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Render unto Caesar?

There are some decisions best not made by the government.
by Jim Fair | Source: catholic.net

I was fortunate to work for more than 20 years for a large American corporation.

Yes…fortunate.  The work was interesting, I learned a lot from the people I worked with and the atmosphere was positive and for the most part considerate of people.

The company operated all over the world, so every so often employees in some part of the far-flung enterprise were victims of some natural disaster:  flood, earthquake, hurricane, whatever.  And whenever that happened, employees from around the world would pitch in and send money, clothes, food or whatever people needed to get back on their feet.

That company, unfortunately (to me), doesn’t exist anymore.  It was purchased by a large British firm.  That was good for me personally, because I had the opportunity to work in London for a couple years as part of the combined organization.  And I learned a lot from the people I worked with there.

One thing I learned that I doubt I’ll ever appreciate fully was the difference between a culture where private companies and people help those in distress and a socialist government that has been given the responsibility of managing people’s needs.

I learned this lesson when there was a huge and rather rare flood about a hundred miles from London that ruined a good number of our employees’ homes and made a mess of several of the towns where they lived.  The morning after this disaster struck I showed up at the London office asking how the relief efforts were being organized.  Could I send money or clothes?  Could we all go down on Saturday and help with the cleanup?

I was met with amazed stares and people questioned why it would occur to me to ask such silly questions.  After all, they explained, that is the government’s job.  I pressed the matter as far as polite English protocol would allow and quickly learned that it was not the business of private organizations or individuals to help those in need.  That was the government’s responsibility.

Whenever I think of that, the 21st chapter of Matthew pops into my mind:  Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.



I’ve always believed that helping people is God’s work, accomplished through His people.  Caesar (the government) is a poor substitute for caring human beings helping their neighbors.  And in a sense, by assuming all responsibility for helping people in need, the government can stifle the natural instinct of individuals to help their neighbors.  That certainly was the case in the London office where I worked.  People thought the flood was an awful thing, but didn’t see why they should be concerned in the least.  They had become insensitive and indifferent.

Is there a lesson in this for us as we consider a variety of socialized government programs, including health care?  I think so. 

It was the Catholic Church that invented the hospital and it has been Catholic religious orders and lay people who have been leaders over the years in providing health services to those in need.  And it has always been people of faith who were there to help people make those very difficult decisions about care during the later stages of life.

I know that unless I’m struck by a meteor of stumble in front of a freight train, I likely will someday face – with my family – some difficult decisions about what care to continue and what care to halt in the preservation of my failing body.  At that moment, I plan to consult people of faith, not government bureaucrats.  I will render to Caesar what is Caesar’s – but that doesn’t include my life.

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