A woman who had been bleeding for 12 years came up behind Jesus and touched his clothes in hope of a cure. Jesus turned to her and said: “Fear not. Because of your faith, you are now healed.”
Then spoke Pious Paul of Ryan: “But teacher, is that wise? When you cure her, she learns dependency. Then the poor won’t take care of themselves, knowing that you'll always bail them out! You must teach them personal responsibility!”
They were interrupted by 10 lepers who stood at a distance and shouted, “Jesus, have pity on us.”
“NO!” shouted Pious Paul. “Jesus! You don’t have time. We have a cocktail party fundraiser in the temple. And don’t worry about them – they’ve already got health care access.”
Jesus turned to Pious Paul, puzzled.
“Why, they can pray for a cure,” Pious Paul explained. “I call that universal health care access.”
Jesus turned to the 10 lepers. “Rise and go,” he told them. “Your faith has made you well.” Then he turned back to Pious Paul, saying, “Let me tell you the story of the good Samaritan.
“A man was attacked by robbers who stripped him of clothes, beat him and left him half dead. A minister passed down this same road, and when he saw the injured man, he crossed to the other side and hurried on. So did a rich man who claimed to serve God. But then a despised Samaritan came by and took pity on the injured man. He bandaged his wounds and put the man on his own donkey and paid an innkeeper to nurse him to health. So which of these three should we follow?”
“Those who had mercy on him,” Pious Paul said promptly.
Jesus nodded. “So go –”
“I mean the first two,” Pious Paul interjected. “For the Samaritan’s work is unsustainable and sends the wrong message. It teaches travelers to take dangerous roads, knowing that others will rescue them from self-destructive behaviors. This Samaritan also seems to think it right to redistribute money from those who are successful and give it to losers. That’s socialism! Meanwhile, if the rich man keeps his money, he can invest it and create jobs. So it’s an act of mercy for the rich man to hurry on and ignore the robbery victim.”
“How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven,” Jesus mused to himself. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter heaven.”
“Let me teach you about love, Jesus – tough love!” Pious Paul explained. “You need a sustainable pro-business model. And you need to give people freedom, Jesus, the freedom to suffer misery and poverty.”
“The Lord God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor,” Jesus replied, emphasizing the last two words. Then he turned to a paralyzed beggar at his feet. “Stand up!” Jesus told the man. “Pick up your mat and go home.” As the man danced about joyfully, Pious Paul rolled his eyes dismissively.
“Look, Jesus, you have rare talent, and it should be rewarded,” Pious Paul said. “I have a partner, The Donald, who would like to work with you: He’d set up a lovely hospital, and the rich would come and pay for you to heal them. You’d get a percentage, and it’d be a real money-spinner. Overhead would be minimal because every morning you could multiply some loaves and fishes. You could strike it rich!”
“Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God,” Jesus said. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received comfort.”
“Oh, come on, Jesus,” Pious Paul protested. “Don’t go socialist on me again. Please don’t encourage class warfare. The best way to help the needy is to give public money to the rich. That then inspires the poor to work harder, galvanizes the sick to become healthy, forces the lepers to solve their own problems rather than kick back and depend on others. That’s why any realistic health plan has to focus on providing less coverage for the poor, and big tax benefits for the rich. When millions of people lose health care, that’s when a country is great again!”
“From everyone who has been given much,” Jesus told him, “much will be required.”
“Well, sure, this hospital would have a foundation to do some charity work. Maybe commissioning portraits of The Donald to hang in the entrance. But let’s drop this bleeding heart nonsense about health care as a human right, and see it as a financial opportunity to reward investors. In this partnership, 62 percent of the benefits would go to the top 0.6 percent – perfect for a health care plan.”
Jesus turned to Pious Paul on his left and said: “Be gone! For I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; and I was sick, and you did not help me.”
“But, Lord,” protested Pious Paul of Ryan, “when did I see you hungry or thirsty or sick and refuse to help you? I drop your name everywhere. And I’m pro-life!”
“Truly, I say to you,” Jesus responded, “as you did not help the homeless, the sick – as you did not help the least of these, you did not help me.”
Nicholas Kristof is a New York Times columnist. Readers may contact him at Facebook.com/Kristof or Twitter.com/NickKristof