"The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?
The United States Census Bureau published new data on health insurance and poverty numbers on Tuesday September 13th. There is GOOD NEWS!
Wages are up, poverty is down and more people have health insurance!
Median income increased 5.2% and the number of people living in poverty decreased by 3.5 million. These improvements are the largest year over year improvements since the recession. The median wage increased last year for all racial groups - up to $37,000 for African Americans and nearly $63,000 for non-Hispanic whites. Also, 32% of Americans are in households that do not earn enough to make it day-by-day.
The Census provides data, but different people, organizations, and interest groups will use the facts to tell their story, but our story has been told (to quote the hymn) it is 'an old old story'. Jeremiah asks why has the health of the poor not been restored if there are physicians and balms in Gilead? Jeremiah spends an ample amount of time describing the wrongs done by the people - their sin. Yet, it wasn't just sin against God, but sin against one another - the people were not living in right relationship.
Many of us know the hymn, "There is Balm in Gilead" and just like our world today we have the balms, physicians, and resources to heal those who are sick, to feed those who are hungry and guarantee that those who are struggling have the resources they need to survive and to thrive. But just like in Jeremiah, our greed and fear gets in the way and extends into public policies that prevent others from having the resources they need. God has provided enough balm in the world, but it is up to us to use it properly.