Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Street Level Devotions / The Healthcare Debate

Luke 10: 35
The next morning he gave the innkeeper two silver coins and said, “Please take care of the man. If you spend more than this on him, I will pay you when I return.”

Today I know there will be those that disagree with part of what I am going to say, but I ask, please keep an open mind and think about the attitude of Jesus here, not the attitude of a political party or supporter.

The 2008 Presidential Election in the United States had a number of issues that caused voters to cast their vote for one candidate or another. One of those issues which drove a lot of Christians was the issue of health care. It is important to understand, abortion is not the only issue related to faith that drives a Christians vote. Unfortunately, many forget about, or make excuses regarding their support of those in need of health care. One of the most common excuses many Christians use is that health care should be the responsibility of the church, or that if the church was doing her job, there wouldn’t be any need for health care by the government. While there is a measure of truth here, we need to be careful to not stand up for, and help those with issues related to appropriate and basic health care.

When we look at the life of Jesus, we can see emphatically, that he cared about meeting the physical needs of others. He did this when he provided healing, spoke about the need to serve the poor and sick, and even used stories like the passage in Luke where we see one of the heroes of the story, providing health care for someone they were normally known to dislike. It is clear, Jesus taught to more than just his followers, he taught to whoever would listen, including the political leaders and public servants of the day, whether a military soldier or the wife of a political ruler. Jesus message was a message for society, not just his followers.

Today we live in a world where there are rising health costs and a system set up in such a way in at least America, which has as a primary purpose making a profit, not providing appropriate health care. It is why we see so many trying to obtain health care in emergency rooms as opposed to through their doctors, and why we see so many suffer because of their inability to afford medication or appropriate treatment. While some service is available once a person is on their deathbed, help and assistance to help the poor obtain preventative care is not available and often the help that is provided is too late. I have to wonder, as should we all, what would Jesus response be to this situation.

I had the unique privilege of working at one of the initial pilot programs for Managed Care in America, Trend Community Mental Health in Hendersonville North Carolina. It became obvious, quickly, that the primary issue was turning a profit, not providing needed and appropriate care. This eventually led to some legal issues for Trend Mental Health, but the problem wasn’t unique to them. This is part of the problem with the public sector in their treatment of the sick. We are a system driven by profit and greed, not caring for people.

In the passage in Luke, we see that in the story of Jesus, the person took from their finances to provide care to another individual. The person was willing to spend more if necessary to help. Here is my question, especially for those who pay taxes; what would you prefer your tax dollars go for? Some may say for roads or infrastructure, others may say to support their military, yet others may say for things like public service positions While there are benefits to all of these programs, I think I can support the idea that Jesus talked more about helping the poor and needy than any other group. The widows and orphans of Jesus day are the poor of today. They are the Samaritans that need help they can’t afford, or don’t know how to obtain. As followers of Jesus we are commanded to go out of our way to provide the help they need. As long as we continue to argue about things like whether or not mental illness is spiritual or neurological, or whether or not we can provide care for a poor single pregnant teenager, the system, the state, has to be a part of the mechanism we support and desire to use our tax dollars to help others.

One of the things that has confused me, is why anyone, even Christians would be opposed to their tax dollars being used to help the poor and needy in the area of health care? It confuses me because if the tax dollars used are our dollars, if our government is a government for the people and by the people, don’t we have a right to voice where our tax dollars are spent? Shouldn’t we want them to go where Christ would have us serve, no matter what political party we support? How can we justify for any reason, the lack of support and help in regards to medical care for those that need it when Jesus directive on this subject is so clear?

My hope is that at the very least we will be challenged to think about what Jesus position and practice was regarding helping the poor, needy and the sick. May we begin to apply that in our lives as we should all seek and attempt to become a Good Samaritan to those with health concerns?

Thought for the Day: Yes it is the churches responsibility to help the poor and needy in regards to health care. That said; remember if you are a follower of Jesus, you are the church. I challenge you, spend time with a poor person today, just talk to them and ask them what it is like getting the health care they need. Then if there is something you can do, do it! Otherwise you may be speaking out of ignorance more than knowledge when you oppose the need of meeting the medical needs of those that need help.

While many talk about the need to obtain insurance, it is as if they have never experienced what it is like with most insurance companies. Check out the following video for a taste of what it is like, it is unfortunately something many can relate to. If the video don't appear, just click on the link:

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