Thursday, March 25, 2010

Health Care Reform: WWJD

For people on Facebook or Twitter, the debates raging through cyberspace since last Sunday’s historic health care vote have probably put many friendships to the test. Emotions have run high on both sides, and even those united through their relationship with Jesus have found themselves divided on this hot-button issue.

After accusing Christians who oppose federal health care legislation of not caring about anyone but themselves, one Facebook friend asked a salient question: “What would Jesus do?” Her assumption was that Jesus would have supported the federal government’s takeover of our nation’s health care system—that He would have endorsed a plan that forces individuals to purchase health insurance, taxes their neighbors to subsidize it, and imposes fines, penalties and jail time on those who are unwilling or unable to comply with the bill’s requirements.

Quite frankly, it astounds me that anyone who claims to know Jesus would even entertain the idea that He would have used the power of the state to compel my neighbor to pay for my medical treatment—that He would force my fellow citizens to provide for any of my needs.

Reading the gospels, we know full well what Jesus did whenever He saw a need. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, mended broken hearts, and raised the dead to life. He befriended those who were despised by the religious leaders of his day, and He preached the forgiveness of sins to all in need of redemption.

Freely Give

Whenever Jesus saw a need, He met it. And He commanded His disciples to follow His example, reaching out with love and compassion to the “least of these”—the poor, the sick, the lame, the orphans and widows: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Feely have you received, freely give” (Matthew 10: 8).

In light of Jesus’ command to “give freely,” can we honestly believe that He would endorse any legislation that forces people to be charitable by taking their property—including the fruits of their labor—and giving it to others under the threat of deadly force?

Ultimately, the government enforces all of its mandates with brutality. You comply, or you are arrested and prosecuted. If you resist arrest, lethal force is used against you. Is this the kind of "charity" Jesus taught His followers?

In the article, “Is Scripture Statist,” David Puller writes:
Jesus preached about living a holy, virtuous life, and unhesitatingly rebuked sinners. But at no point did he suggest that it was acceptable to use force to compel virtue. Christ commanded the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give to the poor (Luke 18:22). But he did not rob the rich man’s house and redistribute his goods. . . And the teachings of Christ themselves provide no endorsement whatsoever for state redistribution. The earliest Christians understood this. The Apostolic-era church never forced people to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, and nothing in the New Testament suggests that the church used force to take property from those unwilling to give. (

As we consider the question “What would Jesus do?” it is equally important to be clear about what He didn’t do. Jesus never used the power of the state to make people do the right thing. He never threatened anyone with fines or jail time for refusing to give to those in need. He did not appeal to Caesar to raise taxes in order to care for the poor, the sick, or the lame.

Worshipping the Secular State

Nowhere in Scripture did Jesus ever encourage people to look to the government to provide for their basic necessities, since this would elevate the secular state to the level of godhood. Instead of relying on government to meet our needs, we are to trust God to supply what we need. “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

As soon as believers start demanding that government provide for needs such as health care, food, or housing, they enter the realm of idolatry. The One who gave us the Lord’s Prayer would never tell His followers to look to the state as the source of their daily bread or any other necessities that God promises to provide.

In his book Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture, Herbert Schlossberg aptly notes, “Looking to the state for sustenance is a cultic act; we rightly learn to expect food from parents and when we regard the state as the source of physical provision we render to it the obeisance of idolatry.” (

Condoning Theft

Since government produces no wealth, it can give away only what it takes from others—either through the threat of fines and imprisonment or through brute force. When I insist that the government provide me with free or subsidized health care, I am really asking the state to steal from my neighbor to give it to me. Is there any biblical basis to believe that Jesus would condone this type of theft—that He would ask people to steal from their neighbors in order to receive a benefit?

Jesus came to set captives free. He died to redeem us from the curse of the law. As His disciples, how can we possibly believe that He would have us use government force to heal the sick or care for those in need?

Is forcing our neighbors to be charitable really what Jesus had in mind when He spoke about caring for the “least of these?”


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June 12, 2010 11:25 AM  

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