So I was thinking the other day as I was considering the situation facing our country with healthcare. There is this delicate balance that must be struck between the “evils of the dole” as has been said by a modern prophet in our time, and turning away the petition of the poor which was preached against both in ancient times as well as the modern day by prophets and wise men and women everywhere.
Let me start by saying that I do not believe in socialized medicine. I am the future Peter Maughan, MD, so it is something I consider regularly. I do believe in a society where people have access to the healthcare they need. To a large degree, it is how this medical care is administered where I take up issues. For example, I do not believe that I should be compelled to pay for the care of others less fortunate than I am. That doesn’t mean I don’t think they should be helped, but it means that I want to choose to help them. If a government takes away my agency, takes away my right to choose, then I lose the blessing that comes from giving of my own free will and pleasure to serve and benefit others. It’s a two edged sword that comes from the freedom to choose how, when, and if I help others. It brings responsibility and accountability that if I do not help, if I turn away the poor, if I deny the beggar his petition, (and specifically if I deny the beggar because I somehow feel he deserves his state of poverty because of something he/she has done or a lifestyle that he or she has adopted or chosen), then I am the one who will stand condemned.
I am reminded of a story in Luke chapter 16 of the New Testament in the Bible. We’ll do well to remember that Luke was himself a physician and this should lead us to ponder on his thoughts on healthcare as he wrote this parable told by Jesus Christ. We read: “There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. There was also a certain beggar named Lazarus which was laid at his gate full of sores. And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table, moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried, saying Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he me dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said unto him, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and thou art tormented.”
I see so many things in that story that can apply to our lives and which we can use in our lives to be better people, better physicians, better nurses, better caregivers, better sons, daughters, fellow citizens and benefactors. Here are a few of the lessons I find.
First, let us not be blind to the plight of the poor and sick. Lazarus was laid at the gate of a rich man, who presumably had to pass by him in order to go anywhere. This poor beggar was not the kind of beggar who may be gaming the system and even if he were, Lazarus should have helped him. It doesn’t matter whether Lazarus caused his own pain by poor hygiene. It only matters how the unnamed rich man who could be any one of us treated his ill-fated neighbor who was laid at his gate. This rich man had a choice and he ignored the pleadings of this beggar and instead went on with his life, bought expensive clothes, ate deliciously at his own table, and did not invite this poor soul to eat and be given life essential care for his maladies. Let’s remember not to put gates around our houses and blinders over our eyes too the plight of the poor. Drive through a poor, poverty stricken neighborhood if you need to remind yourself. Do something to prick yourself in the heart and remember these people who need our help.
Secondly, choose to do well. This is where I take up issue with a governmental solution to the problem. I do believe government exists for our benefit, and I’m not calling for a complete establishment of social medicine. But I do believe it should be cut back. I believe that if we were to get involved we could be more certain that those who need care urgently would receive it. I believe we should choose to be generous. That is why I choose to minimize my taxes that I pay in my own personal financial affairs. Not because I don’t think my fellow man should be supported by my taxes, but because I want to choose to give it to them. I want to choose the causes, and to be involved and it is not my government’s right to compel me to give care when I want to do it myself.
Thirdly, let us remember that for all of our works and intentions we will be brought into judgment. Remember when the rich man lifted up his eyes in hell, being in torments. Well, this man was reminded by Abraham the ancient and righteous prophet that a chance had been given to him to help the poor. This rich man had been granted blessings, and with them, he had chosen to be selfish. Abraham said “remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things and likewise Lazarus evil things. But now he is comforted and thou art tormented.” Let me say that I believe the rich man’s torment was twofold. It was a true torment inflicted as punishment from God. But it was even more importantly self-inflicted by his own conscience as he knew himself in his heart that when he had rejected Lazarus and had denied caring for him, he had convicted himself by his desires and actions. So when we see someone in need, let’s remember to let our conscience help us in our decisions so that we don’t convict ourselves and damn our future progress because of our selfish actions today. Choose to look at the poor. Don’t turn away. Force yourself to prick your conscience now when you’re going to buy that expensive boat, or to put on that expensive shirt. Remember the poor, remember that their happiness and comfort is affected by you today. And remember that your own happiness and comfort in the hereafter is affected by your actions today as well.
And finally, choose to do good even in absence of any future consequences. If nothing else, remember the consequences and let them get your started on the right track, but as you choose to serve and bless the lives of others, you will feel a surge of love for your fellow man. You will feel a sense of purpose for your life. You will remember that we, too are all beggars as King Benjamin declared in the Book of Mormon. That we “all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind.” And with this gratitude and love in our hearts, we will move forward, helping and making our families, our communities, and our societies better and more comfortable for all.
Matthew 16:19-25 (In the New Testament of the Bible)
Mosiah 4:19 (And the entire chapter. This book is found in the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ.)
My name is Peter Maughan, and I am the future Peter Maughan MD, and I wrote this article.