do everything in their power to force us into accepting and supporting their illicit and immoral behavior.