Midway through the Sermon on the Mount there is the passage from Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.”
Just before is scripture that calls us to community, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” People who forgive can form relationships.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Not vengeance-takers but reconcilers make world community possible.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus teaches that we are to love those opposed to us. Community needs those who will reject the hatred that surrounds them and persevere with love.
Jesus further says: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We must treasure our neighbor more than our “stuff.”
We need not worry if we live in a community with rules like these. (Read Matthew 5-7. It is all about community.)
The United States is the richest country in the world, but 37 countries, some of them very poor (such as Cuba), have longer life expectancies. This would beg the question, why? I think one reason is that we experience more anxiety. People worry whether they can keep their health insurance and sometimes work two jobs to be able to afford it.
People without healthcare are no longer strangers to us. Several people who belong to First Baptist have no insurance. One such person has cancer and her bills cause great stress that could affect her recovery. These people are family to me, and finding a political solution is not an intellectual pursuit—it is personal.
According to, “Disabled, and Waiting for Justice,” a New York Times editorial from Dec. 11, for the disabled: “The average wait for an appeals hearing now exceeds 500 days, twice as long as applicants had to wait in 2000. Typically two-thirds of those who appeal eventually win their cases. But during the long wait, their conditions may worsen and their lives often fall apart. More and more people have lost their homes, declared bankruptcy or even died while awaiting an appeals hearing.”
This situation is personal, as well; I have a very good friend who is unable to work and has been unable to get disability. He tried to continue working because he needs the money, but his health only worsened; he has lost his health insurance and would be homeless if it weren’t for his family.
I know people unable to afford long-term care who stay at home when they really need the kind of care provided by nursing facilities. They know that all they have worked for will be lost if they go to an institution that can provide the care they need.
Those not fortunate enough to be born into a family that can provide money for college often end up with huge debts. Some join the armed services to get money for higher education. We call this a “volunteer army,” but it is often economic conscription; the poor go because they see no other way to get the education they need.
I would argue that you can’t make enough money to really take care of yourself. If Bill Gates needs health care and goes to a doctor whose new Windows computer has just crashed, “ole” Bill could get an unneeded colonoscopy or worse. Money cannot give us security. Only a loving community can do that.
Jesus calls us to care for each other and the world. The anxiety we Americans feel could be greatly decreased by providing every citizen with what people in almost every other industrialized nation has: access to free healthcare, inexpensive education and a social safety net that does not take away all a person has saved when they become disabled or need long term care.
The richest country in the world ought to find a way to make these things happen. If creating a system which ensures that all have what they need becomes a priority of our capitalistic society, we would live longer and better. Life lived loving our neighbors would help us to know the meaning of Jesus’ saying, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Larry Wilson is pastor of First Baptist Church in Biscoe, N.C.