The Church And The Poor

Today is one of those days where there is so much to write about. The level of frustration concerning the economic recovery continues to climb. The job gap is widening, demonstrated by the fact that those with a high school education or less are being left behind, and those with more marketable skills are experiencing a modest recovery. “The two-track nature of the recovery helps explain why the four-year old upturn still doesn’t feel like one.” Those on the upper scale of income are seeing their homes appreciate, leading to more consumption, and those who are on the lower end are still struggling.

Don’t get me going on the political issues. The continued dysfunction in Washington is leading to a radicalized center emerging that is ideologically based in pragmatism. During the last election, if a politician was identified with Washington he or she lost the election. Those that were identified as able to accomplish something won, which is why Christie in one state and MacAuliffe in another were able to win their governor’s races; two different parties, but the same result.

Then there is the confession of the Quantitative Easer. Andrew Huszar apologized in this morning’s opinion section of the WSJ for his hand in the bailout feasr provided for Wall Street. As much as I’d like to pontificate on that I will pass. The reason for my move is there is a more pressing issue that really needs to be discussed.

The issue involves the 25 states that have refused to accept the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. By doing this the states have created a gap of 5,000,000 people “who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to qualify for Obamacare subsidies in their state insurance exchanges.” Everyone agrees that Obamacare is a political hot potato, but I think there is a bigger issue at stake here; one that the Church needs to pray about. I thought about this after reading John Blake’s article on CNN yesterday.

Fourteen of the states that rejected the expansion of Medicaid are Southern states. These states range from “North Carolina to Texas and Florida.” In these states there are some of the biggest mega-churches in the US. And, as Blake states, the Pastors of these mega-churches are silent on the 5,000,000 working poor that will be without health coverage when Obamacare goes into practice in January.

Big name Christians are involved with these Churches. Andy Stanley pastors a church of 33,000 people. Bob Coy, Calvary Chapel, 30,000 people. Joel Osteen, 43,000 people. T.D Jakes another 20,000 people. These are big churches with lots of resources, but individually they cannot tackle this huge issue.

The Rev. Phil Wages, senior Pastor of Winterville Baptist Church in Georgia, was one of the few Pastors to talk about this problem. He stated that he would not preach about the gap because of what he calls “theological differences with the thrust of the new health care law.” He also stated that the bible tells the Church to care for orphans, widows, and the sick, not government. “Jesus never went to Herod or Pilate and said you should take care of the poor.”

Ron Sider is on the other side of the spectrum. He states, “the churches don’t have enough resources to take care of an estimated 48 million Americans who do not have health care. The Bible is filled with examples of God’s fury over economic oppression of the poor”

Andy Stanley and Bob Coy seem to be somewhere in the middle. Stanley’ church has donated $5.2 million to Atlanta Charities and provided another 34,000 volunteer hours. 34,000 volunteer hours for a church of 33,000 equates to a little over an hour per person. Is that per year?

Stanley says the coverage gap disturbs him, but the church cannot handle the needs of millions of uninsured people. This is the second person to say this. Bob Coy is another Pastor who is wrestling with this. Coy pastors a large Calvary Chapel in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He says he is suspicious of “large-scale programs that are publically funded because they are often abused.” Coy also recognizes the tension between those who say we need Obamacare, and those who say it is not fair and isn’t going to work.

The problem is that each of these churches are looking at the problem individually, and are overwhelmed by the enormity of the issue. Each of these churches cannot tackle the problem alone, but collectively I think they can come up with a Biblical solution to a huge problem. Let me lay out some numbers for you. Currently there are around 885,000 medical Doctors in the US. At least according to the Web. This represents about .29% of our population. Let’s project these numbers onto these large mega-churches. Osteen’s church could have about 1,247 doctors in the house. Coy’s church of 30,000 could have about 870 doctors.

If that projection is anywhere accurate, then banding together to create a free clinic system, or pay what you can, throughout these states seems reasonable. If each of these doctors took seriously the Biblical mandate to care for the poor, and donated a certain amount of their time to caring for the poor and disadvantaged then maybe something could change. Maybe they already are, I don’t know.

The argument then is, aren’t we enabling the poor to stay poor. I buy that, I understand that argument, but what do we, the Church do about this? How many managers, educators, or trainers are resident in these churches? How many of those could volunteer and provide work skills training, family training, entrepreneurial training, etc to help people to be employable?

How many Christian businessmen are in these churches that could provide jobs for people after they go through these training programs? There are thousands of people in these churches, that give millions of dollars to build the edifices of idolatry to the organizations of man, but yet the level of need doesn’t change.

It seems to me that if we looked at this as a system, a synergy could be created to deal with the problems. Maybe I am a bit of a Pollyanna, but the more I think about this the more I think it could make a difference.

Two scriptures come to mind. The first is a comment that Peter makes in Acts 6:3. “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” The second verse is found in Matthew chapter 25, where Jesus discusses the parable of the sheep and goats. “Then the king will say to those on his right, come you who are blessed by my Father. . . For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed cloths and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” The righteous who the king is addressing responded by saying “when did we see you hungry,” etc? The king answered, “when you did it to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me.”

I don’t see Jesus saying the task is too large, or we don’t have the resources. I agree that individually a church can’t meet the needs of 48 million people. But “The church” can mobilize and make a difference in the community it serves. I think there is a will issue here. John Kotter states that the number one reason effective change does not occur in organizations is the lack of urgency.

Maybe that is why we don’t see the church change? Maybe we don’t see the urgency of 48 million people without healthcare. Maybe we would rather sit around a complain about how the government is messing up instead of responding to the call of God on our lives to make a difference; to bloom where we are planted; to use our talents to further the kingdom of God by doing good.

I think we have the resources, we just don’t have the will. Silver and gold we have, but in the process of collecting silver and gold we lost something even more precious, the ability to say stand up and walk.

And that is my thought for the day!


One thought on “The Church And The Poor

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