Often as we probe real life with real faith, there are no easy answers. Only shades of grey. Not fifty of them, thank God, as my friend and author Joel J. Miller points out in his critique of that latest fad. But there is a vital need to maintain a healthy balance between two equally essential values that exist in tension with one another. And that’s not a bad thing.
My first post suggests the first of five reasons that Obamacare fails to get God’s vote: 1) God requires rulers to keep their covenant with the people.
My second post argues that 2) God rewards those who put their trust in Him.
The third reason appears below today. Subscribe now to the right to be sure not to miss any.
3. God calls us to personal as well as corporate responsibility.
Obamacare further advances a culture of dependence on our government instead of encouraging personal responsibility. With my health care administered by the impersonal government, I need do nothing to have it supplied through the diligent efforts of others. I need take no responsibility. I can pursue whatever reckless or immoral behavior I choose. Somebody else will ensure I’m covered. And if I choose to not play by the rules? The government will act on my behalf to curb my expensive appetites, even banning my Big Gulps or Happy Meals as needed.
Certainly, both corporate and personal responsibility are needed. Without concern for others as part of our corporate culture, we would struggle even to survive, let alone thrive. Yet when we abandon individual responsibility, we become not only a burden to others but also easy prey for tyrannical demagogues.
But which is more Biblical, an emphasis on personal or on corporate responsibility? At issue here is yet another expression of the tension that exists between the One and the Many. It is the tension that exists in the very nature of the triune God of the Bible.
God is both one in essence yet many in three distinct persons. He is both an individual and three individuals in unified relationship with one another. We could say he is both personal and corporate without confusion or contradiction. He is personal so that Christ could bear our sins to satisfy the just demands of the Father and permit the Spirit to apply his atoning work to our hearts. But he is also most assuredly corporate: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” “I and the Father are One.” “I pray that they may be one even as we are one.” “Let us make man in Our image.”
We are similar to our Creator, not surprising as we are made in His image. We are corporately responsible to others – our family, church, community, country, and entire planet to varying degrees; but we are also personally responsible to our Maker for our actions in a way that no one else can be.
We see this personal responsibility reflected in countless Biblical commands:
- To fathers: “He who does not care of His own family is worse than an infidel.” (1 Tim. 5:8)
- To children: Honor your father and mother. (Ex. 20:12)
- To rulers: “It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness.” (Prov. 16:12)
- To citizens: “Render therefore to all their due…honor to whom honor.” (Rom. 13:7)
- To me: I will give an answer for every idle word I speak. (Matt. 12:36)
Christ’s parable of the talents reinforces this truth that each of us must take personal responsibility for our life choices, including those choices that affect our physical health. I will need to depend on others at some points to be sure, but ultimately, the responsibility must rest with me and not with the government. I must give God an answer for the choices I made. I will not be able to refer Him to the help desk.
We must be ever cautious to preserve our divinely required personal responsibility without neglecting our corporate duty to love our neighbor as ourselves. Nevertheless, because it is composed of fallen people, the consistent temptation of government will always be to encroach upon personal responsibility, to expand the reach of the corporate One at the expense of the Many personal responsibilities of the individual.
But here’s the crux of the matter: there is no longer any personal liberty if there is no longer any personal responsibility. The two are directly connected and both are required. Both the individual and the corporate share a responsibility to the Creator. Both are responsible for maintaining the vital and necessary tension found in God’s very nature.
I believe Obamacare unnecessarily restricts the individual’s opportunity to fulfill his or her personal responsibility by shifting the emphasis to what a few deem to be the good of the whole. By deemphasizing personal responsibility, it weakens the personal liberty required to fulfill that responsibility to God.
Go ahead. Share your thoughts in the comments below. What insight do you have for discerning that line between the equally important personal and corporate values in our society?