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Friday, March 22nd 2013


Not so blessed are the rich!




Insurance ExecutiveIn the last entry I mentioned that I was beset by two issues with insurance companies. I am happy to report that both problems are resolved in some manner. For the one involving the disability insurance, for now I have to accept the word of a lady over the phone. By that I don't mean that she would have been deceiving me, but I just hope she wasn't overly optimistic on whether every doctor's report will be properly registered in the limited amount of time that's left. The other one, involving the expensive medication that the insurance company (Medicare carrier) has refused to cover, turned out to have yet another wrinkle. The story actually began in January, when I got the notice that DRUG X was not on their formulary, and they would not cover it, though they "strongly encouraged" me to see if I could take "the following alternative drug that is on our formulary: DRUG Y." I could also request an exception, which would basically consist of Dr. B affirming that DRUG X was uniquely necessary for my therapy. Well, as chronicled previously, we have yet to hear back from that appeal, and we're way past the date that they stipulated for their response. So, the time had come around again for another refill, and, seeing that DRUG X was not in financial reach, we decided to settle for DRUG Y, which Dr. B's office promptly called in to the local pharmacy. Wouldn't you know it? Half an hour later I got a phone call from the pharmacy to the effect that the insurance company was refusing to pay for DRUG Y; it would need a special pre-authorization, which we could receive if Dr. B wrote a letter affirming that DRUG Y was uniquely necessary for my therapy.

So, I called Dr. B's office. I did not get to talk to anyone and was only able to leave a message there. Then I called the insurance company with some trepidation. I was really hoping not to have to debate the matter with someone who would be totally defensive, which is what I expected. I imagined that they would tell me that I could appeal the decision, to which I would respond that there was nothing to appeal since they had already put into writing that DRUG Y was acceptable, to which they would reply that it would be acceptable if the appeal was granted, to which I would respond by saying that it had already been granted, as per their note in January, and so it would go on. ----  Nothing of the kind happened. I talked to a very personable lady who was puzzled over the inconsistency as well. She noted that for some reason DRUG Y was listed on the formulary, but still required pre-approval. She immediately connected me with the pre-approval department, where a friendly gentleman informed me that I now had official sanction for DRUG Y. I went to the pharmacy, and it was true. There was no problem obtaining this substitute medication at the co-pay price, which is still relatively steep, but nothing like what DRUG X had cost me last month.

Let's move on to the Gospel of Luke, shall we.

Luke Bible Study      

Bible Reading: Luke 6:24-26

v. 24: Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort. (HCSB)

I know a lot of people who do not like this verse. What's wrong with being successful in your business? Shouldn't we be thankful for wealthy Christians who have been generous with their money and have made various ministries possible?

Again, we need to keep from straying into an overly simplistic interpretation and take into account all that Jesus is saying here, or better in this case, what he is not saying. As I read this passage, it seems to me that Jesus is addressing an attitude more than the state of a person's bank account. The attitude he is criticizing seems to be that of smug self-satisfaction. "I'm comfortably off. I have all that I need. So, all is well with me. I don't need God." So, we could say that the people whom Jesus has in mind here are those who are totally excluding God from their lives because they are quite well off on the material side.

But I think we can also add those with the attitude that they're fine because they have struck a bargain with God. "I'm well off, and, as everyone knows, I'm even making regular contributions. What more could God want?" The idea, then, is that the person feels as though he or she has bought off God, and that, thus, God has no further claim on their lives.

The truth is, of course, that we cannot ever draw a limit to how much sovereignty we give to God over us, not on the basis of how much money we are giving, nor how much time, nor anything else. God already owns us, and everything belongs to him. Ultimately, even if a wealthy man would give everything away, that act would not make the slightest bit of difference if the motivation was to donate enough money so that God would  approve and would take no further interest in the man's life.

So, to be wealthy per se is not wrong, but it will be wrong if the wealth causes someone to think that they don't need God. To be wealthy and to donate to the kingdom of God is certainly good, but it will still be wrong if somehow the person believes that he or she now has autonomy over their own existence because God has received his share of their assets.

Furthermore, I don't think it is straying too far from the passage to extrapolate to other ways of rationalizing our way into a sense of comfort and self-sufficiency. "I know that I'm okay with God because, after all, I .. {fill in the blank with some more or less worthy activity}." Has it ever occurred to you that God might want less of your busy-ness on his behalf and want more of you? He really doesn't care whether you sing in the choir, give vegetables to the poor, teach Sunday School, read through the Bible twice a year, or whatever, if you're doing so because you feel that by paying your dues you have earned self-sufficiency in other parts of your life. If your life is frivolous and your religious acts are perfunctory, that's when Jesus' warning applies: Be careful, there is some mourning and weeping in store for you!

Now, we might ask, isn't it kind of mean for Jesus to throw this negativity at these people? It might be if it wasn't immediately linked to other, better, attitudes, and furthermore, if it wasn't true. You can take out all of the religious implications and still realize that a life grounded in wealth and self-fulfillment is headed toward disaster. We may have gotten used to the fact that many famous people, whether we're talking about people in the entertainment industry, athletes, royalty, and so forth (actually, aren't they all in the circus?) appear to go from crisis to crisis, but they are real people whose lives are quite miserable. It's a truism that success doesn't bring happiness. Of course, there are other ways of obtaining misery, but we certainly are on the wrong path if we think that we of ourselves are different from all those other people, and that, if we were to achieve the kind of success that they have, we would be happy and content. We would wind up the same way if we were just as one-dimensional in our lives as so many people are, focusing only on our gain. Before anything else, our lives need to be in the hands of God, and, if he should grant success in some area, we should see it as an undeserved blessing and leave it up to him to decide how much he leads us to use directly on behalf of his work. It may be a small amount or a large one. The point is that he is in control.

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