Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

For Those Who Say “It’s The Job Of The Church To Care For The Sick, Not The Government’s!”

Okay, my fellow Christians.

We should chat.

Last week the House of Representatives voted to repeal Obamacare, and a lot of you were actually celebrating this development even though estimates are that at least 24 million people will lose access to healthcare if this bill becomes law.

When pressed as to why the people of Jesus– people who are supposedly called to be lovers of mercy and filled with compassion– would support such a thing, the excuse comes down to a frequently recited line: “It’s the church’s job to care for the sick, not the government!”

I’ve heard this line a thousand times. You use it frequently and in a variety of circumstances.

I mean, when you’re called out for supporting the slashing of food stamps and programs to help the poorest among us, you say the same thing:

“That’s the job of the church!”

And, I get it. You are partly right– caring for the poor and sick is the job of the church!

In Matthew 25 Jesus taught that at the final judgement he will sentence some Christians to divine punishment because they did not care for the poor or welcome immigrants. We also see the early Christian church in the book of Acts embrace a system of redistributing wealth so that there would be “no poor among them.” When the disciples commissioned the Apostle Paul he recounted, “all they asked me to do was to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do” (Gal 2:10). And then of course, there’s James who claimed that if we do not help the poor the love of God is not in us.

So, yup, you’re right: Caring for the poor and sick is the job of the Church. It’s not optional.

This brings me to a question I have for all the Christians who say, “The Church, not the government, should care for the sick”:

How many people in your local community does your church provide comprehensive medical care for?

I ask you this because I want to know something: I want to know if you actually believe it when you say it’s the “job of the Church.”

So, tell me– how many people does your church provide health coverage for? Do you provide a comprehensive insurance plan to the people in your community who can’t afford it, or do you have a team of doctors on staff at your church who see patients throughout the week? If not, what is your plan to provide medical coverage for all the people in your local area who might lose it if Obamacare is actually repealed?

I could ask you the same thing about food stamps, and all the other programs for the poor which you claim is actually the “job of the Church.”

If you believe that’s the job of the Church, is your church doing it?

I ask for a few reasons.

First, I ask for a practical reason: I already know there’s a 99.9% chance your church doesn’t do this. Research from the Barna group has shown that only about 5% of Christians tithe, and that the majority of Christians give less than $500 a year to their church or a charity organization. I honestly have no idea how the church is supposed to provide medical care for the poor when, statistically speaking, most Christians give little to no money to their church or outside charities.

Second, I ask for a pastoral reason: If you say that “it’s the job of the Church to care for the sick” but your church doesn’t do it, doesn’t that make you a hypocrite? Because reality is, if you claim this but your church isn’t attempting to do it, you don’t really believe it. This is precisely what hypocrisy is: Saying you believe something when your actions show you don’t really believe it.

Thus, if your church isn’t attempting to care for the sick in your community, the reason is because you don’t actually believe that’s the role of the Church. If you believed it, you’d do it.

And, I hate to tell you this, but according to Matthew 24:51, hypocrites will be assigned to the place where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The sin of hypocrisy is every bit as serious as blasphemy, idolatry, sexual sin, etc.

Furthermore, there is nothing in Scripture that prohibits a secular government from caring for the health and welfare of citizens. The fact that yes, it’s the job of the Church, doesn’t mean that everyone else– including government– is somehow forbidden from doing it, too.

The idea that a government “of the people” cannot provide for the poor and sick simply isn’t in the Bible.

Is caring for the sick the job of the Church?

It certainly is– but the average church doesn’t do it. Even if we did, the likelihood we could do it on the scale needed to address the current crisis is rather implausible.

Which brings me to my ultimate question: If caring for the sick and poor is the job of the Church, but the Church doesn’t do it, why do we get so upset when entities outside of the Church (like government) step in and do what we have refused to do?

In my opinion, we should be embarrassed, not angry.

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Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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Post Comments:

  • If we are going to make America better again from within the multimillionaire Christians on TBN should pay for their health care of our own sick. It couldn’t be harder than saving africa.

    • I think we need to actually equip them with tools to: first speak plain English, then second equip with citizenship, and third equip with the department of vocational rehabilitation and start interviewing. If they don’t want to be an American that’s a problem.

  • Another question would be, can the church(es) care for the sick competently and ethically? In other words, can they be trusted to provide real, quality medical care without siphoning 90% of the funds to the church or the pastor’s bank account and to refrain from using their position of power to force their religion on desperate people? A good look at Christian “charities” suggests that they can’t…

  • In an interesting related note, most people are not aware that church based retirement and pension plans are not covered under the same laws as similar financial items in the private sector. When churches default on their pension plans (and they do), their employees are left out to dry with none of the normal recourses. I recalled hearing this from a news article several years ago now. As I am not an accountant or retirement specialist, I will refrain from generalizing about the differences in protection between plan types. You should just be aware that churches have had special treatments carved out for themselves and based on their status, which give them the ability to circumvent normal operating rules. You may want to consider this before you put them in charge of general services independent of their voluntary membership.

  • I would go a step further and ask how many church-owned-and-operated hospitals provide free care to indigent patients, or even discounted care based on means testing? I think I know the answer to that question.

    There are two hospitals in my county, one owned by the Catholics and one by the 7th Day Adventists. The free clinic isn’t associated with either of them, and the county-run hospital the next county over is the only one where indigent patients can get care.

  • I have read in the recent past that even if the church; and all other charities; really did try to care for the sick, hungry and so on; that they could only reach less that ten percent of those who need it. That means in an average congregation of 100 people; the preacher should line everyone up, count the first 10, send them to the fellowship hall for coffee, and kill the rest. A brutal and silly thought , but the actual reality of what they believe.

  • This article blows those who think the church should replace government welfare out of the water…and calls that argument out for what it really is….selfishness and greed….

    “The point I’m making, though, is that when Christians want to compare charitable giving to somehow claim who is more compassionate, they are lying about the numbers if they don’t also count who is voting for tax-based state charity. Because the fact is, no private charity is even a fraction as successful as state charities have been. The Christian Church, even if all sects united again to serve the Vatican in one great unit, would not be able to produce a significant fraction of what we atheists have achieved through the more reliable method of charging use fees on the system. Could the Vatican take over SSI and TANF? Much less all health care aid, citizen pensions (Social Security), unemployment insurance, federal disaster insurance, housing and food assistance for the poor? Nope. Too many hundreds of billions. If they did that, they couldn’t afford expensive digs for the Pope and his fancy Cardinals anymore.

    And do you know how we know removing those things won’t result in private charities stepping up to replace them? Because that’s why we f***ing created them. No one stepped up to do any of these things. So much for Christian charity. Free medical care? F*** you, sick people. No Christian charity or collection thereof was doing it. So we stepped up and f***ing did it. And now they are complaining about this efficient charity we created, which we created because they refused to create it themselves. And then they have the gall to boast of how much more charitable they are than us. Seriously.

    And what about keeping the disabled from becoming homeless, destitute, starving, and dead? Christians refused to do hardly anything about that, too. So we did. Protecting the elderly from volatile markets, corporate bankruptcies, fraud and greed by guaranteeing them a stable buy-in pension fund? Solved by Christianity? Nope. Solved by the secular state? Yep. Feed the starving? Reduce homelessness? In the U.S., Christians help maybe a few million scattered about. The state helps tens of millions, everywhere there is need. It is precisely because soup kitchens don’t cut it and never did, that SNAP exists at all. If Christians were actually feeding “the poor,” no one would need SNAP.

    So all you Christian conservatives who think private charity should replace public welfare: if you care so much about that, then f***ing do it. Replace all welfare with your own private charities. Then we will talk about whether to cut public welfare programs. Until that happens, shut up, and f*** off. I’m tired of your lies and petty selfish greed. And especially your sham boasts of being more charitable than us. When in fact you are the most stingy and heartless demographic of any considerable size in this country.”

    http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/4288

    Ouch!

  • Benjamin, I applaud this article. When I mentioned to my brother, an Aussie, about how fortunate we were to be born in the USA or Australia, he said, “Its like winning the lottery.” That’s perspective. If you have an international perspective, you yourself give to the poor and needy overseas, because your heart knows. NGOs like World Vision or Life Outreach International are splendid facilitators. But if you are parochial and introverted you are either unaware or you choose to ignore the poor and needy and refugees overseas. Further, I’ve observed that in home meetings of Christians, prayers are always about family needs, but never about the enormous needs overseas. I think we win the lottery, but instead of being expansive, we think restrictive.

  • The church that I attend has a food pantry three times a week, and a free supper once a week, all are well utilized. However, the churches can do just so much. Churches are the “Band-Aid” but the government must care for the sick.
    I do hope that you, who are posting, do realize that we are the only developed nation that does not guarantee health care to their citizens? You do realize that we are the only developed nation that does not see health care as a right and not a privilege?
    When will we institute a Medicare for All type of health care? That time is here, in fact that time should have come years ago!

  • Get churches to provide comprehensive insurance for the community?? Pff… ’round here, it’s hard enough even getting them to provide any sort of coverage for church staff! Feels like half the time the only reason a pastor has any sort of insurance plan is because there’s a mandate from a denominational authority of some kind.

  • I couldn’t get through your piece for its condescension, but briefly, further subsidizing a dysfunctional system of medicine isn’t going to prove any more effective than the welfare state subsidizing of dysfunctional behavior. The FDA and Veterans administration are doing enough damage to medical care already. The government cartel that protects the pharmaceuticals industry is the third leading cause of death in this country. Since the Johnson era, trillions of dollars of tax payers’ money has been sunk into the “War on Poverty” and the “Great Society” with the result that poverty has grown in proportion to the investments. There is more poverty, not less, for all the high sounding rhetoric, such as yours.

  • Oh, thanks for this. I’ve been trying to make this point forever. Also, in my experience, churches and people will demonize the poor, the sick, and those they believe that they should be “looking after” in order to absolve themselves of responsibility. I saw my parents, a polio survivor and the survivor of an industrial accident that caused traumatic brain damage, attacked and insulted by members of their church. It frankly drove my mother away. My father was more forgiving (too forgiving in my view) and and returned to it after her death. The pastor was honest enough to explain what, in his view, was happening. He felt people believed that they should be helping parishioners dealing with such tragedy, but frankly didn’t want to, so, they invented reasons why my parents were culpable to ease their feelings of guilt.

    • Oh yeah, resenting people for exposing their hypocrisy by existing is a classic that never gets out of fashion among “good Christians.”

  • Matthew 25 on the “least of these” is addressed to nations. The early church took care of its own. While we all hope to be compassionate like the Good Samaritan, I don’t believe God expects the church to take care of entire nations. I believe Israel’s storehouse helped feed the poor, and fields could be gleaned after harvest. It is the government’s job to create an economy and an environment where healthcare and poverty issues can be dealt with in a practical manner for everyone. I believe the old “it’s the church’s job” mantra comes from a libertarian dream where government does nothing and everyone totally takes care of themselves. With the high number of disabled and mentally ill people in this country, not to mention those who lost their jobs thanks to NAFTA et al, even if every member of every church tithed, there wouldn’t be enough money to take care of all who need it.

  • West of the Rockies, seems like Catholic Church “non-profits” control half the hospitals . . . Sisters Of Providence, Franciscans . . . .

  • Benjamin:
    Which brings me to my ultimate question: If caring for the sick and poor is the job of the Church, but the Church doesn’t do it, why do we get so upset when entities outside of the Church (like government) step in and do what we have refused to do?
    In my opinion, we should be embarrassed, not angry.

    Ronny to Benjamin:
    Great point Ben and so true! 🙂

  • “For Those Who Say “It’s The Job Of The Church To Care For The Sick, Not The Government’s!””

    The Bible says the church is where you should go for help when you are sick.

    James 5:14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
    15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

    Of course the Bible ALSO says if someone doesn’t work they shouldn’t be allowed to eat

    (2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.)

    so maybe the Bible is a poor source for good advice & guidance.

  • Cuba does a great job on health care, better results than the US.
    In the UK we have excellent socialized health care, paid for by our taxes.
    What a pity the US has such rubbish health care for its citizens, spending trillions on its War against Islam.

  • Not sure what this guy is trying to prove, but, right off, he sounds like a lefty by
    using a dubious figure as a spring board for his article by stating that 24 M will lose health care with new health-care law. He is just shoveling more demagoguery. He leads by pompously saying “let’s have a chat.” OK, let’s have a chat.

    First of all, the legislation is a work in progress.

    Secondly, for the most part, those “losing” health care are just losing a
    certificate of little use after allowing for huge deductibles and co-pay.

    Thirdly, assuming he is not stupid, he is not mentioning the enormous amount of money spent for each household in “poverty.” In 2011, we spent $61,000
    per household. Of course, due to inefficiency of a bloated and bureaucratic gov’t, the recipients didn’t get that amount. I don’t know how much they got, but I suspect that $40,000 was available. Last year, I saw that the illegal households were collecting more than our citizen households, and that amount was in
    excess of $40,000. Since 2011, I suspect that the available welfare has increased a lot, particularly, in view of the unemployed and partially employed. As you know, our gov’t counts anyone working just one hour/week as employed.

    Fourthly, pre-existing conditions coverage is still in effect under proposed legislation despite all of the hysterics from the opposition.

    Fifthly. Now, I am beginning to think he is ignorant and self righteous. He is acting
    like we aren’t doing enough for those in “poverty.” A quick look at stats will show that our “poverty” citizens lead a good life and would be considered middle to upper class in most other countries. From someone who actually came from severe poverty, I am amazed at what we call poverty today. In the last 50 yrs, we’ve spent 22 trillion, and he acts if we are insensitive.

  • Before Obamacare, many, if not all States had free health clinics. Doctors and volunteers donated their time. Payment was on a sliding scale,if unable to pay it was free. Drugs were given free. If hospitalization was necessary, hospitals absorbed the cost. In my job at the time I took several clients to the free clinics. I was there when a baby was delivered in the hospital at no cost. In other words, TIME was donated which, I believe is something we should do for the needy.
    Obamacare took all that away from the people trying to do their share. There will always be the poor and government cannot take care of all of them. Government is often the enemy of God’s work.

  • Benjamin, great job here in calling out the inconsistencies in evangelical folds.

    The Mennonites (and some others) have some mutual aid health “insurance” cooperatives that do provide full medical coverage for participants. We evangelicals should look to their example.

  • You do have some organizations like the Catholic Church and the Methodists that do own a chain of hospitals across the nation. The Catholic church is buying up as many hospitals in the state of Washington. With all the money the Catholic Church has, it can afford to take care of the sick considering the fact that they have all these hospitals.

  • I need again to say that I am a Canadian. We live so close to you, and are sometimes so far! When Mr Trump last week praised the Australian Health care he knew not what he was doing. Everyone should be able to afford health. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are dependent upon Health! This should be the first pillar of your constitution. That the health of any citizen, of any country, should rest upon the whims of commerce is deplorable.

    What would Jesus do? …”Lazarus, come forth!!!”

  • Yeah, we can’t let all those people whose lives were saved under the ACA lose their medical insurance… except for the fact that the mortality rate went up after passage of the ACA, not down: https://thefederalist.com/2017/04/25/running-numbers-mortality-rates-suggests-obamacare-killing-people/

    As usual the debate about healthcare devolves into mere rhetoric with no facts or substance to back it up. The reality is that healthcare in the U.S. is an unbelievably complex system that more often than not defies common sense expectations (see the Oregon Medicaid Experiment).

    You’re right that the statement “It’s The Job Of The Church To Care For The Sick, Not The Government’s!” is an irrational argument that is totally unhelpful in policy debates. But so is, “Repealing Obamacare will cause people to die!” (By the way, it doesn’t help for the government to mandate coverage for preexisting conditions when there is no insurance company to offer medical insurance at all: see Iowa)

    The fact is Christians on both sides of the political spectrum believe that people should be able to get medical coverage if they want it. The disagreement is about the best way to provide people quality insurance without causing massive harm to the rest of the healthcare system. Well intentioned people can have different opinions about that, but your blog post adds nothing to that conversation.

  • What’s wrong with you people? “Toxic Christians.” ALL of you. YOUR religion is not MY religion and YOUR religion/church CANNOT provide comprehensive medical care for the public. I’m sick of you Christians and your intolerance and unquestioning “faith” in mythology and absolutism about everything. You people scare me more than Isis. You completely disregarded your Christian values and voted for a moral and unethical degenerate to be U.S. President…and you thought it was a “Christian thing” to do. You people make me sick. And my prayer EVERY day is, “Dear Universe….PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE, today, protect me from the Christians.”

    • There is a definite problem with globalizing that all Christians voted Trump into office and that all Christians disregard their values. It simply isn’t true.

    • I’m sorry you have had such a bad experience with my fellow Christians. But I do agree with you that churches cannot provide comprehensive health care for the entire public. The government has that responsibility. Peace to you.

  • Is there a reason why my comments (which are not inflammatory or spam) keep getting removed? Is it because the mod here disagrees with what I have to say?

  • Warren Buffet recently acknowledged that healthcare is a bigger burden on businesses than taxes, comprising 17 percent of the GDP (according to the New York Times), as compared to 1.9 percent of GDP for corporate taxes. If major corporations are having a difficult time paying for healthcare, it’s unlikely a declining church population will be able to foot the bill.

    The Roman Empire was not a theocracy. However, the Old Testament Israel was. Gleaning amounted to a 10 percent tax for the welfare of the poor. Imagine a church using its entire tithe to feed the poor! Not gonna happen.

    Modern economists brought up the Old Testament notion of the Year of Jubilee after the economic meltdown as a means of forgiving debt and stimulating the economy. The notion that government redistribution of wealth is “unchristian” is simply not supported by scripture.

    What galls me the most, though, is that Christians aren’t just passively failing to PROVIDE food, healthcare or refuge for immigrants through their churches. They’re actively voting to TAKE IT AWAY from people who’d otherwise receive it through the government. That’s not just lack of mercy; it borders on sadism.

    Jesus said you can’t serve both God and wealth. It’s very clear which one the Mammonite Right has chosen.

  • These arguments, “the government shouldn’t take care of suffering people; that’s the church’s job” translate to something like, “I want to live in a society that causes people to suffer, because giving a little money or a sandwich to a suffering person is an easy way to feel pious.”

    I found that mindset completely nonsensical when I was a Christian. Now that I’m not, it’s easier to call it what it is: obscene.

  • I would be glad to pay my tithes and have the church take over my medical needs if i didn’t have to pay taxes to keep the Government up too.

  • I have heard a lot of so-called christians argue, well, if we didn’t have to pay taxes, then we could afford to take care of the poor… 1) Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. – meaning, if they really meant to take care of the poor, the would do so. That’s the second part of that “and unto God” thing. … 2) Look at all the new big church buildings, and preachers houses, and new pianos, and new stained glass windows, and money sent to attack LGBT overseas, and spent lobbying against PP and healthcare for women, as well as Starbucks, sports gear, McDonalds, brand name clothes, the latest iphone…

    They *can* afford to give, they choose not to. Hypocrites. Pay your taxes and allow the government to act as your tool to care for the sick and poor.

  • People will give their weekly donation to the church food bank, then sit at their dinner tables that same night and talk about how the poor are lazy, unmotivated, and undeserving of their help. Thus, they want social service programs taken away. So, why would they give food to the food bank, knowing it was going to those same lazy, unmotivated people? I’ll answer that: For show. So their fellow churchies will see them do it. “Oh! Look at the Jones family! They bring food every week! They’re so generous! *cue Jones family driving away in a car with a bumper sticker that says, “Food stamps should be as hard to get as a building permit!”* That stuff is the main reason I left church, and I’ll never go back.

  • So, if the churches are unable to fulfill this mandate, then why were they so angry that government was trying to help take care of the sick and needy? And why are so many so excited that the sick and the needy are going to lose food help and health care?

    It tells me — and many other people — that their Christianity is just Sham, Fake. Jesus promised that one of the criteria He will judge entrance into the Kingdom by is, “Inasmuch as you have done to the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” At the very least we could be happy that poor are getting food and the sick are being treated.

  • First of all, I stopped tithing because I realized that tithes were initially a tax and when I realized that my taxes were doing more to help people than my tithes.. Having said that I go to a church where we have several doctors who do provide services when the need arises and we do feed the poor in our community. No we don’t get them all but we do with some. The problem arises when people are forced to care for others. We of the church shouldn’t be forced. The church in acts did so willingly. Its called love.

    edit-Oh yeah I have started giving to my local church again.

  • This argument is from those who don’t want to pay taxes unless it involves blowing people up or building walls.

    Beause the government isn’t about the welfare of it’s citizens but the security of insular Christians and their wallets.

  • Terrific post Dr. Corey,
    I would very much like to know where this “the church isn’t doing it’s job” narrative has originated from. Is it from notable fraud David Barton’s “Wallbuilders”? or maybe “Christian Dominionists”? It seems to have come to the forefront in the last 10 yrs. or so which to me indicates that some organization is dog whistling it to willing listeners. Comes packaged with a lot of self righteous anger.

    I have a dear relative that spouts this “the church isn’t doing it’s job” garbage constantly. As if he’s been put in charge to kick the Church’s butt into a higher level of obedience. God’s Drill Sergeant, so to speak. He’s on a governing board of his well known denominational church. I feel for that church, as he seems to have no clue to the blatant hypocrisy he espouses, although I do believe that on some deeper level he knows he’s deviated from the truth of the Cross (I knew it when I travelled similar circles), but just can’t break the bondage of the lie he’s been beguiled by.

    All of these brothers and sisters need our heartfelt prayers. Admittedly, it’s really hard to do when they piss us off so much. Part of Christ’s Cross we are to take up.
    I have no idea of whose prayers set me free from my bondage to fundamentalistic, prosperity gospel, politicised religion – but I am deeply grateful.

    May I suggest Paul’s prayers for new believers:
    Ephesians 1:15-21, Philippians 1:9-11, Colossians 1:9-14

    Grace and Peace to all.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e5c80c653f5eceedb5aef671742a40110f5515d094bc15de5eb6419a0e8dfc39.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bb15d646643b30562d31294bdde15b5277f81da32b54f75fa7d73a6f3a944ac1.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/176a8f6e60ad57f52250cdd61b527ce7d6d99f57b003d1a255a97e3ca9813cda.jpg

  • Well said Benjamin. Some years age I asked an American pastor who has lived in Australia since 1974 why America’s health system is so bad. Now he’s not in favour of the US health system either and felt that many Americans think that for the government to step in and help is communism. He said many Americans like to think they can look after their own without government help.
    Having lived in Australia he sees that it IS possible for the government to privide health cover. Our levy is 1.5%.
    Even the poorest are covered. They won’t be turned away.
    It seems to me that those who oppose Obamacare can easily afford their own cover. In other words :”I’m alright Jack”.

  • According to the US Census Bureau, there are approximately 325 Million Americans. According to The Hartford Institute of Religion Research, approximately 20% of Americans are churchgoers. That would give us approximately 65 million churchgoers. Again according to the US Census Bureau, US per capita income is roughly $27,000. If all US churchgoers were to tithe (Need I say they don’t?) The total church tithe would be a bit over $175 billion. Again, according to the Census Bureau, there are 45.3 million people in the US living below the poverty line. If the total tithe were used entirely for the poor (Sorry, no money to support church buildings or to pay pastors or musicians) we would help the poor to the tune of not quite $3,700 per year. Unfortunately, according to Sharefaith Magazine, average giving is closer to 1.8%, which would mean total church giving would be closer to $31.5 billion, and if that entire amount were to go to the poor we would be helping the poor with about $696 per year (That’s $13 per week each folks!) But let’s not forget mortgages, electric, salaries, etc. The outreach budget of a healthy church will be around 40% of income, with the national average somewhat lower, but we will work with 40%. Of that 40% approximately 25% goes to overseas missions. So now if we take what is left, and give all of it to the poor, the total assistance of the entire Churchgoing population of the US will subsidize the poor with a whopping $4.00 per week.
    No, this task is too big for the church to handle. As Christians, we must become advocates for the poor and see to it that help comes from an effective source, and there is no source more effectively able to help than that oldest of all crowdfunding methods… Taxes.

  • Matt below is correct – the churches could not do it if they really wanted to. The reason is that the churches do not control the wealth. Churches are made up of largely Middle Class and Working People with some poor people thrown in with certain denominations – especially the Pentecostals. Moreover, the church has no authority to tax anyone. If everyone in all churches tithed or gave 50% of their income, there would still not be enough money to operate the U.S. Health Care system. I understand that most Christians do not do enough to share the wealth they do have with the poor, but even if they did, it would not provide a “social safety net” for those in need.

  • 1) Try reading “The Care of Strangers” – it lays out the history of the establishment of US hospitals – hint, it wasn’t the government. 2) From my experience, churches help where people have a need – even if that need includes help with medical bills. The idea that church’s are to be the source of all healthcare is ridiculous. Never mind the fact that a decline in church membership, resulting in decreased giving and charity, increases the burden on the federal government.

    And since most of your readers tend to be of the progressive persuasion, I ask that you all pick a lane- either the church is filled with greedy Christians or the 1% holds all the wealth – you can’t have it both ways.

  • Most churches have trouble even keeping their doors open, let alone taking care of the sick in the community. They’d go broke in a heartbeat. The average church people give is about 2 percent. If they’d tithe, maybe the church could actually do something, although, when you consider that fifteen percent of the economy goes to health, they’d have to do better than that! The whole thing is hypocritical nonsense and simply an excuse for greedy Christians to not care about others.

  • Benjamin, it’s seems hopeless to expect that people too greedy to give to there Church of the Lord they supposedly trust will be ok giving to the government they don’t trust. You ask why they are upset if the government does what the church doesn’t but of course they will be upset, the same people with the same money are the church and the government.

  • Progressives see the solution as working together so the weak help the strong, the healthy help the sick, and the rich help the poor–using government as a means to that end. Conservatives see the solution as getting rid of all the brown people who are mooching off the rest of us, stopping the infiltration of illegals and Muslims, prohibiting LGBTQ from sharing our bathrooms, stopping feminists from using abortion as birth control–using government as a means to that end.

    Progressives see government as a tool we can all use to redistribute resources in a fair, democratically agreed upon way. Conservatives see government a means of building walls. Enforcing bans. Invading countries. Keeping out the “snakes.”

    Given that the foundational understanding of government is so widely divergent, I don’t see a way for progressives and conservatives to work together.

  • Caesar Good ( providing health care, making sure everyone has enough to eat, a place to stay and an education if they want it) is actually pretty easy to do. Most governments in the civilized world accomplish this. Caesar Bad ( pre-emptive war) is something governments are pretty bad at. All the resolve and the best intentions won’t make a pre-emptive war end well. Not all government functions are created equally.

    Ben’s remarks about tithing are spot on but I’d like to add the even more embarrassing truth that giving money to the poor is almost always a significant tax deduction. Even with that significant inducement to give Christians in this country are pretty piss poor at tithing

  • I grew up Catholic. And, as far as charitable works/feeding the poor, while Catholic charities does do some good, I think the church should be doing more on a local level as a whole. We had a very mixed Church group. Wealthy, middle class, and poor. Yet, I don’t ever remember any actual charitable events in the parish. Sure, we gave every year to the Grand Annual Collection, and every week to the passing of the basket, and it helped pay to run the church and we heard that money would go to charity, but I don’t ever remember it going locally. And, since the Catholic church is one of the wealthiest organizations on earth, even after all the payouts for the abuse scandal…..I’d say the church as a whole should be doing a whole lot more for the poor.
    As far as health care, that’s a bit more difficult. As you point out, how would that be accomplished? We should be equally glad to pay taxes towards helping the poor, as we are when the basket gets passed at church. But, I think many people are discouraged that the middle class seems to be the only ones forking over tax money to help, help, help. Health care should be available to all. I’m dumbfounded as to why it is so difficult and how we could spend trillions and still not insure everyone.

  • I’d propose a simpler argument:

    1) Christians should rejoice when the needs of those who are poor or struggling are met by any reasonable means. (Seriously, does any other response on our part make the least bit of sense?)

    2) Don’t worry, fellow Christians: there will always be an abundance of opportunities for us to express our generosity and compassion. The government isn’t in any danger of filling every last need.

  • Here’s the problem with your premise – all government is propped up and supported by violence or the threat thereof. I’d be perfectly okay if it was voluntary but it isn’t. There is no “consent of the governed”, that is a myth. If I, as an example, decide to not pay taxes to fund the military I’ll end up in prison or have my property seized by force. If I choose to not support the unhealthy habits of my neighbor who smokes then I am the one punished through imprisonment or property confiscation. You day – “Furthermore, there is nothing in Scripture that prohibits a secular government from caring for the health and welfare of citizens.” You may be right technically speaking. However, Jesus did say specifically for YOU and ME to take care of the poor. He didn’t say to arm Caesar to do it.

  • Can Christians not disagree about which level of government involvement would be ideal? Because it seems to me that you just rule out the possibility that applying market principles to the health insurance industry would actually benefit people. In other industries where choice and competition are allowed, prices go down and quality goes up.

    And before you shout that we’ve tried that before, we actually haven’t. The health care/insurance industry has been over-regulated for a long time. That’s one of the reasons why things are so expensive. The administrative costs get passed on to the consumer.

    In general, I think a free market system is going to be best for everyone. But I also support state-run safety nets for the most vulnerable. But that’s not what Obamacare was. It limited your choices and made things more expensive.

  • “But…isn’t tithing just supposed to pay for our church building fund?” I can hear it now… 🙂

  • Books from BLC:

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