Russell and Duenes

Hands that heal

with 4 comments

In my previous post, I said that, historically, Christians have given great resources to the establishment and furthering of medical clinics, hospitals, and regular physician practices. Christian doctors have done (and still do) a lot of pro bono work. But with more health care, especially for the needy, being shouldered by government, Christians have gotten away from these ministries. It is time for our churches to recover this area of ministry, even in the United States; to encourage it, preach on it, raise funds for it, and bless people through it. Such a call for charity is not regarded as a serious policy option, and indeed, it would not be a “policy” per se. But let us do a little thought experiment to see just how “ridiculous” or “miniscule” Christian medical charity might be.

Let’s take a rather average sized Christian congregation; say, 150 adults. Then let’s give them each a very modest income of $20,000 a year, and have them tithe 5% of their incomes. So this congregation would take in $1,000 a year in tithe money from each adult, giving the congregation a total of $150,000. This church now allocates 5% of this income to “medical ministry.” This would total $7,500 each year. This is not a huge sum of money, but multiply it by 100,000 times (this being my lowball estimate of the number of Protestant congregations in this country), and you’ve got $750,000,000. And this doesn’t include the so-called “mega-churches,” for whom 5% of their budget would be several million dollars by itself. This would make a serious dent in health care ministries. Also consider that my little thought experiment here is likely to undershoot significantly the amount of total evangelical assets in this country. According to, “between $1.54 trillion and $6.72 trillion in assets are in the hands of American evangelicals, not including the value of their primary homes.”

Would this cover all of those who are truly needy and who truly have thorny, prolonged, “hard case” health issues? I don’t know. I doubt it. But it would go a long way toward solving the problem, and it would allow God’s people to show the love of Christ in a tangible, concrete way. Would not this kind of mercy adorn the gospel and exalt Christ in our culture? I think this is worth taking very seriously, but my experience is that intentional and concerted Christian effort in offering medical care to those in need in Western countries is not on the map. This is probably because the private insurance or government subsidized care takes care of the lion’s share of people. Yet if health care is nationalized, would this kind of medical ministry even be possible, yea, legal, in this country?

What do you think?

Written by Michael Duenes

July 27, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Duenes, Economics, Ethics

4 Responses

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  1. I have to go with not “a serious policy option” or a realistic option of any kind, although I agree with the spirit of what you’re saying. I think the best place for this to start is with individuals getting involved in caring for others, not at the organizational levels.


    July 27, 2009 at 11:14 pm

  2. Sorry, Andy, you’ll have to do better than “not a realistic option of any kind.” I’m amazed that you, of all people, would say this. Have you not read any church history? Do you not know the impact that Christian communities and organizations, giving of their own free will, have made in medicine over the centuries? (Think of Presbyterian and Catholic Hospitals, to take one example). The idea that we should just “individually care for others” falls far short of God’s call for us to act as a community and communities of faith. Further, have you even looked into the impact that charity currently makes on medical care? I haven’t, but I have to believe it is happening at some level. Do you think that you, just you individually, could really make much of a difference in the Cambodians you visit? Doubt it. Surely you will have others around you, and you will be working at the organizational level. You spend a lot of time castigating Christians for being “materialistic,” and yet you seem to think that serious calls for medical ministry such as I’m advocating here are rather worthless. Hmm.



    July 28, 2009 at 5:16 am

  3. I agree that currently the Church should be at the forefront of this issue. As sure as I am that the Church should be at the forefront of the healthcare issue, I am just as sure that the Church will NOT rise to the occasion.


    July 28, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    • I’m inclined to agree with you, my friend Messr. Russell, about the church NOT rising to the occasion, but I’d like to think that God’s sovereign will in working all things for His glory through the church has some role to play. After all, Christians did, in fact, rise to the medical mercy occasion in the past. Why not in the future? I think you and I agree that if health care is good for me then it’s good for others. What we don’t agree about is how to best deliver it. What I’d like to see from you is a sustained argument about why you think your vision of health care delivery is better than the ideas I and other free-marketers are proposing. I’ve been weighing in, now I challenge you to do the same. Then we might all enlarge our visions and see our unexamined assumptions more clearly.



      July 29, 2009 at 6:12 pm

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