continued from yesterday
...Another issue that has embroiled the United States in recent years has to do with whether the government should orchestrate a system that provides health care to all Americans as much as possible. Such laws are incredibly complex and involve multiple angles. For example, there is the question of whether such a system would break America financially and thus inadvertently cause far more harm than any good it might do. There is the question of whether the United States government would administer its part of such a system efficiently, or whether such programs tend to turn into cumbersome bureaucracies.
But there are also some philosophical and theological questions that are often raised for which we have clearer answers from the values of Jesus. Would Jesus object to a tax on me that would benefit others? Certainly he would object to an oppressive tax, one that did harm to me and especially one that primarily functioned to make someone else rich. But the New Testament unanimously teaches that believers should pay taxes (e.g., Mark 12:14-15; Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:13) and unanimously discourages hoarding personal wealth.
At the very least, Jesus would commend those who give to others who are truly in need. “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12). Surely a normal person, the person Jesus has in mind, would want medical help when he or she needs it. Giving so that others might have medical help is thus very much in keeping with Jesus’ values.
Most of us are not the sort of expert who could speak authoritatively about whether a particular law might be a good one or might be effective to provide health care to all people. But the initial bias of the Jesus follower will inevitably be that if it were possible for me to contribute in such a way that more people would have health care, then my spirit will want to do that. The bias of a Christian toward the goal is not ambiguous—it is toward helping others in need. Only the way in which that need might best be provided might be ambiguous for the Christian.
Although we shouldn’t have to provide further support, the New Testament is full of instruction that unequivocally endorses this attitude. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). “In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3-4). “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10).
There are other questions of course. Even though this is the attitude Christians should have toward helping others, should a Christian support forcing those who do not have the mind of Christ to contribute to the help of others. I personally believe that God grants a good deal of freedom to others to disobey his will. He will set the world straight eventually, but for now he largely lets us self-destruct with our own selfish and sinful behaviors.
The case is different when my selfish behavior and freedom hurts someone else. So God surely would want me to stop a murderer from exercising his or her freedom to murder. So at what point does providing for the health of others, including saving the lives of others, move out of the realm of God’s allowance for personal freedom and move into the realm of moral obligation? At what point do we fine the priest and the Levite for not helping the mugged Israelite, and make it a law to be a good Samaritan?
The end of the whole discussion is that specific legislation will be complicated and will require the expertise of many to determine whether it is advisable or not. What is clear theologically is that Jesus would have supported a system that provided health care to those who did not have it. He would have spoken harshly to those who resisted it for selfish reasons, just as Matthew 25 speaks to those who could have helped the hungry and thirsty, but chose not to do so. The spirit of Jesus is clear, even if we might take different positions on how to work out those values.