If you’ve ever read the Gospels, you probably have noticed that Jesus was BIG on helping those who have needs (physical, financial, spiritual, ect.). If you’ve read the Bible in general, you’d know that there are clear instructions to put others before ourselves throughout both the Old and New Testaments. “Christian” means “little Christ”, it was a term coined by others to describe those who followed Christ and resembled Him in demeanor and deed. And yet, when these very words of Christ comes up among Christians in relation to our nation’s policies it is frequently met with statements like, “I know Jesus said to help the needy, but He didn’t say the government should do it.” Ignoring the hypocrisy of wanting the government to stay OUT of the business of helping others while wanting them to stay IN the business of enforcing your personal morality for issues like gay marriage, let’s examine what that might look like in practice.
If you are a pastor, are you encouraging your flock to directly provide housing for the homeless? Are you encouraging the physicians in your congregation to provide their services for zero compensation so people can be healed? Are the grocers that attend your church being taught to give their stock away for free so the hungry can eat? Are the tax-free dollars that are donated to your church being used to build apartment complexes to house the homeless? Are they being used to build hospitals that provide care for free? Are they buying food for the hungry? Clothes for the naked? Shoes for people who have none? Are Christians in the med tech industry providing equipment to hospitals for free so the poor can be treated? Are Christians in the pharma industry giving away free meds for people in need? Are the Christian schools providing free education for all those who need it? Are they providing free developmental therapies for kids who need them? Are Christian therapists ready to tackle the immense mental health crisis without payment and with more than prayer? Are Christian families taking in foster children and orphans at a rate that keeps up with the need for stable homes and basic care? Are we, as Christians, ready to live just like the poor in order to provide them the services they need with the gifts we have been given? Are we ready to give up bigger homes, vacations, renovations, new cars, and all the luxuries we have earned and “deserve” in service to the poor? Are we, as Christians, ready to serve ALL humans with need regardless of skin color, sexual orientation, gender, income, or religion? Regardless of whether we support their “choices” or think they are living up to our opinion on how they should be living their lives?
If the answer to those things were a resounding YES for the 71% of our nation’s population that self-identify as Christians, then I would agree that we don’t need the government to be involved! As it stands, we can’t even bake cakes for people we don’t agree with, much less provide for their very real physical needs! As American Christians’ incomes grow, the percentage of their giving actually decreases. We don’t even give out of our excess well! Can you imagine what this world would look like if we lived out our faith in a tangible way and rose to meet the needs in our nation? What an amazing reputation Christ would have in this age!
Unfortunately, that is not the case. Hungry kids go to public schools to be fed, and often to be loved. Kids with developmental delays rely on public schools, ECI, and sometimes private therapies covered by CHIP/Medicaid to get the help they need to reach their potential. Christian schools aren’t required to, so they don’t. Kids at or near the poverty line rely on CHIP/Medicaid to get medical care. Foster kids need DCFS to survive, sometimes they have to sleep in the offices because they have nowhere else to go. All other doors are closed to them. SNAP feeds hungry families. Disabled adults rely on Social Security and Medicaid to survive and thrive, to live and work in our communities. Elderly Americans often rely on Medicare and Meals on Wheels for medical care and nourishment. The list goes on and on. These safety nets are vital and truly mean life or death for many, many of our neighbors. The needs are not diminishing and instead of stepping in to meet them, a vocal majority of Christians are upset that their tax dollars are standing in the gap that we are failing to close. What would Jesus think of this being the way we reflect Him to the world?
I will be the first to admit that I fall short of the standard Jesus set, by far, but I refuse to turn my head away from the need so I can be more comfortable. Until the Church truly steps up to the plate, our government is the only entity that is able to serve all of these individuals. I will not begrudge our tax dollars being spent on healthcare, education, food, shelter, clothing, and so on…I will give cheerfully so needs can be met, as well as donating privately. I will not sit quietly while these programs are decimated and I will continue to speak up for those who have need. I hope you will, too. It literally seems like the very least we can do to fulfill Jesus’ crystal clear instructions to each of us.