Health Care and Jesus

Health care. There, I said it. It’s almost hard to take in all of the rhetoric surrounding those two words. I can’t help but think that we are more than capable of coming up with a way to provide adequate health care for everyone. We have the wealth and the means to do that. We have the intelligence to do that. So why is it so difficult, so contentious? As one who tries to embody the teachings and example of Jesus Christ I naturally turn to his story for answers to questions such as these. And, fortunately, Jesus talked a lot about health care. He also spent quite a bit of time healing folks. Here is a sampling from the Gospel of Matthew: “Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously. Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.” (Matthew 10:6-9, Italics mine, from The Message) Another of my favorite health care passages is the story of the Good Samaritan. You may be familiar with it. But have you thought about the story from the perspective of those who were hearing it for the first time? For example, you are familiar with the formula for stories/jokes: “A Priest, Rabbi and Pastor…” and then you fill in the story line. As soon as the teller of the story says “A Priest, Rabbi…” you already know the next person will be a Pastor. So when Jesus begins to answer the question of who our neighbor really is by saying “There once was a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily a Priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.” (Luke 10, The Message) At this point everyone expected the third person to be a Jew. That’s how the formula worked. Instead, Jesus named a Samaritan, an enemy of Jews. The Samaritan stopped, and provided health care for the Jewish man. When Jesus finished the story and asked which one was the neighbor, the answer was, “The one who showed compassion.” Jesus then said, “Go, do the same.”In defense of the Priest and Levite, there was a reason they passed the man by. According to the Law (the Torah), tending to the man would have rendered them unclean and the process for becoming clean again was somewhat lengthy, and that would have interfered with their religious duties. In other words the Priest and Levite asked themselves, “What will happen to me if I help this man?” The Samaritan asked a much different question. He asked, “What will happen to that man if I don't help him?” So you see, from Jesus point of view the question about health care is pretty simple. It turns out many are asking the wrong question. Instead of those who have plenty asking what will happen to them if they help those in need, they need to be asking what will happen to those in need if they aren’t helped. We need to be the ones who have compassion.