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Healthcare and Contemporary American Thought

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By Mick - Posted on 15 September 2009

The prestigious medical journal The New England Journal of Medicine in an editorial on the subject of healthcare reform has even sited the Declaration of Independence as a moral and political reason for universal healthcare of all those who reside in the United States. They cite:The other day another physician made the comment:

Pediatricians get it; republicans are bankrupt, all they do is oppose things, they have no ideas of their own, they sit in their churches every Sunday and have no plan for healthcare…

The prestigious medical journal The New England Journal of Medicine in an editorial on the subject of healthcare reform has even sited the Declaration of Independence as a moral and political reason for universal healthcare of all those who reside in the United States. They cite:We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed[1]


From these statements, the editorialist concludes that the current system of healthcare must be dismantled and a new system of healthcare which guarantees the right of life, that is healthcare which is available to all inhabitants of the United States. Without this guarantee of life, then there can be no liberty or pursuit of happiness.

Why do I know that there is a Biblical response to the healthcare debate?

Foundational Principles

1 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV) 15but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

God expects us to have an answer when the unbeliever challenges us.

2 Timothy 2:20-26 (ESV) 20Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. 22So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

God expects us allow his word the affect the way we think and change us so we made be used for every good work. Beyond that, he expects us to gently correct our opponents so that God will lead them to the knowledge of the truth.

2 Timothy 3:12-17 (ESV) 12Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

The scriptures prepare us to do every good work for our fellow man.

A worldview affected by Covenant Eschatology

John 7:14-18 (ESV) 14About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.

A question every Christian must ask when evaluating anything is “who is glorified?” As we evaluate any healthcare proposal we must ask, “How does God receive the greatest glory?” Jesus says that if we seek the glory of God, we are messengers of truth.

Revelation 22:1-2 (ESV) 1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

We are to bring healing to the nations. This is not physical healing but healing from any thought which is contrary to the desires of God. This is foundational to the life of a Christian in the restored presence of God.

Spheres of Dominion

Family, church, and state are parallel institutions, each with real but limited authority in its ordained sphere. As the keeper of the keys of Christ’s kingdom, the church is the central and defining institution of history. As the primary social group, the family is the foundational institution of society. The state exists to hold it citizens accountable for violation of the commands of God. (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; Acts 4:19; 5:29; 25:11; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 2:13-1.; Eph. 1:22-23; 1 Tim. 3:15: Titus 3.1, Romans 3.13-17)

When God’s defined dominions are violated, things go amiss. When one institution relinquishes its responsibilities to another institution, we miss the full blessings of God’s intent ourselves and society as a whole. I submit the state is the receptacle of responsibilities which are the other God ordained institutions. The healing of the nations starts when Christian demand that the church and the family be restored to their appropriate levels of influence and the state is forced to relinquish the powers we have given it through our irresponsibility.

What do the scriptures say about healthcare and the responsibility of God’s Covenantal People?

Hebrew Scriptures

In Leviticus 13 we can read about God’s laws concerning leprosy. It is worthwhile to note that God reveals diagnostic technique for discerning when the illness is no longer contagious and prescribes quarantine as the method of preventing its spread through the community. It is worthwhile to also notice that this revelation exceeded the technology of the contemporary culture; germ theory and the spread of contagious disease would not be understood for centuries.


2 Chronicles 16:11-12 (ESV) 11The acts of Asa, from first to last, are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 12In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians.

We as Christians have the responsibility to look to God as the source of all healing, not to the technology of the age we live in. If God has permitted a technology to be developed which brings healing or decreases suffering, we acknowledge Him as the author of that technology and thank Him for permitting it to be developed in our lifetime. To do any less, is to make the mistake of King Asa.


Greek Scriptures

Matthew 25:31-40 (ESV) 31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

This passage has direct application as this describes preparatory life for the restored presence of God. I continue to believe anything which was good for people to do while preparing their hearts for the Kingdom was worthwhile to continue doing in the Kingdom. (I would submit this is true unless there are specific scriptures that limit those things to the time prior to the Parousia.) It is worthwhile to notice that Kingdom living here requires visitation (ἐπισκέπτομαι) of those who are sick. Strong’s indicates this means to look upon or after, to inspect, examine with the eyes. 1a in order to see how he is, i.e. to visit, go to see one. 1b to look upon in order to help or to benefit. [2] This appears to be analogous to the role of the priest of Leviticus and reflects our status as priests in the restored kingdom. Also of note this is within the realm of the dominion of the church not the state.

James 5:14 (ESV) 14Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Once again it is worthwhile to notice the action taken on behalf of the sick is within the dominion of the church not the state.

Luke 10:29-37 (ESV) 29But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

This passage does teach a financial responsibility of the Christian to the sick and injured. Once again I would point out this teaches a responsibility of the individual or the church, not a responsibility of the state. I am aware of organizations of Christians who link together into a co-op like structure where everyone pays into the system and then the directors of the system pay out medical expenses. This model seems to be similar to the actions of the Samaritan here, but the passage seems to speak of individual responsibility. Once again this passage does not teach a responsibility of the state to organize care of the individual. If anything, we see the actions of the state in the actions of the Levite and the priest who ascertained he was half dead and the cost of his care was too great for his life expectancy.

Finally, if one wanted to present the argument that healthcare was not the subject of this parable and we need to be careful about drawing conclusions on subjects with which the parable is not addressing, I would support that argument. I only addressed this parable from the above point of view to show that this passage does not support anything other than individual responsibility and possibly church responsibility.


What should be the Christian response to the healthcare debate?

I would conclude that the scriptures teach that the Christian response to the healthcare debate should be:

1.     To search for a healthcare solution which is about the elevation of the status of God in our society, not any man, woman or group of people. We are to worship the creator not the created.

2.     An approach which maximizes the responsibility and role of the individual Christian and the church while minimizing the responsibilities of the state

3.     A response that teaches that when the inhabitants of the Kingdom bring healing to the nations, it has little to do with healthcare and is interested in changing the thinking of mankind. This healing teaches us to be interested in the things of God and His ways of solving the problems mankind faces rather than seeking a way that seems right to us, yet only makes things worse.

[1]The Declaration of independence. 1998. Oak Harbor WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2]Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G1980). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Islamaphobe's picture

In political terms, it is crystal clear that Barack Obama and the leadership of the Democratic Party have committed themselves to a strategy of instilling in a majority of the voters the notion that they are ENTITLED to receive benefits from the government, including health care (or healthcare), that are paid for with money provided by others. IMO Mickey Denen is correct in arguing that healthcare benefits given to individuals at government expense are not guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence. Neither are they guaranteed by the general welfare clauses of the U.S. Constitution. This does not mean, however, that the government should be indifferent to the state of public health. Obviously, there are instances in which it is beneficial for society as a whole (general welfare) for government to provide access to health care at taxpayers' expense (Think polio vaccinations, for example).

The Democrats long ago learned, however, that the key to political power for them is to promise goodies to voters that other people pay for. Therefore, they have gone big time into the manufacture of "rights" and grievances. In the process, they have pursued a policy of ignoring elementary principles of economics when they can get away with doing so, which appears to be most of the time. In the case of health care, this strategy has involved embracing the myth that when employers are required to provide their employees with health care benefits, the cost is borne by the employers rather than actual or potential employees. In similar fashion, the Democrats regularly push through increases in the legal minimum wage on the apparent assumption that employers are unable to shift those increases to others. BTW, the minimum wage went up by 70 cents per hour in July, and guess what has happened to employment. Surprise! Surprise!

If we are to have real health care reform, we need to make people responsible for buying basic policies that are portable across state lines and to allow them to deduct at least a portion of that cost. And if people are too poor to avoid basic health insurance, we could implement a voucher program (in effect, a negative income tax)to make insurance available. I would probably stop short of requiring people to have health insurance, but we sure could make it easier for them to get what they need!

John S. Evans

JohnRiffe's picture

I'm always shocked by those Christians who oppose extending heathcare to people who don't have it.

And don't be fooled: there is nothing in Holy Writ saying that government, (a God-established intitution, Romans 13), ought not be used for this purpose.

To the contrary, the Bible's first example of godly government was Joseph in Egypt employing the powers of government to sustain the lives of individuals & families at their time of need, seven years no less.

Again, I am astonished when my fellow Christians:

-oppose government's help to the needy, to support & encourage life, heatlh, education, honest work, prosperity, etc.

-support government's invasion of foreign lands under pretenses that turn out to be false, to take life, bring poverty, trauma and disaster.

And it is a false argument to say that because the Bible teaches that the needy person must not be passed by that the responsibility for tedning the needy falls upon individual Christians and churches alone.

What? Should individual Christians and churches go broke bearing the burden of helping the needy that few resources remain to spread the Gospel? Meanwhile, our unbelieving neighbors can gorge themselves with higher tax refunds and the ACLU, evolutionists, etc. go unchallenged due to the fact that Christians deplete themselves helping the needy whose needs exceed the Church's resources?

No. It is proper that we Christians, who have been made priests & kings by God, should wield our influence in such a way that compels the unbelieving to contribute their fair share, as well. And we often do it through the means of the God-established institution of government, Romans 13.

yngwie7's picture

Hello John,

I just had a comment about "godly government" under Joseph in Egypt. I'm not sure how you can define this government as godly. It certainly was not godly for the average egyptian. The average egyptian had to pay 20 percent of his income so that Pharaoh and Joseph could store up provisions for the famine. Then the average egyptian had to buy back these provisions when he ran out of his own. Imagine the government taking 20 percent of your goods (food) and then then demanding that you to buy it back from them just to eat and stay alive. Then when they ran out of money to buy back their own goods they sold their land and then even themselves to Pharaoh to be his slaves. This form of government was "godly" for Pharaoh who increased his power and became the sole land owner (with exception of the priests) in egypt. This form of government was "godly" for Joseph and his family because it brought them through the famine and gave Joseph more prestige in the eyes of pharoah. But in no way was this government godly for the average egyptian. It turned them from a nation of small landowners to a nation of serfs

Just some thoughts that I had about these events in the bible. Thanks for sharing your opinions.

Virgil's picture

John, the Church has never gone "broke" when helping people in need, I am not sure where that's coming from. If the tens of thousands of churches in the U.S. used their multi-million dollar budgets to provide free or cheaper health care to people in need, there would be no problem. Who do you think started clinics and hospitals first throughout the world? Churches did.

Go to my blog and read my entry on healthcare.

Health is not a human right; people just get sick and care for their health is entrusted to other people. A sick individual who needs care for his or her health has to be helped by another, thus if care for the health is provided by another person, how can health-care be a natural right? What are we going to do next, force one to provide care to another by holding a gun to his head?

And if health-care it's not a natural right, why the hell is the government jamming it down on my throat if I don't want it?

In fact, I would argue that "eating" is much more of an urgent need than provision of health care, which prompts me to ask the question: why isn't the government requiring grocery stores to give out free food to everyone who is homeless, destitute and lacks any means of support? They are not doing it because it would be a ridiculous proposition, but since "healthcare" is somewhat of an ethereal concept when not properly defined, they think they can get away with it.

It's also a fallacy to equate opposing a stupid bill Obama wants to ram through Congress with "opposing government's help to the needy" - false dichotomy, not to mention that the bill has nothing to do with helping the needy. If they want to help, they need to get out of the way and leave the market alone. Somehow, other industries work fine without the feds telling companies how to help and provide cheap services for their customers.

Mick's picture

When you mention Romans 13, I assume you are referring to Romans 13:1-7 (ESV)
1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

I grant you that governments are God instituted, the scripture says that directly. The question which must be answered is what is God’s purpose for government? The answer is enforcement of God’s goodness. Government bears the sword to enforce God’s Law in the civil realm of dominion. I submit that God is glorified and His ways are shown to be “good” for us through the actions are power of government. Nowhere in this passage is there a basis for government to administrate healthcare.

You object to the use of military force by the government, because it “takes life, brings poverty, trauma and disaster.” That is the very purpose for which government is instituted against the “wrongdoer.” Whether the actions of a particular government at a particular time in history has brought about the good of God is for God to judge and historians to debate, but the power of the sword is given by God according to this passage. Notice that government is to be the terrorist in corporeal life not individuals, families or churches. Also notice this power is given by God for His glory. As with every power which God has given to mankind, government’s power to wield the sword is misused and that power is taken away when God is not glorified by the use of that power.

I submit, God has ordained three realms of dominion for corporeal life, family church and state as I mentioned in the main text of this article. I also submit each exists to glorify God, though the powers God has given each realm. With this understanding let’s consider the example you cite of Joseph in Egypt. What was the purpose for Joseph’s actions? I submit it was the preservation the line of humanity that the Messiah had to come through, i.e. God’s glory. It was not for the purpose of showing that government exists for the purpose distribution of food during a crisis. Additionally, we learn of God’s sovereign hand in the affairs of men not that there is “no king like Pharaoh.” Also notice in this case it was God’s people, if you will, who were overseeing the distribution, not the secular leaders of Egypt; analogous to the actions the body of Christ ought to be taking in the world today.

Mickey E. Denen

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