You don’t have to look far these days in Oklahoma to find a social service program that’s fallen prey to the state’s budget crisis.
DHS, ODMHSAS, OHCA — the alphabet soup of agencies cutting services to our state’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens seems to grow daily.
Why is this a matter for a faith-based column?
It is a Christian issue because aiding society’s poor and vulnerable is the very crux of our walk with Christ. In the succinct list of Jesus’s two commandments, loving our neighbor is second only to, and like, the first: to love God.
This column isn’t about what the state should or should not have done to raise revenue, or about the proper role of the state in meeting societal needs. I’d invite you to consult your faith in considering those questions, but the answers are beyond our scope here.
But, what we all must face — regardless of how we got here — is that the very people Jesus lifts up as our primary concern are falling through the ever-widening cracks in our state’s social programs.
As Christians, we can undertake all kinds of exegetical gymnastics to justify turning our backs on the poor, the sick and the afflicted.
But, Jesus anticipates our human weakness, and tells us the commandment to love our neighbor stands firm. In Matthew 25 he tells us judgement rests on how we treat the “least of” our society: “‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me,’” and conversely, “‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”
Fulfilling social need in our community may seem insurmountable. After all, if the state cannot fill this need, what could we possibly do as an individual? As a small business? As a civic group? What could we do as one church?
To put things in perspective, the $30 million in DHS cuts would set every working Oklahoman back a whopping $12.51.
Of course, that kind of revenue collection would be a state function, for state agencies. But, the point remains: the gaps are not insurmountable.
St. Teresa faced seemingly insurmountable need in Calcutta, and in response offered this advice: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
What, then, are we to do as Christians? To slightly modify the popular question, “What would Jesus have us do?”
Paul gives us an answer in 1 Timothy 6:18: We are to “do good, to be rich in good works, generous and ready to share.”
If each of us who professes faith in Christ will “feed just one,” if we use our talents and resources to simply help where we can, as much as we can, we will find Christ’s supply is sufficient for any need.
Note: This post originally was published as a column in the Enid News & Eagle, July 21, 2017.