Why Health Care Is a Christian Issue

BY ANDREW SUMARSONO CURRENT June 26, 2017

Health care has become an increasingly publicized topic in the American news cycles. The bitterness in both sides’ rhetoric suggest little hope for reconciliation, especially given the foundational disagreement regarding the role of government. As a Christian inundated by social media, political headlines and talk shows, I confess that distinguishing whether my stances on health care are rooted in the Bible or something else becomes difficult.

But as a follower of Christ, I am called to study God’s Word and draw conclusions that may not align with my party. In some circumstances, my political party and God’s command are discordant, and I am gently reminded that I cannot serve two masters. Allegiances must be chosen. Luckily, the Bible can be summed up in two commandments: Love God and love others. By evaluating health care through a Biblical lens, I find that Christians are called to pursue equitable health care for everyone even if it requires personal sacrifice because they know everything they have is a gracious gift from God.

Christians are called to pursue the welfare of the city by seeking social justice and caring for the sick (Jeremiah 29:7, Micah 6:8, Matthew 25:36).

What does this mean for Christians in America today? It means ensuring no one’s health is jeopardized because of their socioeconomic class. It means that someone who can’t afford insurance doesn’t die of an infection that $10 antibiotics could have prevented. It means that someone shouldn’t choose between buying food or life-sustaining medications.

The interconnectedness of wealth and health is well-documented. A recent study showed that health expectancies between people who live in higher and lower socioeconomic counties could differ by nearly two decades. In our society, less wealth equals worse health. 

One of the troubling facts is that America has the resources to provide everyone in this country health care, but the topic has become so politicized that we are conditioned to believe that saving lives and preventing disease is a partisan issue. Research continues to show that as citizens gain better coverage and access to health services, their health outcomes improve.

The gravity of these implications cannot be trivialized and must lead the Christian to action. The Christian must step away from their political allegiance and stand for a health system where all citizens can receive equitable health care. However, as with all morally good endeavors, it comes at a cost.

Christians are called to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

Health care is expensive.

In addition to the massive national costs of health care, the personal costs are tremendous. Some studies show that a significant portion of personal bankruptcies are due to medical expenses. While part of the solution is to fix why health care costs or so high, another part is to prevent financial ruin from an unforeseen health event. This means that hard-working people don’t need to choose between a life-saving treatment and their children’s college funds.

To develop a system that protects everyone, all must be willing to bear some financial burden. This is where people squirm. No one likes making less money for something they might never use. The leading train-of-thought among many health professionals is that if all Americans were to buy-in to health insurance, the cumulative pool of money would sufficiently the country’s medical expenses. For the Christian who pays more than they utilize, they are faced with a question that reveals the heart: Was my money wasted because I didn’t benefit personally or was it well-invested because it helped others?

The latter understands that to joyfully bear the burdens of their faceless, nameless neighbor is obedience. Some may disagree and argue why they should spend their hard-earned money for others who haven’t earned it. Answering that requires a better understanding of grace.

Christians are called to remember that everything they have is a gracious gift from God (Romans 11:36, Proverbs 6:9).

The Biblical doctrine is called common grace, a concept that everything good in life is an unearned gift from God.

How one defines earnings versus gifts is a matter of perspective. What successes are earned without the help of family, friends, mentors, geography, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, genetic composition or culture? I would venture very few, if any.

No one can, by sheer will and effort, dictate the date they were born or innate talents with which they possess. That we live in an era where we have the capacity to provide health care of the whole population is itself a gift.

The Christian, therefore, has no moral high-ground by which to judge himself above others. Additionally, biblical teaching imbues worth and equality to all humankind based on the principle that God created us in his image. This means that someone born into poverty is worth the same as someone born into opulent wealth. Someone born to stable family is worth the same as someone who journeyed through the foster system.

The intrinsic value of an individual does not change, regardless of any demographic category.  If all lives have equal value, then the Christian must equally fight for all their health.

The issue of health care is a literal matter of life and death. The present system treats health care as a commodity, which effectively implies that the wealthy are worth more than the poor, and therefore get to live longer. The biblical perspective is that everyone is valued equally because all they have is a gift. And in order to provide health for all, the Bible teaches an unpopular lesson: to love our neighbors by sacrificing some of our comforts so that others might live.

Preventing disease, treating the sick and empowering healthy lives for the country is not a political issue, it is a biblical command to seek our country’s good by sacrificing some of our God-given comforts.

Andrew Sumarsono

ANDREW SUMARSONO

Andrew Sumarsono is a Christian physician striving to love God and love people. He recently started his internal medicine residency at the University of Texas – Southwestern. Andrew’s primary interests are his Christian faith, medical education, and patient care. He is deeply passionate about providing healthcare to the most vulnerable patients and has served with large medical organizations to protect the underrepresented. On his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife, binging Netflix, and playing tennis.

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