The news is aflutter about government spending and the need many people have for proper health coverage. The resounding question of how much debt and hardship is being left to the next generation echoes in many people’s minds.
But I wonder how responsible that generation will be when it comes to managing the economy and health care spending, after being so ill-equipped by the preceding generation. Have they been taught the proper way to spend, save, and manage money? After all, if the previous generation did not exercise such traits, what hope do we have that young people will carry a better-lit torch from here?
Materialism runs rampant in American culture, perhaps playing a more prominent role in our decisions than we even recognize. Like an eagle with its prey clutched in its talons, for many people the gripping claws of materialism is sinking deeper and deeper into our thoughts, souls, and eventually our actions.
With the high cost of health care, and materialist thinking leaving many young people negligent of their financial responsibilities, I’m forced to ask the question, “Are young people so foolish as to choose ‘stuff’ over their health?”
As a 24-year-old young professional who lives in Northern Virginia, I have a particular interest in seeing my generation exercise good Christian values. Additionally, I am a two-time cancer survivor who benefited greatly from good health insurance to offset the cost that would have otherwise financially buried my parents.
I know how difficult it is to make a modest salary coexist with a high cost-of-living. This constant balance of financial stability with necessary expenditures is the plight of many young people as they embark on the journey of career life. But, I’m left with lingering doubt. Has the previous generation equipped Generation Y with the Judeo-Christian values of stewardship? If not, then what are the ethical implications of negligence with regard to economic stability?
Burdening the young
One of the current concerns many American’s have is about health care. With expensive government-run health plans being proposed before Congress, in which important health decisions may be left in the hands of commissions and government bureaucrats, Americans have every right to be concerned that our standard-of-living might be hampered by an increased cost-of-living.
A recent Washington Post article analyzed the cost of such a program. As with most oversized and expansive government undertakings, the next generation of citizens will be most affected. Medicare and Social Security have demonstrated that the initial cost of these programs are not nearly as unsustainable as their reliance on constant government funding years after their inception. Learning from recent history, young people can expect to pay for current legislative proposals for the rest of their lives.
The Washington Post points out that the current health “reform” proposals before Congress will rest a heavy burden on Generation Y.
A key point made in the article is that young people will not only bear the long-term financial burden of the reform, but will also have to participate in the initial cost of the program. Linda J. Blumberg, a health-care expert at the Urban Institute, commented that mandating universal coverage is a necessary “mechanism” in financing the reform. Since the government option would not likely succeed on its own merit, the plan includes a provision making it a crime to go without health insurance. If each citizen did not feed the proposed government option’s insatiable appetite for money, there wouldn’t be enough to finance the plan. Basically, you have no freedom to choose.
Rejecting affordable goods
Meanwhile many young people gamble regularly on their health by not paying for coverage that they could afford if they managed their personal finances appropriately. A good friend of mine disagrees that many of the uninsured young people could, in fact, actually afford health insurance if they properly managed their finances. He even said he has friends in this situation. But I probed deeper, “Do these people have cable television, go out to eat, own any sort of video game system, own a pet, and do they budget money for new clothes?” In a somewhat defeated, and certainly aggravated tone, he replied, “Yes, most of them do.”
Proverbs 27:12 identifies the essential flaw many young people are experiencing in their lives: “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” This does not mean every person will have the necessary funds available to get proper health insurance, and those people should be helped by the Body of Christ. But for those who can afford coverage and choose to go without, they are—though we often hesitate to name it—committing a sin of imprudence.
Stewardship for God’s sake
It doesn’t take a health care expert or personal finance genius to figure out that gambling on your health is a terrible idea, if not sometimes morally irresponsible. My own healthcare would have cost my family hundreds of thousands of dollars if I hadn’t had health insurance.
But if, as the news reports continue to tell us, our young people cannot manage their finances well enough to avoid credit card debt, so how are we to expect them to manage their finances well enough to tithe, support a family, pay for a child’s college tuition, make house payments, finance a vehicle, or even balance a checkbook? This type of mismanagement is what causes these same individuals to later in life accept a variable interest, sub-prime loan knowing they probably can not make the payments.
Squandering our Christian worldview
Our economy is crumbling because of a misshaped worldview. We desperately need the stewardship principles of Scripture applied to all areas of life. The Gospel not only changes one’s spiritual life, but the entire person as well. It radically changes everything including how we handle our finances.
Our society’s current dilemmas are caused not by chance, greed, or government, but by squandering the legacy of a Christian worldview.
How do we respond? Each member of society must take responsibility for their actions, or inaction. Parents must instill a sense of responsibility in their children. Self-control and being good stewards of the gifts God has given is one of the most important lessons a parent can teach their child. Without a concept of stewardship young people are left assuming that money is endless, their health is impervious, and the purpose of their existence is self-gratification.
And all of us need to begin looking at health care legislation through the lens of Christ, requiring that the people we vote for uphold economic principles that protect the poor while respecting freedom for all, and expecting our communities and churches to solve society’s problems, not the government.
Until people take responsibility for their personal lives, by applying common sense, scriptural principles of stewardship we can expect many more years of economic meltdown and future generations to be left with the moral debt of their parents. That’s one IOU I don’t want to be left holding.
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