What's Right About Insurance?
Admittedly, the title is an attention grabber. But I also confess that it is used to make a point.
Repeatedly one hears, “What’s wrong with this, or that”…as if everything is automatically good and right unless some negative point can be made to refute it.
“Prove all things”, wrote Paul, “and hold fast to that which is right.” Would not this indicate a careful inspection of something before it is entered into, rather than an automatic assumption that all things are inherently good unless proven wrong beforehand?
In another occasion, the same apostle wrote: “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
From these two verses, one can conclude that all things not specifically mentioned in the New Testament—like insurance—are not to be entered into until thoroughly examined under the tutorship of the Word and the Spirit.
Accordingly, let us proceed into an examination of our topic.
The good in insurance
First, we will ask the question, “What is right about insurance?” After probing this side of the question, we will then proceed into “What is wrong with insurance?”
So, just what is right, good, and spiritually edifying about buying a commercial insurance packet?
One of the first responses to this question is usually something like the following:
“God has commanded us to be responsible and to provide for our own. Therefore, one should buy health insurance and/or life insurance to provide for his family in case of unforeseen catastrophes.”
The principle of providing for one’s family is definitely scriptural. Even widowed relatives should be taken care of so that the church be not charged.
Next, one might hear the following: “Insurance is to protect another’s property if accidents happen. It is caring for our neighbor.”
We certainly, if we love our neighbor, do not want to leave him in despair. So insurance can be good in this aspect also.
There may be other suggestions to the question, but these two are the most common. So we move into…
The wrong in insurance
Now, let us ask ourselves “What is wrong with insurance?” Are there any godly values or Kingdom principles that buying insurance would squelch?
The most common doubt about insurance is that it takes away from trusting in God. In other words, when a man buys insurance, the tendency is to put his faith in the policy to take care of him, rather than the hand of God. Health problems? No fear, we have health insurance. Fire hazard? No problem, the house is insured. This transfer of faith would not necessarily have to take place. None-the-less, it does in most cases. And the dependency upon man, rather than upon God, is not usually total. Rather, the scales are tipped by a degree, even if just a few degrees, on the expectation that the insurance company will follow through, because God may not.
The next point one might hear against insurance is that of insurance being gambling. The policyholder says, “I’ll bet you X amount of dollars a year that I will have a fire in my house.” The insurance company says, “Ok, I’ll bet you that you won’t.” The winner and loser of the bet are decided, at the termination of the policy, by whether a fire did or did not occur. A fire? Homeowner wins. No fire? Homeowner loses.
So we have “providing for our own” and “caring for our neighbors” verses “less faith in God” and “partaking of gambling”.
Is there more? Does insurance carry with it other negative influences than the above two points? Let us look at…
The Spirit of Insurance
Perhaps the following point can be exemplified by this story…
In November 2005, a tornado ripped through Evansville, Indiana, doing what tornados do when they touch ground. Two weeks later, another tornado passed through Daviess County, of the same state.
Desiring to view first-hand the destruction in his State, the Governor of Indiana flew over the damaged areas two days after the second tornado had hit. To his amazement, in Daviess County cleanup and reconstruction were well under way—two days after the tornado had left its swath of destruction!
Heading south towards Evansville, the Governor’s eyes beheld a different scene: no reconstruction had started yet.
The difference? In Daviess County, there is a large settlement of Amish, who do not rely on insurance companies to fix up after tornados. In Evansville, they were still waiting on the adjusters to carry through.
I realize that there are more aspects to the story than what I have just shared. But the point cannot be denied: the spirit of insurance and the spirit of brotherly community are worlds apart!
Hear me now, as I share a few points about this difference.
Greed VS free-will giving
Have you ever thought about the difference in attitude that naturally exists between paying your insurance premiums and making a love-offering? Come on, confess it! Do you ever add an extra $75.00 to your check when you pay your premiums, out of the abundance of your heart? No you don’t…unless you are really, I mean really, unique!
Because the spirit of a contract is different than that of compassion. You cannot contract compassion.
Face it! Insurance companies operate on the principle of monetary gain, or perhaps one could even say greed. If they make no profit, they find a way to get out of the insurance business. They are, generally speaking, in that particular business to make a larger black figure on the bottom line at the end of their fiscal year.
In signing up for insurance coverage, you are signing a contract for them to manage a portion of your compassion. If anything bad happens to you or others in the same company, the company agrees to help up to a certain agreed-upon amount of money. If the actual need is more than the coverage, the company will NOT pay for the excess. (On occasions, the Company may make a charitable contribution to a good cause, but not usually in a different manner than other large corporations might do.)
Note two points:
1. Insurance companies only cover those who pay in. If a flood sweeps through a city district, ONLY those who signed a contract will recieve aid.
2. If the damage is more than the contract, the company does not pay out more than what the contract specified.
Is this the spirit of old-fashioned brotherly love? Or is it the cold-hearted letter of a contracted “protection”.
Suppose, now, that a tornado rips through Mr. Unfortunate’s property. It flattens the house and splinters the unattached garage. The adjuster, trying to show his concern for his customer, shows up within hours, contract in hand.
“You have paid your premiums, and so we are here to assist you in the time of need” he says. “Your homeowners policy was for $50,000 of coverage. If you can sufficiently prove that the house and contents were indeed valued at that amount, I can get you the money in 2 days”, he proudly says.
“That amount will rebuild most of the house, but I need a garage as you can see” pleads Mr. Unfortunate.
“Sorry, but I cannot do anything about that. It was not attached to the house, and here in line 34 of the 4th page, it plainly says that this policy does not include any buildings not structurally attached to the house.”
“Say, I need a place to stay, until the house is rebuilt. Can you pay for a place to rent?”
“Ok, looks like you have 30 days on this policy,” replies the adjuster. I can add $450. That is the $15/day for 30 days, which is the limit.”
On it goes. Mr. Unfortunate trying to scrape every dollar out he can, while the adjuster holds the line of the policy.
Now imagine a group of neighbors and brethren from the church showing up to help Mr. Unfortunate.
“Well, Mr. Unfortunate. We will help you clean up and rebuild your house. But our neighborly love does not include garages. And you can stay 30 days in the mobile home down the street. But after that you are on your own…”
Of course, that is not what would happen. Folks who have love in their hearts do what they can, and, many times extend themselves beyond what they thought they could. Would the neighbors be able to fully rebuild the house? They may or may not. But their heart would certainly not be restrained by a contract.
Charity is not a contract! And contracted protection is not charity.
When a person seeks for coverage from an insurance company, one of the questions that is not asked is: “How much can you afford to pay?” In other words, insurance policies are based upon an unequality—every policyholder pays the same premium for the same coverage.
“Wait a minute…” I can hear some say already, “That is equality. Every man who wants $100,000 fire coverage on his property pays exactly the same premium.”
It may be equality in man’s eyes, but God does not look at it that way. Suppose Mr. Poor earns $5,000 per year, and Mr. Rich earns $1,000,000 per year. Christian equality says that he who has more should pay more. The combined total income is $1,005,000 per year. Now if the combined cost of their two policies were $1000 per year, why should Mr. Poor have to pay 10% of his income for fire insurance, and Mr. Rich only a mere 1/20 of 1% of his income?
You see, if the spirit of brotherhood was working amongst a community, and a fire devoured one of the houses, Mr. Rich would certainly be more able—and hopefully willing—to put in a bigger amount in the charity collection. But of course, insurance companies do not operate on the principle of charity.
Which, by the way, is the point I am trying to make…
Yoked together with unbelievers
Guess what, if a drunk plows into your car and refuses to pay for the damages? Or, your doctor messes up on your surgery and charges your medical insurar an extra $55,000 for his mistake? Your insurance company will most likely turn to “the arm of flesh” and haul him into court. You can protest, you can grimace real hard, you can turn red in the face: but that is the way the insurance system works, because it is another system; a different kingdom than Christ’s. Perhaps your insurance company would accept it, if you yourself would fork out the money and pay the $55,000. But you can rest assured—be totally confident in your insurance company—that they will not operate by such a “silly” principle as “non-resistance”.
God has told us to not yoke ourselves together with unbelievers. When you sign the bottom line of an insurance packet, you are yoking yourself to that company, with all its policies. When troubles arise, you will then find yourself going along with policies that are contradictary to the Spirit of Jesus. You can always “break the yoke”… or can you? Remember, you signed a contract agreeing to company policies.
Insurance encourages those who can pay, to not do so
Do you know anyone who has suffered a loss, and their insurance company paid for the loss when they themselves would have been well able to pay? Probably everyone of us knows someone like that. In fact, many of us are probably guilty of it ourselves.
That, by the way, happens because of the spirit of insurance…
So what happens when a person lets the insurance company pay for damages that they could easily have paid for? The poor subsidize the rich! Exactly!
After your blood pressure subsides a bit, think rationally with me. Mr. Rich has a 2005 model pink Cadillac, and smashes into Mr. Poor’s rusty ‘85 Chevette. The Mr. Rich’s insurance company then shells out $25,000 to fix his Caddy. And, Mr. Poor gets $875.00 for his totaled Chevette. Now Mr. Rich could have easily fixed his own car, as well as buy Mr. Poor another car.
As it stands with insurance, Mr. Poor ends up subsidizing Mr. Rich, because all premiums are based upon the average amount that an insurar has to pay out in a given time period. So, both Mr. Rich and Mr. Poor are paying equal amounts to repair the damages (speaking in general terms- I realized there are sometimes other factors, including the amount of coverage, driving record, etc.).
Now suppose Mr. Poor plows into Mr. Rich’s pink Caddy. This time, it would seem that insurance is an advantage for the poor man.
If there were no insurance, only charity, Mr. Rich would forgive Mr. Poor, and since he has the wherewithal to fix his own vehicle—and Mr. Poor certainly cannot—he would repair his Cadillac and go on with a smile. And, if he saw that Mr. Poor was struggling to get his Chevette back on the road, he would slip some cash into Mr. Poor’s mailbox.
…And if insurance companies operated by God’s law, they would not pay out on the basis of whose fault it was, but on the basis of who had the most need.
Did you catch that? That is the spirit of insurance, compared to Christian charity. Choose ye this day which principle you will operate your life by.
From these examples, we slip right into…
Insurance is for the wealthy
Consider the following quote from the article “insurance”, in Wikipedia:
“Advanced economies account for the bulk of global insurance. With premium income of $1,217 billion in 2004, North America was the most important region, followed by the EU (at $1,198 billion) and Japan (at $492 billion). The top four countries accounted for nearly two-thirds of premiums in 2004. The United States and Japan alone accounted for a half of world insurance premiums, much higher than their 7% share of the global population. Emerging markets accounted for over 85% of the world’s population but generated only 10% of premiums. The volume of UK insurance business totalled $295 billion in 2004 or 9.1% of global premiums.”
The spirit of insurance is that of the wealthy “protecting” their own. The Bible teaches us to “look upon the things of others”. Have you, or anyone you have ever known, bought a policy for some poor person in a 2/3-world country, for the love you have for them? Possibly it has happened. But it certainly is not the spirit of the insurance industry. Your insurance salesman will not even mention to you the possibility of buying a policy for Eduardo’s tarpaper shack in a favela of Rio de Janiero.
Did you know that in recent years the insurance industry has actually outranked banks in their financial assets? They are now the largest lenders of money in the world. Where did those assets come from?
Insurance companies are getting wealthy by managing your “charity”
Not an insurance company that I know of will tell you that. But it is so.
Suppose you have 1000 people buying fire insurance. Of these 1000 people, a fire is likely to happen, sooner or later. Insurance companies have studied the data on how often, on average, a fire destroys a house. They then divide the amount of damages they will have to pay out by 1000, and charge each person that amount: PLUS OVERHEAD (nice salaries for employees, nice office buildings, etc.) AND A PROFIT MARGIN!
And they are getting wealthy. Were insurance companies a “Charitable Organization”, insurance rates would drop immediately. Check out the buildings, and salaries, of insurance companies. These come from your premiums.
Now take the same 1000 people, and let each of them operate on charity. When a fire destroys one of the homes, each, according to his ability, would well be able to pay for the losses- AT A COST LESS THAN FIRE INSURANCE PREMIUMS WOULD BE!
And besides a savings, the spirit of community would be strengthened. We are all desperately longing for that spirit of neighborly caring in our communities, yet we have heeded the siren song of the insurers.
So why do we buy insurance?
If we could have brotherly love and caring in our communities, why do we then turn to the cold-hearted, capitalistic rigidity of wealthy insurance companies?
Simple. Because of…
“Insurance is a method of coping with risk. Its primary function is to substitute certainty for uncertainty as regards the economic costs of loss-producing events.”
Notice the quotation marks? I didn’t say that: Encyclopedia Britanica did! Those are the opening words under the Macropedia article “Insurance”.
Insurance companies sell their product by capitalizing upon a person’s lack of faith in God. I know that many people will argue with me about this, saying that insurance and lack of faith in God are not connected. For proof of my position, I give you some selected quotes from ads of insurance companies:
- We help you protect them.
- You can rely on help [from our Insurance Company] when you need it.
- Prepare for the future.
- Relax-we’ll help you sort it all out.
- We’ll help you get the…coverage you need, and the peace of mind you want.
- Who would provide?
- If you died today, who would fund your family?
- 40,000,000 drivers trust in [our company].
- Insuring your trust.
Did you notice the words: protect, rely, prepare, relax, peace of mind, who would fund, and trust? These phrases, by the way, were not in the fine print! They are the selling points. And these quotations are not out-dated or rare phrases that the insurance company might occasionally use. Such terminology represents an estimated 60% of the advertisements that I have seen in the last few months while I have been collecting them.
It boils down to this, if we can accept it: People mostly buy insurance (I am speaking of voluntary, not mandatory, decisions) because of fear of the unknown. There are those, a minority, who buy for other reasons. If someone wants to argue the point with me, they had better explain to me why the majority of insurance company ads focus on the fear of loss that people have. Insurance companies know their stuff, obviously, or they would not have attained to having more assets than banks have! If there was a more efficient way to advertise, they most certainly would do so!
Are we running a risk by refusing to buy insurance? Yes, we indeed take a risk by refusing to trust in commercial insurance. We run the risk of having God not follow through with what He has promised to us. Most people do not like to take such a risk.
The Christian’s response
Will God automatically condemn to hell everybody that has bought an insurance packet? I do not think so. In cases where government regulations require it, like for auto insurance, a person should either obey the law or not drive. To buy insurance because the government requires is not necessarily the same as voluntarily doing so out of fear of loss. It can be then considered as a type of tax. However, because of the principles that the insurance industry operates upon, the followers of Jesus should seriously search out other options: and there are other options in many states.
What I want to focus on is the Christian response to voluntary insurance; say, for example, homeowners insurance.
I will summarize what is wrong about insurance:
1. It definitely tends to take away faith in God. God demands of us to trust HIM. One of the reasons why we see less miracles today is because we do not need God: we have Mastercard and insurance!
2. It strongly tends to replace the spirit of community with cold-hearted legal transactions. Strange as it may seem, some of the folks who are so hard set against “legalism” in church dealings (meaning applying the Word of God in fine details to the congregation) are the same folks who run the fastest to sign at the bottom of the sixteen pages of fine print that comes along with a commercial insurance policy. Their scorn for detailed applications seems to have disappeared…
3. Commercial insurance is, all said and done, a poor investment. It would be more economical for God’s people to simply set aside a portion of their income for the future needs of themselves and others. Having extra money for our own pocket is not a good reason to skip insurance. After all, if we have charity, we wont be toting around any extras in life. “The poor ye always have…”
4. Insurance is basically a way to protect wealth. God tells us to share our wealth, not wrap it up in a towel and make sure we do not lose any of it. Those who have no excess material goods are generally the least worried about protecting what they do have. Try selling insurance in Haiti!
5. If insurance was good and right, God would have commanded us, somewhere along the line, (or at least dropped us a really good hint) that “Thou shalt surely you insure yourself, your goods, and your family with a good policy.” I am 100% certain that God did not forget to mention the merits of insurance in His revelation of Himself to us.
To the brethren of Jesus
We have swallowed the insurance pill, brothers! We are losing, in most places, the spirit of community; of caring one for another. We are trading it for contracted protection. I realize that there are those who have insurance who are charitable. But I think I can safely say that the rise of insurance is directly correspondent to the disappearance of the spirit of community.
“He had insurance” they say. And we breathe a sigh of relief and stay home. And since the insured has bought a policy, he, instead of letting his bowels of compassion spill out, may well grump about his neighbor who did not buy a policy when a catastrophe then strikes. “He should have been wise and bought insurance…”
“But you’ll get a chance real soon to prove your position” someone recently “warned” me. He was essentially saying that if I preached the spirit of community, I would soon have to “fork it out” of my wallet to practice what I preach. What a self-centered warning!!!! It boils down to the fact that we have been persuaded by the insurance industry that they are more efficient, concerned, and compassionate about taking care of the needs in our community than we are. “Just pay X amount of dollars, sign here after the sixteen pages of fine print (so we wont get taken off guard and have to pay out too much…) and everything will be fine and you will never have to worry any more…”
I have been to barn-raisings. I enjoy them greatly. I have also dealt with insurance policies. There is a world of difference between the two.
It boils down to this choice we are now given: barn-raisings or insurance policies. We, as followers of Jesus, can choose His way (charity), or the way of the world (insurance). The Bible tells us to “let all your things be done with charity”.
The unbelievers have no choice, in one sense. They have no faith in God and they have no brotherhood in God’s Son. So they are left to their own devices. We cannot force them to take the way of faith and old-fashioned community. So if they turn to the insurance industry for security and comfort, we simply have to let them do so. For those who have no faith nor charity, insurance policies and the Social Security system may be a good option, or at least a better option than nothing. Insurance and Social Security programs are essentially used to force people, who would otherwise not do so, to take care of their own. Government insurance mandates are basically a way to force “charity” upon men. While this “good” (if “forced charity” can even be called “charity”) is better, perhaps, than nothing, I am proposing a better way: God’s original plan for “caring one for another”.
It saddens me greatly to see the brethren of Jesus turn away from real faith and charity, throwing to the wind the old-fashioned spirit of community that this country once had.
Trading barn-raisings for 16-pages of fine printed, contracted assurance?
Oh, we have swallowed the pill! We have been seduced! We now breathe a sigh of relief (Whew, don’t have to get my wallet out now!) when we hear that our unfortunate neighbor had insurance.
Sad day, indeed. God help us.