Most Christians are familiar with the narrative in Matthew 25 and as a Christian seminarian this passage is one I hold near to my heart:
‘I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’… ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’
Our state law makers in Arkansas proudly claim to be Christian and yet they continue to pass legislation that is an affront to the Gospel. The latest example of this is the Arkansas Works program, rolled out in June of this year, requiring certain individuals to prove employment and report hours to maintain coverage. At least 12,227 have lost their health care coverage
Not only does the work requirement deny people a basic human right it also disproportionally impacts poor people. Poverty is simultaneously a cause and an effect of poor health. This is why ensuring poor people don’t health care maintains power, and health, remain in the hands of the wealthy. The work reporting process requires access to the internet – a utility that is not always easily accessible by people living in poverty. People have been confused by the new system and have locked out of coverage for a period of months before they can re-enroll.
Jesus did not check people’s employment status before healing them and I am sure some of those bodies he raised from the dead had pre-existing conditions. Jesus had a preferential option for the sick and the poor.
I invite our state legislators to consider the question presented in Matthew 25: “When were you sick and I visited you?” For those who support the Arkansas works program, Jesus has a prescription for you:
‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. I was sick … and you didn’t visit me … I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’
And you, dear reader, I invite you to join me in calling them to come to Jesus: