Acton Institute Powerblog

How churches are helping people with medical debt

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A recent study found that 66.5 percent of all bankruptcies were tied to medical issues. An estimated 530,000 families turn to bankruptcy each year because of medical issues and bills, the research found. But a new nonprofit is trying to alleviate the problem by getting churches to take on their neighbors’ unpaid bills.

In an article for Christianity Today, Acton’s Jordan Ballor responds to this new form of philanthropy:

“Taking up debts, helping to relieve each other’s burdens . . . that’s a fundamental image of Christian discipleship,” said theologian Jordan J. Ballor, senior research fellow at the Acton Institute. “I think in a broad sense, this is a wonderful expression of the body of Christ caring for itself.”

The Bible has a complex but realistic view of debt. From a divine perspective, God created us; we owe him everything. Here on earth, lending and owing is a regular pattern of life, with Paul telling the early church to “give to everyone what you owe them” (Rom. 13:7).

Ballor sees that as an acknowledgment that loans and debts are normal and can serve as an expression of how justice works. “Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,” according to Psalm 112:5.

But today’s debt-buying world is complex and can get seedy. Even the medical billing process raises questions. If collection agencies can buy debt bundles for pennies on the dollar, are hospitals just brazenly overcharging?

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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