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January 4th, 2010 // posted in Trends

Jesus’ Health Care Plan

You can’t turn on the TV, listen to radio or read a newspaper without confronting some information about the raging debate on health care. Surveys continue to show that Americans are not well-informed on the issue and are struggling to figure out who is telling the truth about existing needs, the financial implications of the policies under consideration, and how they will personally be affected.

Because so much of the debate relates to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, Americans are playing this one a bit more cautiously than usual. Most adults define themselves as living a middle-class life, and believe their levels of comfort are a direct result of their own hard work and diligence. As politicians plead their case regarding health care provisions, citizens are conflicted, vacillating between a hard-line stance that expects others to work as hard as they have to get good health care and showing some compassion toward those who are less fortunate.

Views of Poverty
Our surveys underscore the fact that about three-quarters of all adults believe poverty is one of the most serious issues facing the nation. Even more significantly, most Americans also contend that when it comes to alleviating poverty, that’s mainly the government’s responsibility. Two-thirds of adults look to the government to solve issues related to poverty – including health care deficiencies. Just one out of every five adults believes that solving poverty is an individual duty, and a mere one out of 25 people assigns that task to non-profit organizations, and another one in 25 assigns it to churches.

As we assess how individuals deal with poverty on a personal level, we find that Americans do get involved, but in a kind of arms-length manner. For instance, the most common responses are for people to give money, food, and clothing to someone else to get the job done. In contrast, the most personal responses are the least common. Relatively few Americans talk directly with the needy, tutor them, build homes for them, visit them, befriend them, or engage in other types of personal activities to address the issue.

One might say, then, that we mean well but we’re too busy, too disinterested, or feel too inadequate to actually address poverty personally, head-on. Given that mind set, it’s no wonder that the current health care debate centers not on what every American can personally do to help alleviate human suffering, but on how we can get the government to provide a more efficient alternative that will neither break the bank nor hinder our lifestyle.

In essence, what Americans seem to want is increased government services, more efficient delivery of services, no increase in taxes, and no personal involvement in the process. In a nutshell, our argument is: it’s not my fault and it’s not my job, so let the paid professionals deal with it.

Jesus the Healer
Given the fact that devout Christians mirror these attitudes, it raises the question of what a Christian’s obligation to the poor is in the matter of health care. Should Christians feel comfortable accepting the “let the government handle it” philosophy?

If a Christian were to turn to the Bible for guidance in these matters, a simple read through the gospel according to Luke would provide some answers. Luke, the author of the third gospel account in the New Testament, was a physician and would have been especially sensitive to how Jesus dealt with people’s medical needs.

In fact, Luke’s narrative contains 26 different passages describing how Jesus responded to people’s physical and medical needs. The book shows that Jesus healed hundreds of people. But it also gives us some consistent patterns from Jesus’ ministry to the poor and suffering people He encountered that we might use as principles to guide our personal responses to today’s health care challenges.

There were at least seven noteworthy perspectives that underlie Jesus’ health care strategy.

1. Jesus healed people because He believed that good health matters. People with serious medical challenges lack hope – and people without hope have no reason to keep living. Since life is a precious gift from God, and He wants people to enjoy and celebrate life, as well as the God who gave it to them, restoring health was a viable means to an end. Whenever He had the opportunity to do so, He healed people and sent them on their way.

2. Jesus invested Himself in their healing because He loved and cared for people. In Luke 6:13 we read that “His heart overflowed with compassion” for those people. He did not heal them because it showed His power or grabbed attention as much as He healed them because He felt their pain and knew their desolation. Healing was a practical demonstration that God was not wrathful but graceful.

3. Jesus healed everyone who presented a medical need because He saw no reason to screen some out as unqualified. Whether He knew them or not, He helped them. Whether they supported Him or not, He helped them. Whether they were adherents of His faith or not, He helped them. He did not set up conditions and hoops in order for people to qualify. He just healed them because He could.

4. Jesus healed every kind of illness He encountered. No malady was too simple (such as a fever) or too complex (including paralysis, leprosy, and demonization). He even took on the impossible – death – and raised people from the dead on three separate occasions!

5. Jesus pursued them because He saw Himself as a servant. A servant does what he can to address the needs of those being served, whether the needy one comes to the servant or the servant must go to the needy. Jesus did not get caught up in the ego games of who should pursue who; when He saw a need He went out of His way to address it.

6. Jesus allowed them to disrupt His schedule because He realized that people’s pain and suffering was their top focus in life. Because the main value in His life was giving love, things like remaining on schedule, following His pre-determined agenda, maintaining orderliness and predictability all took a back seat to the chance to affect other people’s lives with genuine love.

7. Jesus expected His closest followers to heal others. The needs of the people were substantial and providing a healing touch grabbed people’s attention so they could see Him for who He was and what His message to them was. Consequently, Jesus included healing in the marching orders He gave to not only the 12 apostles, but to another group of 72 disciples that He had been mentoring in the ways of grace. (Luke 9:1; 10: 1, 9, 17)

Jesus Health Care Strategy
In short, Jesus Christ showed us that anyone who follows Him is expected to address the most pressing needs of others. You can describe Jesus’ health care strategy in four words: whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever. Whoever needed to be healed received His healing touch. Whatever affliction they suffered from, He addressed it. Whenever the opportunity to heal arose, He seized it. Wherever they happened to be, He took care of it.

Contrast the Jesus model with the preferred American model. The latter might be described as deciding to throw some money at the problem – but not too much – so that somebody else can do what needs to be done, for those who qualify, in a manner that does not inconvenience us. The former approach was the whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever strategy.

It’s quite a contrast, isn’t it?

The Underlying Foundation
Don’t overlook the fact that Jesus called on His followers to personally attend to the health care needs of the poor and disenfranchised. Not only did Jesus model healing for His followers, but He supported such outreach with ample philosophical underpinnings. You see Him teaching His followers before, during and after instances of healing. We are familiar with the principles, but perhaps not their application to health needs.

• Do to others what you would like them to do to you (Luke 7:31). Jesus asked His followers to see themselves in the people who yearned for a healing touch and to respond accordingly. Although He was mocked and opposed for His efforts to heal, such opposition never stopped Him from treating others as we would want to be treated.

• Produce results (or, in biblical language, bear fruit) (Luke 6:43-45). These days, we might think of His teaching as admonishing His followers to not pass the buck. He reminded them they had been given gifts and resources so that they could affect reality. He warned them against simply discussing solutions and instructed them to conceive and implement solutions.

• Do whatever it takes to love God and all people with your heart, mind, strength and soul (Luke 4:8, 6:27-36). Jesus used love as a verb, not an adjective. He exhorted His followers to prove their love by doing compassionate things for those in need. Jesus showed them what was important by focusing on the act of giving, rather than receiving. Often, those whom He healed did not thank Him, and He was never paid for his medical care – but He healed them regardless, because it enabled Him to love those who lacked hope.

• Always try to do the will of God (Luke 12:29-31). Your life is not about what you want; to be a follower of Jesus your desires should match God’s. The way we demonstrate that we understand this principle is by allowing God to change your heart, and by following His plan.

A Personal Challenge
So, if Jesus went to such lengths to put feet on His health care strategy, what is yours? He did not seem inclined to wait for the government to provide for the poor. His strategy called for people to help people, through the power and ability that He entrusted to His followers. One must wonder if the American preference for government programs is the best solution to the existing needs – and if a nation where 83% of adults label themselves “Christian” can blend that religious connection with a desire for state-based solutions.

Government clearly has a role in people’s lives; the Bible supports its existence and circumscribed functions. It is unfortunate that when God’s people, collectively known as the Church, fail to exhibit the compassion and service that He has called us to provide, we are comfortable with the government acting as a national safety net. In a society that has become increasingly self-centered and self-indulgent, we simply expand our reliance upon the government to provide solutions and services that are the responsibility of Christ followers. Some Christians have heeded the call, as evidenced by the medical clinics, pregnancy centers and even hospitals across the nation that were initiated and funded by small numbers of dedicated believers who grasped this responsibility. Imagine what an impact the Church would have on society if it truly reflected the model Jesus gave us of how to care for one another!

As we think about the elements embedded in the national debate, perhaps each of us should be asking ourselves a few simple questions. What kinds of people within your realm of influence need health care assistance – and how do you respond? How do you figure out who to help – and who to serve them in partnership with? How do you decide when and how often to invest yourself in helping poor people who have health needs? What limitations do you place on the kind of health care assistance you offer to the needy? What gifts, talents, and resources can you be more aggressive at applying to the health care needs of the poor?

I don’t know what God is asking or preparing you to do in relation to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged. All I know is that we have been told to imitate Christ, and His health care strategy is whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever.

Note: This post originally appeared in September 2009 on Barna.org and was moved to this blog in January 2010.

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13 Comments

  1. kacie

    January 11, 2010

    Wow, this was so refreshing to read in the midst of the politicized health care battleground.

    For me, as this topic comes up I am faced with the reality of the refugees that I am friends with. Their minimum wage job leaves them without enough money to get insurance, and so their pregnancy and their daughters’ rotting teeth and terrifying things. They are the “alien and the stranger” that the church in the US is charged to welcome and care for.

  2. Jeff McLain

    January 17, 2010

    These are great thoughts, very much inline with where my feelings are, however it is commonly asked to me by some very devout pro-life friends, at what sacrifice do we help the poor? Don’t get me wrong…I am not listening to the fear tactics of very big right wing conservatives….but it is true, that pro-abortion tactics are becoming more and more open and public, and even more so with this health bill – I want Universal healthcare, without sacrifice…

    thoughts?

  3. pastor.joshuva vincent

    January 25, 2010

    please pray for my health.

    • Jim Ickes

      January 29, 2010

      I have asked God to improve your health and to
      provide your health care providers with the skills to
      provide a speedy recovery. With Gods will in mind and in Jesus name.

      Brothers & sisters in Christ!

      • Brian Fassette

        February 8, 2010

        God’s method of healing is the cross so we must look back 1 peter2:24. All things were provided for us there, but the problem lies in our believing. We must get back to the bible and away forom man’s tradition that have made The Word of God no effect Mark 7:11-13. It is God’s will to heal all but because of the lies we have been taught it has stolen our faith and left the church with out power. Well that’s ok because His people will go to the cross one way or another as we will see in a very short time. Thank you and Jesus bless you

  4. Nathaniel V Nkosi

    January 25, 2010

    How long is the church going to continue EVANGELIZING and not DISCIPLING ?

    WHO DISAGREES THAT THERE IS A +90% BIBLICAL ILLITERACY/INFANTCY in every local church of every denomination in the Global Village ?

    LAUSANNE 1,11,AND 111 ARE ALL ABOUT EVANGELIZNG/MAKING CONVERTS–based on Mark 16:15 instead of Mat. 28:19-20 !

  5. Matthew 7:21-23

    January 28, 2010

    You can’t really be pro-life and not care for healthcare and other issues. Read James 1:22

  6. Dennis Oliver Woods

    January 30, 2010

    The American Medical System is on its death bed, but government health care reform can never provide the cure. Both models for health care reform – government and business — are fatally flawed. More often than not they leave their victims fatally wounded. Better grab your wallet and head for the hills when government proposes to “reform” anything. The only hope for any effective and efficient reform lies in the Bible and with the church.

    The Business Model Is Broken

    The current system is pretty good at what we might call “body & fender” work. But they are generally clueless about what’s going on under the hood and addressing the root causes. Here is a short list of the deficiencies:

    1) A mechanistic view of the body underlies the system, treating a diseased organ in isolation, like the independent systems of an automobile.

    2) This leads to treating symptoms and ignoring the underlying problems creating the symptoms.

    3) Treatment of symptoms with drugs fails to address the underlying pathology. Nutrition and natural healing techniques are typically suppressed.

    4) Drugs typically have side-effects worse than the disease or its symptoms.

    5) Costs are driven into the billions, with money wasted on marketing the alleged benefits of drugs to doctors and the general public.

    All of this leads to skyrocketing costs and makes health care generally unavailable without so-called government assistance. The failures of the prevailing business model are legendary and invite government meddling to “fix” the problem with health care reform.

    The Government Model Is Lethal

    We clearly need health care reform, but we’ll never get it from big government. Government of course, presents itself as the cultural balm to heal all wounds. Instead it is the cultural bomb to wound all heels — the vast majority that refuses to accept responsibility. They expect the government to force somebody else to provide for their health, education and welfare.

    The U.S. Constitution – flawed as it is – makes no provision for government health care. More important, there is no provision for government health care in the Bible. Thus, civil government has no business meddling in health care beyond punishing medical malpractice. Anything more is usurping the social function of God and his church, which God will surely punish.

    An out-of-control government will exploit a crisis to magnify its power over the private sector, trampling liberty in the process.

    The Biblical Model Of True Health Care Reform

    The Biblical approach addresses both the mode of healing and the method of delivery. First, we must recognize the church as the God-ordained cultural institution of healing. The words “salvation” and “salve” are derived from the same root. We have seen how the government model and the business model of healing alike are terminal and beyond reviving.

    The Levites were assigned a medical responsibility in the Old Testament, which was supported by the tithe. For example, when leprosy infected a person or building they were responsible for dealing with it.

    New Testament elders have a similar responsibility for healing duties. Even before consulting a doctor, a sick person is told to summon the elders to pray for him and apply medicinal oil (James 5:14). The operative Greek word is not chrio (annoint), but aleipho (apply). This represents application of the best medical means of the day along with appeal to God as the Great Physician. It is not simply a ceremonial anointing.

    Thus, the church must reclaim health care as an aspect of Christian ministry. When profit enters the picture, the best interests of the patient soon take a back seat. Legalized (prescription) drug sales become the driving factor. Civil government gets involved not for profit, but for power. Health care is the proper domain of the church. It is funded by tithes and offerings, so that no one is excluded for lack of means.

    The church must gradually reclaim this lost ministry, which the monasteries once performed. At least two things are required: 1) Elders must study to develop a doctrine of medicine so they can recognize quackery and guide their flock away from ineffective practice. 2) Individuals gifted in the healing arts must be funded by the tithe, possibly as part of the deaconate.

    Proper mode of delivery is important, but the Bible also requires appropriate means of healing. In general, this points toward abandoning risky drug “therapy” in favor of natural, plant-based remedies. This is according to the pattern of Ezekiel 47:12 where – “Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

  7. dfager

    February 2, 2010

    Great blog!

    Health Care Reform is an important issue but, I believe it’s largely misunderstood. There’s more to Health Care Reform then providing healthcare for the poor. The poor can receive some benefits from welfare and State health programs. The main issue and drive for reform is that working class America is getting less for their dollar in regards to healthcare. Prices are becoming too expensive for the average American, even with insurance. One major illness can wipe out the savings of a working family and force them into bankruptcy. There are caps on coverage and some procedures can remain unreimbused by insurance companies. There are rising premiums, larger deductibles and higher co-pays. I think there’s still some problem with coverage being denied for pre-existing conditions as well. Small businesses often cannot afford to pay health care insurance to their employees and some employees cannot afford to pay for health insurance. The cost of healthcare is contributing to our companies being less competitive in the global markets.

    In a way, I think our best option is having government involved because, they are big enough to drive reform. However, I don’t believe this current round of reform will be very successful without a government option.

    I think we need to develop more non-profit clinics and if possible, non-profit insurance. It’s not a Christian principle to profit from someone’s misfortune. People shouldn’t have to hire attorneys to get claims paid.

    Are there any real solutions out there in church communities? If I’m not a healthcare professional, how can I get involved?

    I hope you mean real medical practice and not just laying on of hands and prayer because, the minute these do not work, people will be sued.

    I think to be effective as God’s Church; Christians have to be less dependent on corporate America. Only then will Christian values appear to be different and not of this w

  8. dfager

    February 2, 2010

    world.

  9. gretchen

    March 12, 2010

    I look at the Amish people for they provide what’s needed for their own community, no government needed. Though they ‘honor’ the govt as Jesus commanded, they take care of their situations themselves, also as Jesus commanded. They are also apart from wordliness, what the remainder of Christians ARE a part of — the world, for Christians have FEW if ANY differentiations between themselves and the world. Barna’s column/blog isn’t Biblically sound for it excluded obedience to Jesus’ commands, the foundation for being a true Christian…doing God’s will.

  10. ken lyn

    September 8, 2011

    One of the main factors in today’s demise of the United States healthcare system is monetary consideration and the greed of corporate entities. Never before in the course of American history have we been so devoid of health insurance coverage and the absence of G-d and Christianity in a country that has a pledge to both is quite astounding at best. This is not what the founding fathers had in mind when they so eloquently approached the creation of this great country with We the People. It did not say only a few of the people who have the money or are employed with a firm that has a large enough group to where they can afford healthcare coverage, they said We.

    Up in the Sky
    G-dly healthcare is above all others by proxy and by default since G-d exists in the heavens above this makes perfect sense. Now we do not intend on making light of our Lord and Savior what we intend on doing is impressing upon you the fact that this form of evangelical healthcare has been needed in America for quite some time and currently the interest is at a heightened level and we only intend on poking the fires a little.

    Shock Waves of Fear and Doubt
    The absence of G-d in healthcare today in America should send shock waves of fear and unbelievable facial expressions on every citizen of these United States of America. You see, as a Christian society we need to get back to the Christian healthcare that mandates goodwill and moral attitude in every action from the physician visit all the way through to the claim payment, which if you stick around and we have loads to say about the way claims are being paid in America today and how they should be paid with alternative healthcare especially through Christian care ministry or some form of evangelical healthcare provider.

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    September 18, 2013

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