Government-run healthcare – Would Jesus really pay the bill?
One former pastor thinks so. But has he made an error in the way he interprets the parable of the Good Samaritan?
You are probably familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan:
Jesus 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. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. (Luke 10:30-33)
Can this parable be applied to the modern healthcare debate? As the Samaritan paid for the bills of the injured stranger, should the government pay the medical bills for those who cannot afford health insurance? A former pastor has phrased the problem like this:
The United States is caught up in an epic struggle regarding health care. One side says that health care is a privilege; the other side says that it is a right. While both sides argue, staggering numbers of people are dying in a ditch with no serious attention given to their needs.
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To add insult to injury, large segments of our society — including Christian politicians — want to take health care from more than 23 million people.
After explaining the parable of the Good Samaritan, he then draws a conclusion:
Jesus finishes the parable by indicating that the Samaritan gave the owner of the inn money for the man’s care, and promised that when he returned that if that was not enough, he would give whatever was needed to pay the bill in full.
What makes this story so powerful is the fact that Jesus inserts himself as the man of Samaria. What would Jesus do regarding heath care?
He gives the answer in this story: Jesus would do what the Samaritan did. Jesus would pay the bill!
In other words, the Good Samaritan represents how civil government should work: take money from the rich and give it to the poor in the form of healthcare subsidies.
First, we need to realize something about this parable. Jesus is criticizing the practioners of the Jewish religion. They were all talk, but no action. Touching a dead body made someone unclean for seven days (Num. 19:11). They could be made clean again, but it required work.
The priest and the Levite in the story thought the man was dead. They didn’t want to risk touching him and becoming unclean. Instead of checking on him to see if they could help, they stepped around him without touching him. They should have helped him. This was more important than being ritually unclean for seven days.
This was a judgment upon Israel: it had turned away from God and, instead of bringing people to him, it was leading them astray (Mat. 23:13-15). They tithed down to the individual sprigs of their herb stock, but they neglected justice and mercy, which Jesus called “the weightier matters of the law.”
Jesus, you see, followed the Mosaic law. All of it. He knew its every jot and tittle.
Second, the samaritan is an individual. He is paying for the man’s bills himself. He asks — not compels by forcing him to look down the barrel of a loaded gun — the innkeeper to pay for whatever bills accrue beyond the two denarii that he leaves him. The Samaritan promises to return and square up later.
The Samaritan is probably more reliable than the modern government.
So, the primary point of the parable is to bring judgment against Israel. The second point is to show how we should treat each other. Nowhere does Jesus say the State should forcefully extract taxes from rich people and give it to poor people to pay their medical bills.
To do this requires corrupting the rule of law, which requires equality before the law:
You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. (Lev. 19:15)
Taxing some people (rich people) at higher rates than others (poor people) violates the commandment to not be partial to the poor or defer to the great. That’s why the modern tax code, and the welfare state in general, is unethical. It steals from some (through majority vote) to give goodies to others.
You cannot use Jesus to support government-run healthcare as an arm of the modern welfare state without contradicting the rule of law as written in Scripture.