A new word has come to light during the past nearly 4 years in which we've had our current president. It is a word that rouses cheers from some and pleas for change from others. The word is "Obamacare." While it is the dubbed title of the "Health Care Reform Plan," it seems to scream the very essence of what President Obama stands for and to many represents his views on welfare in general.
If you spend 5 minutes on facebook, you will see people fuming on both sides of this issue. Some things I've seen include, "It is wrong to tax a person nearly to the point of death in order to provide for someone who will not work." Or on the flip side, "You say feeding the poor and helping them is wrong? I thought you were a Christian." As we get closer to the election, this topic is certain to fuel more fire.
Do we need these kinds of programs? Do we need medicaid, food stamps, etc.? Do we need to help others who need food, medical care and clothing? Are these the same questions? I don't think so. My view is based on what I have found in Scripture. First, do we need to help others? Does God call Christians to help others? Yes. A resounding YES! Clearly, even just reading this one passage, we know that God expects His children to help others:
The Sheep and the Goats (NIV)31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
When Christians say they don't support Obamacare and don't support food stamps, they usually aren't saying they hate poor people. At least I don't THINK they are. No one I know feels that way. Instead, they are saying they don't think the GOVERNMENT should be taking money from those who work and giving it to those who will not work. Notice in the passage above, it never says, "When I was hungry, you sent me to the right offices so I could get signed up for food stamps. When I was thirsty, you had the president give you something to drink." I believe the first key ingredient is that God calls His children to serve others directly, or as directly as possible. I believe churches and Christians should be helping others in need.
The second issue is taking money from those who work hard to earn it and giving it to someone who won't work. Check out these words that Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
11 We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.
14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
If you WILL not work you SHALL not eat. Pretty clear cut.
The ideal answer would be that individuals would help others. I have a friend who has different political views than I do, but she takes this to heart and helps a group of refugees who have fled their country due to persecution. They are here legally, but that brings up the 3rd big issue: should we be granting medical care, food, and more to those who have come to this country illegally? In Scripture, there were clearly countries and territories established. However, many that exist today weren't around back then. Should we let our country's borders keep us from helping others? It seems like the straight forward answer would be that we help all people. However, it's not straight forward. There is an underlying theme throughout Scripture calling for us to "obey the rules." We aren't saved through following rules, but through accepting Jesus' death and resurrection to pay for our sins, thus being "born again." But we are called to follow His rules, which means follow the rules of your country unless they go against His word. Remember, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's?" My ancestors came to this country over 100 years ago. They left all they knew to come here. They had to have all kinds of paperwork to get here. Have you ever heard of Ellis Island? While my ancestors came before the Island was a port of entry, the rules were the same. When you arrived at the Island, if you were ill or hurt, you were not allowed in. It seems harsh, but the reality was then, and is now, that our country cannot care for every one in the world. And we seem to be the only country that thinks we need to do this. Maybe it would be better to help Mexico build some better hospitals than have people risk their lives to get here and then give them free medical care. I have a good friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer and had no insurance. Obamacare became available around the time of her diagnosis. She discovered it was not free and her out of pocket cost would be outrageous. By going in as an uninsured patient, she received discounts from doctors and hospitals. She will be paying for her treatment for some time, but how to you place a value on a life? My husband had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor this year. Though we have insurance, we will also be paying bills for at least a year.
I ask you this: Is it right for my husband to work hard to earn money to provide for his family, while I teach my children at home, including an mildly autistic child, and do part time work when I can to help us pay for our basic needs, then expect us to give money to the government for someone who comes to this country illegally and does not have permits to legally work here?
Back to the subject: Do we need a welfare system? I think the bottom line is that yes, we do. In fact, there were times when we used the system to help provide basic needs. When I had our 2nd child, we used Medicaid and for a few years also used the WIC program. Were we sitting around idly while someone else paid for us? No. My husband was working full time. I was caring for our firstborn, then 2 young children rather than putting them into a free state supported preschool program (meaning, the government was not spending money to babysit my children). We also have had individuals help us over the years. Our parents have been very gracious and helped when they could. Friends have offered us help in a variety of ways (even giving us a second car to use until it died a sad death recently). There are times when a person is in a tough spot and sometimes other individuals can't provide the help that is needed. Do I think our health care system in general needed an overhaul? Yes, yes, yes. Did you read what I said above that we will be paying bills for a year & my friend for years? One of my friend's medications was in the 10's of thousands. That is for ONE drug! Do I think we need reform? Yes. Is it the insurance companies that are making the money? Is it the pharmaceutical companies? Are doctors making a fortune? A friend of mine who happens to be our pediatrician makes an okay living, but she works long days, has to pay rent on the office building, pay her staff, pay for insurance for the clinic, and takes mostly medicaid and CHIP patients. Does she make a fortune? Well, she is also a co-Pampered Chef consultant to make extra money. Does that answer the question?
In essence, yes, we need a welfare system of sorts, yes we need healthcare reform, and no, I don't have the answers. I find it tragic that some of the things this new program includes are considered "women's rights," even when it steps over the boundaries of what a religious institute believes. So much for that beloved phrase "separation of church and state," one of the most overused and incorrectly used quotes of all time. This is a springboard for a different post a different day. Now it is time to go to sleep for the welfare of my family!