The Fiscal Cliff and the Fifth Commandment
Religion & Liberty Online

The Fiscal Cliff and the Fifth Commandment

America’s recent fiscal crisis has been delayed, not averted. Even if action is taken within the next few months to cut spending and/or raise taxes, the day of reckoning will only be slightly delayed since no one is willing to touch the three programs that constitute almost half the federal budget: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

As Collin Garbarino argues, this situation will likely continue because “most Americans aren’t ready to have granny living in the spare bedroom.”

Everyone, not just the rich, will need to pay more to the government, unless we, as a nation, change how we view end-of-life care. Right now Americans want to keep the elderly out of sight and out of mind, letting the federal government manage them. This frees younger Americans to pursue their dreams. Remember the American dream: get the house, get one or two kids, get rid of the kids, and spend twenty years collecting seashells in Florida. Caring for an elderly parent or grandparent is not part of America’s normal.

For a country that once prided itself on adhering to Christian principles, we’ve done a fairly rotten job of honoring our fathers and mothers. Americans expect the state to fulfill our Christian and familial devotion, and for some reason we’re all surprised that it didn’t go well. Until American expectations change, American finances won’t.

For many Americans this will amount to a lower standard of living, because either a husband or a wife will be required to forgo full-time employment to care for an ailing parent. Instead of parents and children viewing this situation as a burden to be alleviated by the state, we must believe that fulfilling the fifth commandment is an honorable Christian sacrifice. During times of economic instability, when retirement accounts fail, the community, especially the Church, should ensure that the vulnerable members of society are being cared for.

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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).