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Health Care Reform: The Beginning of Babylonian Captivity?

March 26, 2010
S. Michael Craven
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With the passage of President Obama’s health care reform, we have initiated the largest expansion of government in the history of this nation. While the full implications of this law are not yet fully realized and probably won’t be for some time, we can be certain that America has crossed a critical boundary that promises to fundamentally change this nation forever—and not necessarily in a good way. By nationalizing one-sixth of our nation’s economy (make no mistake, this is the first step toward the inevitable: nationalized health care), the state will control more of our lives and consume more of our money than we can possibly imagine. That is not to say that reforms weren’t necessary—they were! But a government takeover was not, and never has been, the best solution.

This measure represents one more—and perhaps the most significant—step in the long march toward statism (an ideology advocating the power of government to achieve economic and social goals) that has progressed over the last century.  First there was the Social Security Act in 1935, followed by the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, all of which represent government expansion into social governance and relief and all of which have grown into financial behemoths and all of which are now financially insolvent! The president’s health care plan is distinct in that it presumes to exercise control over an already existing and enormous segment of the private sector. This feature is what promises fundamental changes in our nation’s economy, away from free-market capitalism to what is, essentially, a government-mandated redistribution of wealth.    

Under the statist ideology, it is assumed that the state knows what’s best for the people and thus the sacrifice of individual freedoms (and your money) is ultimately “for your own good.” In Great Britain and other European socialist democracies this has led to the “nanny state,” in which government becomes excessive (i.e., intrusive) in its desire to protect, govern, or control various aspects of society. This has included everything from the government dictating to people what they can eat and how to educate their children to the games that children can play. In short, it slowly leads to a form of enslavement not intended for humanity made in the image of God. From a biblical perspective, people are not subservient to the interests of the state; they are obligated only to God, under whom the state carries out its aim of serving justice and promoting the common good.

Unfortunately, our “captivity” appears inevitable at this point, and it may be generations before our former freedoms are recovered, if they ever are. At the moment, it may be easy to blame this condition entirely on the current political administration; clearly they have made the real choices that will yield real consequences. However, as Christians we are also compelled to examine ourselves individually and corporately. Asking, “Have we, the church, done anything (either by commission or omission) that might have contributed to the preconditions essential to such radical social and political change?” Upon examination, I cannot help but draw parallels between our situation and that of the Israelites as they went into Babylonian captivity.

Israel was to be a sign and foretaste of the kingdom to come, a people who lived under the rule and reign of God. Toward that end they were uniquely entrusted with principles and values for living that would distinguish them from the world. Among these were numerous laws about social governance with a particular emphasis on caring for the poor (Deut. 15). The multitude of commandments relative to debt, tithing, and “gleaning” (Lev. 25:35–38; Deut. 14:28–29; Lev. 19:9–10) were so extensive as to insure that “there should be no poor among you”(Deut. 15:4, NIV). It is against this divine expectation that we discover the actual “sins” of which Israel was so guilty that their captivity was ordained by God. Isaiah delivers God’s indictment against Israel:

Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?” says the LORD; “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. …Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Is. 1:10–13, 16–17, ESV, emphasis mine.)

The words of the Lord grow even stronger in their condemnation of Israel’s pious religiosity at the expense of participation in God’s redemptive mission, setting right what sin has set wrong:

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, “Here I am.” If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. (Isaiah 58:6–10, ESV)

Might there be a parallel between Israel’s failure to care for those in their midst and our own? Has the contemporary church in America come to emphasize a gospel of only personal salvation—a privatized faith characterized by personal piety and formal religion—rather than the all-transforming power and presence of the kingdom and Jesus Christ, the King who reigns? Did not Jesus begin his ministry by saying the Father sent him to accomplish what was asked of the Israelites? “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–21, ESV).

Unfortunately, we find ourselves inadvertently hobbled by theological liberals caught up in the “social gospel movement” of the early twentieth century. These liberals equated any and all humanitarian efforts with the kingdom. In short, they sought to bring forth the kingdom without the king. Regrettably, the conservative evangelical reaction has unwittingly resulted in many worshipping the King without a kingdom! Now, evangelical Christians—fearful of falling into the liberal trap—have largely abandoned the social, political, and economic dimensions of the biblical gospel. In the wake of this void, other social structures such as government were (and will be by necessity) increasingly relied upon to fill the vacuum in the face of real social needs.  

We must repent of our indifference to a suffering world and join with Jesus in proclaiming to the world that the King has come and make his kingdom visible through both word and deed so that our light might “break forth like the dawn,” and “the glory of the LORD” may be revealed!

© 2010 by S. Michael Craven

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Response from : John H. Armstrong  

March 29, 2010 9:11 AM

You have once again nailed the issue pretty clearly. This is NOT a conservative or liberal issue, it is an issue of the church failing to preach and live the gospel of the kingdom. Take out all the references to care for the poor in the Bible and you have a Bible full of holes. Possibly one sixth of the text has something to say about this issue.

So, will we retreat into our church political reaction or actually begin to live out the kingdom as faithful disciples? With you I fear the die has been cast and we will need more than a few legislative changes to correct this very real problem.

Yet, I am filled with hope. We can unite in the mission of Christ's kingdom and do better as one than as many diverse and conflicted voices. God is doing that, on a small scale, and we can pray this increases.

Response from : Jody Wohlenhaus  

March 29, 2010 10:25 AM

Great article! I would add, however, that I think God judged Israel first for her sin of idolatry/rejection of God ("See how the faithful city has become a harlot!" Is. 1:21). Corrupt leadership is a result of idolatry ("Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts." Is. 2:23a) I believe the root sin is idolatry, and corrupt leadership is a symptom which results in the neglect of the needy ("They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow's case does not come before them." Is. 1:23b).

Response from : Ken Quick  

March 29, 2010 12:17 PM

Another good commentary, Michael. Funny how reformed minded people are reaching the same conclusions (see Joel McDurmon's article at American Vision ).

Response from : Steve Treibel  

March 29, 2010 12:37 PM


All that you say makes sense. I have often pondered this issue. My hesitation about climbing aboard this train is Jesus actual example and the activities of the disciples.

To the best of my knowledge, they were wholly engaged in spreading the gospel through evangelism. (Obviously, the church today is not particularly effective in that arena, either). I find it difficult to distinguish between the commands to Israel that continue to apply and those that do not. Clearly, we are not a theocracy, we are not promised financial prosperity in this life if we do things God's way, etc. I would be interested in your thoughts.


Response from : Chip Burkitt  

March 29, 2010 12:43 PM

I don't believe the situation is our country is quite as bleak as you have painted it. Certainly evangelicals overreacted to the social gospel of liberal mainline denominations. However, in recent years there has been a notable change in envangelicalism. Many now have a passion for the poor and a profound desire to right injustices. The evangelical church has been finding its way toward a more complete representation of the gospel. Your own ministry is evidence of that trend. I don't think we can just say, "too little, too late." If the church continues to push forcefully into meeting the needs of people in need, we can still make an impact and bring freedom to the oppressed.

Response from : Greg Williams  

March 29, 2010 5:44 PM


Once again an excellent article. I would add something that I'm seeing regularly that I think goes in line with what you're saying and have said before. The Lord has laid on my heart that while many have claimed Christ as their Savior, very few have truly accepted Him as Lord due to the overwhelming deficiency of true discipleship in the church today! With that said, it seems to me that the church of today has turned the first and second greatest commandments upside down and the resulting lack of proper priorities has led to a very liberal "social justice" gospel that appears on the surface to do much good but underneath really plays out with the socialistic, welfare 'gospel' that mimics our govt. and ultimately enslaves! Talk about the church conforming to the world! In the process this 'false compassion' has fed the fleshly service of many who have not been led to mature in the Spirit through discipleship and when other elements of their lives (marriage/family, finances, etc.) come crashing down they are desperate and often blame God because they were doing everything the 'church' told them they were to do!

Thanks again and I continue to pray daily for your ministry and the Lord's influence through you.

God bless in Christ!

In His service


Response from : Steve McNeilly  

March 29, 2010 5:52 PM

From an Australian perspective, it's a little hard to understand what Americans are afraid of with President Obama's health reform. Health care should be equitable and affordable for all. The dangers of a "nanny state" are real but there is a lot of middle ground.

Response from : Lorraine Thornecroft  

March 31, 2010 4:30 AM

As a British citizen, what you say about the National Health Service is a load of rubbish! 'Nanny State' is a term which you have picked up from certain sections of the press, and it does not refer to the National Health Service. It refers to the other benefits that people here are entitled to, such as, monetary benefits if they are out of work, on low pay, or ill and unable to work. In fact, I live in a very free country. I can say what I think, write what I want, live how I want, as long as I do not harm others. This later is how it should be. I am very grateful for the National Health Service, free at the point of service for everyone. All care and treatment for my breast cancer was free, and very good it was too.
Is not your nation, at last, responding to Isaiah 58:6-10? God was, after all, talking to the whole nation of Israel, not just the Religious Jews, or Christians.
Rather than critising your nation because it is doing what God demands, you should be more concerned about Obama's anti Israel stance.


Response from : Marica Maas  

March 31, 2010 5:11 PM

Unfortunately all are not equally advantaged by Government sponsered health care services... 'the least of us'(unborn children) and the frail, elderly are especially at risk, since eventually the collective pie can only feed a certain number of voters. Therefore, some of us -- those without a voice and a vote -- are eventually to be elliminated along the way? (Had President Obama not in fact started out his term by advancing in that direction -- concerning abortion -- even long before his health care reform bill had been passed?)

Besides for that, all welfare states are inevitably like time bombs waiting to cave in on themselves... As more 'have nots' and those without jobs -- many simply too lazy to work themselves -- get addicted to and spoiled rotten by state-sponsored provision and services, the 'have's' and those willing to work, find it increasingly difficult to cope with the demands made on them. At some stage something has to give in... and eventually the whole system caves in on itself... To believe that those who are not working, are entitled to the same benefits as those who are working, is a in fact a pie in the sky as far as long-term sustenance is concerned. This not only regarding health care, but including education and even basic material provision. Does Scripture not teaches us clearly that if we do not work, we shall not eat? Yes, we are called upon to reach out -- giving cheerfully -- to those in need, to take care of the poor -- widows and orphans especially -- and surely laws should be fashioned accordingly. (If taxes were for example less, private citizens would be enabled to give more to charities; especially if these charities did not have to pay taxes themselves; the finances would end up in the hands of those who truly need it, instead of being wasted by big government who is currently making their living out of the needs of others?)

However, full-blown orchestrated socialism via government is a dead-end... surely this had already been proven before many times all over the world?

In Australia (according to reports from relatives residing there, this is a supreme nanny state)general liberty is currenltly on such thin ice that there is even talk of passing legislation against teaching Creationism in private Christian Schools... with the possiblility of such legislation passed against home schools as well in future.

This is then what happens when the family and church negates its responsibilities... Whether it be to provide education, health care or general support of the poor... The secular state assumes these responsibilities, and with that it also gains authority over all those areas it had taken control over.

We should indeed be seeking wisdom from God regarding assuming our responsibilities...

Response from : Trent Lott  

April 2, 2010 12:30 AM

You are paranoid. And hysterical. Breathe.

Response from : Selase Kwawu  

April 2, 2010 9:43 AM

From an African's Perspective: I am greatly disturbed when i contemplate the attempt by some in the west to reduce and take away liberties by suggesting central government control however benign it might seem. In countries like Ghana, where through the amazing grace of God and the the blood and toil of our fathers, we have a system of governance that has a semblance to freedom to the people, the idea of state control is a horrifying nightmare. There has been a massive wave of evangelicalism sweeping across the nation and more people are turning to the Lord than ever. But alongside this increase is also an increase in the number of children who spend the night on the street, who are most likely to never be able to read because they have no schools and where they have schools no teachers to teach them. It is very easy for us also to blame our political leaders for failing the people through corrupt governance and ineffective social policies but it is very clear that the church as the largest non-governmental organization in Africa needs to re-focus and perhaps learn what it has never known- how to convert the streets, classrooms and prisons into an arena of worship, sharing and truly caring for one another.It is only then that we can truly be free. The Lord bless you Michael.

Response from : justin butler  

April 7, 2010 11:30 PM

I am interested to see that you have explained clearly the imbalance we are facing in the Body of Christ worldwide.We still..especially in Western nations..struggle to pray "the KING come" as well as "the kingdom come"!Our societies remain spiritually crippled when we DON'T do this and we don't fulfil our true mandate,as a people planted by the Lord where we live.Naturally,the government becomes the 'social gospel',AND WE LET IT HAPPEN!

God forbid that we see ourselves slipping out from under the radar in terms of who we are as seen by the world...a people of promise,of power,AND of provision for the needy!!

Justin Butler,New Plymouth,New Zealand


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