Should Christians purchase life insurance in today's society? What about other types of insurance? Is there really any need for God's people to have insurance today? Understanding what insurance IS can help you properly exercise both FAITH in God and solid GODLY WISDOM!
"I've PAID insurance premiums for 20 years and never collected a dime. Insurance is a racket!" Sound familiar? Have you perhaps felt cheated because you've paid what seems like endless amounts of insurance premiums and have never yet received any tangible return? Or, worse, you may have been cheated when you actually were due a claim settlement. Why do most people feel their insurance payments serve no useful service except to swell the bulging pockets of someone else?
Just What IS Insurance?
Insurance is not a way to get something for nothing. Neither is it solely a way to protect the self. Nor is it a gimmick that costs you money from which you'll never get any value. Insurance can be defined as a pooling of resources exposed to a common risk to which a certain percentage of people will fall victim during a given period. Reputedly the first recorded experiment in insurance began in ancient China where merchants ran the risk of total ruin if their boats with the year's products were lost while being floated downriver to market. If 12 merchants divided their goods among each of their dozen vessels, the risk of loss due to an accident was decreased for each of them. In that way, since a majority of the boats would usually make the trip successfully, no one businessman would lose everything. If two crafts sank and ten made it to market, each man would have 10/12 of his products safely delivered. Each shared the risk for the good of the whole group.
The Basic Principle
As stated in Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's article, Is Insurance a Sin?, the basic purpose of insurance is to alleviate financial disaster suffered by an individual because of time and chance circumstances. As the Bible says, "Time and chance happeneth to them all" (Eccl. 9:11). But what about all those who never receive any financial payment because of having no claims? Has that person been cheated? Let's consider more deeply the principle on which insurance should be founded. In the same article, Mr. Armstrong states that insurance, in principle, is similar to third tithe. In cases where third tithe assistance is needed to help sustain widows and their families, a financial loss has resulted from the death of the husband who was the breadwinner. Unless some financial provision was previously made, the widow often faces severe economic hardship. Third tithe — contributed by a large number of individuals — helps alleviate this situation. The United States government has instituted for the nation a very similar program. It is the Social Security system. In essence, Social Security is merely a federal insurance program subsidized by employers as well as employees. Not only is it a life insurance plan for surviving dependents, but a pension plan for those breadwinners who themselves live on into old age. (Many people don't realize, however, that Social Security benefits and pension plans are generally designed as supplements to retirement income, rather than as a means of sole support. Husbands and breadwinners should therefore develop — if possible — other means of strengthening their financial security. One good way of doing this is through life insurance.)
The Christian Approach to Insurance
The world's attitude regarding insurance is, quite naturally, based on human nature. Very often we notice in the newspapers reports of individuals who have devised elaborate schemes to defraud insurance companies. And the insurance industry itself is no doubt comprised of too many who are out to get all they can from the public — without true regard for their needs. Of course there are always those who sincerely desire to help, but with human nature as it is, greed and dishonesty would probably predominate even more were it not for the tremendous number of laws and regulations controlling the industry. Insurance is one of the most strictly governed and closely watched areas of business. Were it not for the "get nature" in human beings, all these laws and controls would not be necessary. From a Christian aspect, our viewpoint toward insurance should be different than society's at large. Let's take an example. Assume a group of ten people join together, all willing to "self-insure" the entire group against a possible loss of their automobiles from theft. Each member of the group agrees to place $200 in the fund to offset a potential theft loss to any person in the group. Let's say you agreed, as a member of the group, and donated your $200 to the fund. Several months later one of the other members has his automobile stolen. Replacement for this particular car amounts to $1,500, which he receives from the $2,000 total which all had contributed. What should be your attitude? Obviously, you should be grateful you are able to help a fellow human being receive payment for his loss. You received nothing tangible, but he did. (It could have been you!) Instead you were allowed to perform an act of LOVE by sacrificing a small part of your income to offset a large financial loss by another member of the group. You SERVED a fellow human being, and although you didn't receive a claim payment yourself, someone else did, and you contributed your part. So in essence, you did obtain a benefit, because as Jesus said, it is more blessed to give than to receive. Naturally, the world would not take this viewpoint. After all, it wasn't you that had the car stolen. And why should you pay for someone else's misfortune, would be the reasoning. Insurance benefits, therefore, are two-fold. First, they protect you personally against any financial loss you might experience; and secondly, they enable you to aid others by contributing your premium dollars to offset the financial loss of another member or members of the group. Clearly, our motive in buying insurance should include BOTH these benefits. As Christ said, we should love our neighbors as ourselves.
Now let's take this principle one step further. We are all accountable for the consequences of our actions; we have responsibilities for their effects on other people — strangers as well as friends and relatives. For examples, read some of the Old Testament laws in Exodus 21 and 22 — "judgments" (Ex. 21:1) of personal responsibility made by God Himself. Although today's system of compensation is different from that of Old Testament times, we are still bound to make good for causing property damage or bodily injury to others. We are morally obliged, as God's people, to make good when we are at fault. But these obligations can mount into hundreds or in some cases even tens of thousands of dollars! A Court Judgment against you or a member of your family could reduce your standard of living to the poverty level for years. In the event you were responsible for the injury or death of others, how would you provide for their care or for the support of their dependents ? Liability insurance, including auto liability insurance, in today's society is the LEAST expensive and simplest way for you to provide for those who may become legally dependent on you for support or relief in the case of an accident where you are responsible. This way you can also serve your own family by preventing a crushing burden of debt from being levied on your earnings.
An Act of Faith
There was a man, a self-made preacher, who felt his commission in life was to proclaim the evils of insurance. His basic premise was that insurance is a lack of faith in God. He had brochures, post cards and leaflets printed and mailed out to malign the principles on which insurance is founded. He wouldn't "defile" himself by purchasing any form of insurance since he believed this was a direct SIN against God by showing a lack of faith. Was his thinking sound ? Absolutely NOT! If a person looks to the physical only for his source of security, protection and peace of mind, he is showing a lack of faith toward God. God is our Rock, our security, our peace and our whole life. We must still trust in Him, over and above any physical source, and beyond any thing we are able to do. However, the point is this: God's Word testifies that certain events will transpire and. befall all men. It's appointed to man once to die (Heb. 9:27). And when Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 9:11, "Time and chance happeneth to them all," to whom was he referring? In saying "all" he included wise men, strong men, rich men, poor men, educated men, uneducated men, saint and sinner — all people! So whether we be weak, lazy, diligent, careful, or whatever, God's Word verifies that certain eventualities will occur to all of us. Anybody can have an "accident." Therefore, faith, wisdom, common sense and prudence alike dictate that we should be prepared for such eventualities! "Be prepared" may be a Boy Scout motto, but it is also a Biblical principle. God expects us to do for ourselves what we can do for ourselves! Consider as well the collection for the saints mentioned in I Corinthians 16:1-2. Paul admonished the Corinthians to gather food stores together and lay them up in reserve. For what reason? To alleviate the suffering of their fellow Christians in Jerusalem because of a famine. Here were New Testament Christians in Jerusalem who suffered adversity — you might say they were in the wrong geographical location at the wrong time. And yet those in Corinth as well as Galatia, as verse one states, had more than they could use. Was it a lack of faith on the part of the Christians in Judea to look for assistance from other human beings in time of famine? Of course not. It was an opportunity for a larger group (the whole Church) to SHARE in restoring at least part of their loss — which sharing is the purpose and the principle of insurance — to mitigate the severity of their adversity.
What About LIFE Insurance?
God guarantees even Christians will die (Heb. 9:27), except for those few who will be living at the very moment Christ returns (I Thess. 4:17). If they did not, we would be able to speak personally to the Apostle Paul today. What is the purpose of life insurance? Simply to provide funds to compensate for the financial loss resulting from a death. Does that mean it is a lack of faith to purchase life insurance? Not at all. It is proof that we believe that God means what he says — that human beings are temporal, mortal and shall DIE! Some may feel that because they won't personally benefit from the proceeds of their life insurance, they don't want to spend money on it. What selfish and foolish reasoning! Life insurance can be of personal benefit. A cash value policy builds funds as a form of savings. But primarily, life insurance is for others! A man's family responsibilities go on even after he is dead — especially if he dies prematurely. What better way is there in today's society to lay up for our children than through life insurance? Of course, sound judgment must be exercised in its purchase. You should ask yourself, "How much, if any, can I afford? Will it curb my ability to serve the work financially? How much insurance coverage is right for my situation?" We must be balanced! The three basic coverages needed by every family for their own as well as the protection of others are liability, property and life insurance. Amounts and coverages must be based on your needs and your budget. These are best determined in consultation with a knowledgeable, experienced and trustworthy insurance agent. In summary, insurance can be a physical means to meet a spiritual obligation. Through insurance (sharing the risk with others for the benefit of all) you can provide for the future and protect the present.