I have avoided posting on this issue because I try to avoid talking politics on this blog. This issue, however, butts up against some convictions I have about the church which makes it fair game on this blog. Unless you live in a cave somewhere, you have undoubtedly heard something of the current debate over “health care reform” that is raging in townhalls across the country. It seems that everyone with any proclivity toward political involvement has an opinion, and often it is a passionate one.
One of the founding edicts of Christianity is the care for the poor and needy. Jesus set the example for Christians to follow in his ministry of healing. Jesus regularly took time to comfort and heal those who had experienced loss and who were struggling with sickness. Even as Jesus was dying, he made sure that his mother would have someone to look after and care for her needs. Due to the church falling so horribly short of this example, some Christian groups/churches are now advocating the government’s efforts to reform (i.e. take over) health care..
This represents little more than pure laziness on the part of the church. It is not the place of the church to abdicate one of its core tenants to the hands of a secular government. While the church may not be able to offer a complete remedy to the solution, we can certainly do better.
According to a Barna study in 2003, 20 percent of church goers do 80 percent of the giving. The study also found that only 3 percent of church goers tithe. I think you should go back and read that again. Only 3 percent of church goers tithe. What that tells me is that the church is falling far short of its potential. Health care is a very expensive proposition, but imagine what a difference a church could make if people would actually give. It seems that too many Christians are willing to let the government take over health care rather than open their own pocket books and provide the resources for the church shoulder more of the burden.
Let’s look at some hypotheticals:
1. Local church run free clinics. Imagine the impact a clinic run by a church could have in a local community. Many denominations do this overseas, so why not here? If Christians tithed, opening a free clinic as a ministry extension would be very doable and would open many doors for ministry.
2. Crisis pregnancy centers. My wife and I have the privilege of going to a church that supports a local pregnancy center and it is an incredible ministry. One of the biggest problems with the current health care bill is the potential for tax dollars to go towards funding abortions. No Christian group should advocate a bill that funds abortions in any way. Instead, with increased giving churches could found their own crisis pregnancy centers to help women see that they have options other than abortion.
3. Congregational support in times of crisis. Imagine a well funded line in the church budget that is solely for helping members pay for medical expenses that they can’t afford. If the church would give like it is supposed to, there would be little reason for anyone within the church to need to seek government help. The first place a Christian turns for financial help during a medical situation should not be the government, but instead should be their local congregation. Instead of advocating that the government take care of these people, that responsibility should fall on the church.
These are just a few things that churches could do if Christians would pony up and tithe. When Christians start crying out for the government to take over more health care responsibilities, we are precluding ourselves from an essential part of the Christian faith. This kicks open the door for theological laziness and selfishness. Churches already struggle enough with getting outside of their own walls to reach their communities. Abdicating health care solely to the realm of the government will only increase this inward focus and further isolate the church from the poor and the needy.
The church should see this bill as a reminder that Christians in America have largely failed of late for providing comfort and care to the sick and needy. The health care debate can be seen as a catalyst to help congregations see the impact they could have on their communities if they would simply give of their resources. Instead of church leaders devoting time and energy to lobby for the government to take over health care, they should be spending that energy teaching their churches the value of giving and the impact they could have. It is not the role of the government to provide care and comfort to the sick and the needy because it will fall short and fail every time. It is the role of the church because we can offer more than a band-aid. We can offer food, a band-aid, and most importantly we can teach people about Jesus.