Steve Massey: Runaway entitlements offer opportunity to reflect
Is it always wrong to steal?
That’s not a rhetorical question anymore, not these days, as evidenced most recently by the so-called Affordable Care Act.
Intensifying birth pangs from the federal government’s controversial health care reform leave many Americans befuddled over its irony: The act makes health care neither affordable, nor especially caring, for an awful lot of people.
I’d like to suggest that the pain stems from an ideological ailment, not politics.
But first, a few facts: A recent Forbes study suggests that a healthy 40-year-old will see health insurance rates increase 149 percent in California under the ACA, and as much as 80 percent in Washington.
The law’s driving ideology is that lower premiums for some are achieved by jacking up rates for others.
And so I ask again: Is it always wrong to steal?
The ACA is merely the latest and loudest example of a long-term ideological shift in our country: We’re increasingly comfortable taking from those who have something and giving it to those who do not.
In most contexts that’s called theft, not benevolence.
And it’s really not the government’s fault.
It’s ours, collectively. We’re steadily becoming a society whose members demand benefits that are actually paid for by other people.
This is no cause to point fingers at Democrats, because they’re in office now, nor Republicans, because they didn’t fix this problem when they had their shot at it.
The dilemma of runaway entitlements goes much, much deeper than that. It reaches all the way down to you and me. And it’s cause to look in the mirror and ask some hard questions.
Let me suggest a few:
Do I personally depend upon God to meet my basic needs, following his prescription for hard work, or do I depend upon my government? “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10, New Living Translation).
As an employer, do I honor the biblical principle of generously compensating my employees, or do I simply watch them struggle to get by? “A worker is worthy of his food” (Matthew 10:10, New King James Version).
Am I content with what I have, or do I covet what others have and insist that I am entitled to the same things? “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:8, NKJV).
When my friends, neighbors and family members are in need, will I open my wallet wide to help them, or send them to the closest government office for help? “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7, NKJV).
When unexpected hardship comes my way, do I accept that life often involves pain, or do I expect the community to immediately take away my pain? “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT).
Christians, and churches, can lead the way in all of this. Let’s not rant against runaway entitlement programs while at the same time ignoring those around us in true need.
Let’s not be stingy and then spiritualize it by calling it good stewardship.
Instead, let’s be known as those who work hard, live with gratitude and contentment and trust in God, not government.
And let’s certainly not be those who eagerly demand from others what we have not earned.
After all, isn’t it always wrong to steal?
Steve Massey is pastor of Hayden Bible Church (www.haydenbible.org). He can be reached at (208) 772-2511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.