Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Answer is not the Government

One thing that ticks me off is when people want to use the name of Christ Jesus to promote bad public policy. I noticed this happening today on Facebook. Christians, who have the best intentions, will remind us that Jesus wants us to help the poor, and so we should support health care reform coming out of Washington. The question I want us to consider is this: Is government the means Jesus wants us to help the poor?

Let me be clear on this point. Our national and state government have a role to play in helping people in need, but that does not abdicate the Church from helping the poor. The Church’s position should not be, “Let the government handle it.” Instead our response to the need in the world should be, “What can we do to help?”

The reason I think national health care reform is a bad idea is not because I don’t want to help needy people, but because I think it will harm the poor more than it will help them. Government has a terrible track record effectively running anything. Look at the quality of education in this country or the fact that social programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are nearing bankruptcy and tell me you really trust the federal government to run a national health insurance program that will actually work.

Besides our government’s incompetence at running supposedly vital programs there is one other truth we have to consider: ALL governments are corrupt. True, some are more corrupt than others, but that does not mean that the government of the United States is innocent. The fact that our bloated government has so often ignored the Constitution, the very law of our nation, tells us that we are dealing with a corrupt government. Since it is corrupt that means health care reform has less to do with helping people in need than it does with consolidating more power. Trust me on this, the powers that be are using the poor to get more power.

The biggest problem of letting the government take care of the needy is that it allows us, the Church of Jesus Christ, to ignore the pain and suffering which exists in this broken and fallen world. We are able to turn a blind eye to what is going on and tell ourselves that someone else is taking care of it. The more government gets involved the less involved Christians will be, and Christians need to be involved in order to truly help people.

Instead of inviting government in to fix the problem we should be insist that the government get less and less involved so people, the true innovators and conduits of compassion can be unleashed on the world. This used to be true. When this country first started it was the Church who started schools and colleges so people could receive an education. Christians started hospitals to minister to the sick. Local churches helped feed the poor by establishing soup kitchens and food pantries. This says nothing of the reality of Christians who every day dug into their pockets to help their neighbors in need.

Then the government got involved and pushed away the Church by making laws which made it more difficult for ordinary people and churches to help in a real way. I know this a simplistic explanation of things, but there is truth to it. When the government gets involved it becomes harder to actually help people in a real and beneficial way.

Followers of Jesus Christ have a personal obligation to help the poor, the sick, and the helpless. We are called to minister to their physical needs. It is interesting to note that many times when Jesus entered a village He took the time to heal people. Caring for the physical needs of people helps establish a relationship with them. Having a relationship with a person is essential for us to accomplish our second obligation to those in need: caring for their spiritual needs. Jesus didn’t just come to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and comfort the lonely, but He came to preach the Gospel. What is the Gospel? Let me tell you what it is not. The Gospel is not that if we accept Jesus as Savior we go to heaven when we die. The Gospel is much grander than that.

The Gospel Jesus preached was: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:14, 15). The Gospel of Christ Jesus is that God is breaking into this world, that creation will be restored, wrongs are going to be made right, and all those who renounce their loyalty to the kingdom of this world and declare loyalty to the King Jesus have a part to play in God’s Kingdom. The Gospel isn’t that we have life after we die, it is that we life right now. That is what people need to hear.

This isn’t just a message people need to hear, but it is a Gospel we need to live. If we live out the Gospel of Christ Jesus then there is no need for the government to get involved in caring for people in need, because they will just mess things up. The answer to our health care crisis is not more government, but less government so Christians can actually live out the Gospel. The answer is not the government, but the answer is the Church. Only the Church can bring the restorative power of God into this world.

2 comments:

Rebecca said...

Good post, Paul. The problem is that American "Christians" today are too busy tithing for their vacations and other stuff. But I am hopeful for a change in thought and practice. It is good that you are getting the word out there.

Lydia Shaw said...

Thanks,I appreciate your well-thought-out article. I have worked with many benevolence programs (both church and parachurch) and have seen that generosity without an expectation of accountability leads to (at times) a sense of entitlement, laziness, and/or an enabling of a destructive lifestyle.


It is so much easier to just give money (or food, clothes, etc.) to solve a temporary crisis than to take the time to address the root problems in people's lives. Christians have a great opportunity to offer eternal hope along with physical comfort.

Thanks again for your timely words.

(Just in case you're wondering who I am - I go to FCC in Norfolk and am a friend of Phil and Maggie, got acquainted with Rebecca when she lived here.)

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