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My Brother's [and Sister's] Keeper

Dignify those who are down on their luck;
    you’ll feel good—that’s what God does.
God looks after us all,
    makes us robust with life—
Lucky to be in the land,
    we’re free from enemy worries.
Whenever we’re sick and in bed,
    God becomes our nurse,
    nurses us back to health.
-Psalm 41:1-3 (The Message)

Am I "my brother's keeper?" The Bible certainly points to that-- in passage after passage. I chose the paraphrase known as "The Message" by Eugene Peterson to begin this post because I feel it best explains the intent of the psalmist in these verses. Many people are "down on their luck," possibly because the job they held for many years has suddenly vaporized or some calamity has befallen them, such as an unexpected health issue or some other catastrophic problem. Life is full of uncertainty, as most adults are well aware of through some experience of their own. But whose job is it to take care of those who suffer setbacks? Is it solely the responsibility of individuals in a society or chiefly within the job description of government? If the answer is "both," then what percentage of the caretaker role does each have?

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” -Genesis 4:9 (NRSV)

In the United States we basically have a two party system. I hate to offend my libertarian brothers and sisters and those of other lesser-known parties, but that's the way it is. On the conservative side, voices cry for less government intervention in the lives of its citizens, pointing to the unnecessary expenditures on people that often don't need it and the tendency to actually harm those it is trying to help by a "cradle to grave" mentality. Such a mentality, they assert, removes any incentive to be self-sufficient and creating total dependence on Uncle Sam. On the other side, progressives call for more action on the part of government, pointing out corporate greed and an "all for me" attitude with little to no regard for those who have little. They do not trust that people will, of their own accord, be their "brother's keeper."

I really don't believe that most conservatives don't care about those less fortunate and are only concerned with what they can get [any more than any other person does]. I also don't believe that those on the other end of the political spectrum hold people in such low esteem as to think they have no heart or concern for their fellow man. Somewhere in the middle, where it often lives, is the truth. So where am I going with this, other than stating what is [to most] the obvious? I pushing for more balance in the system, more of the middle of the road type of thinking.

Social safety nets are critical and an integral part of our society. People balked when Social Security came about-- yet now they struggle to save this endangered resource for aging and disabled Americans. People were alarmed at the idea of the F.D.I.C.-- which has now protected American's savings successfully for decades. I could cite many more examples of how we  have resisted change, suspicious of the intent, yet later have come to embrace it, but I think I have made my point. It may well yet be the way "Obama Care" ends up being remembered. I don't know.

What I do know is that the Church always needs to step up to the plate more often than it does. I'm not talking about Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists or any denomination in particular-- I'm talking about the body of Christ: The Church with the "Big C."

Balance. That's the word of the day here. As Christians we need to do more. Christ always calls us to that task. As Americans we need to care more about each other's welfare. Not everybody is Christian or compelled to care for anybody or anything beyond the end of their own nose. That's a sad fact of life. For that reason alone, we need some "safety nets" in place: some rules of "fair play." This isn't a Republican or Democratic thing-- it's just simple decency. It's what we would probably want if we suddenly found ourselves on the "receiving end" of life.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ -Matthew 25:34-36 (NRSV)

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