Seeking multi-generational solutions for Social Security
A Christian Science perspective
For decades a drumbeat of urgency has sounded in the background, signaling a coming shortfall. Baby boomers move closer to full retirement age. Wave after wave of younger workers follows. Social Security doesn't have sufficient funds to meet the multiplying demands.
Of course, none of this is breaking news. What is now different comes from the current recession and the 7 million more people out of work. That means 7 million fewer people pay into Social Security. And that means – unless big changes happen fast – we'll run short of money. And we'll do so about four years sooner than previously anticipated.
A parallel crisis looms with the funding of Medicare, which could go broke even sooner than Social Security. And these concerns are not unique to the United States. Other countries saddled with aging workforces, such as Great Britain, France, Germany, and Japan, face the same predicament. Too many promises, too few resources. Could a younger generation's future get mortgaged yet again, to fund Social Security for current and about-to-become retirees?
The Scriptures give reason for hope. They remind believers – and doubters – of what might be best described as a divine sufficiency. From God, the one divine Principle, springs a sufficient flow of inspired, problem-solving ideas. From this Principle come spiritually based answers to the most vexing challenges.
In one passage, for instance, the New Testament addresses early Christian churches in different locales, pointing to ways they could aid one another. The book of II Corinthians has Paul saying, "I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality" (8:13, 14). Doesn't this apply as naturally to two different generations as to two different congregations?
Of course, this Scriptural message is not designed to endorse one political view over another. Nor is it meant to sanction this or that party's economic policies. But its spiritual insights into God's sufficiency are priceless. The abundance spoken of in the Bible dawns as prayer brings to light God's endless provision for His creation. His love, His care, His conflict-resolving intelligence are sufficient. Prayerfully realize the presence of this divine sufficiency. Then the human strategies underpinned by this prayer tend to be more effective. They tend to stay clear of waste and to exemplify fruitfulness.
The divine sufficiency, outlined in the New Testament, gets illustrated in the Old. The prophet Elisha encounters a widow about to lose her two sons over a debt apparently incurred by her late husband. The story foreshadows the dilemma of today. Should the future and freedom of the younger generation be sacrificed to the financial needs of the older generation?
In this account, the threat of inter-generational injustice looms large. It looks as if the widow and her sons will come up short. But the prophet glimpses a timeless spiritual fact. The Almighty is equally close, equally at hand, equally sufficient for each generation. He is not heavenly Father for one generation and then – a step removed – heavenly Grandfather for the next. He has a direct and immediate connection with all His offspring. He is the Father of us all. So, it is natural for Elisha to discern a solution that's good for the widow, good for her sons, and good for the party to whom she owes the debt.
Interestingly, the only borrowing in the story is not borrowing from future generations – the kind of borrowing now in a harsh spotlight. The biblical borrowing was, in a sense, an acknowledgment of as-yet-unseen sufficiency. It was the borrowing from neighbors of "empty vessels," containers needed to store the abundant overflow of oil that Elisha foresaw, and that, in truth, emanated from the operation of divine Principle. When the oil flowed, the widow and her sons filled the vessels, sold the oil, paid the debt, and lived freely (see II Kings 4:1-7).
Mary Baker Eddy discovered that divine Principle operates with both scientific certainty and Christly compassion. She named her discovery Christian Science. She wrote, "The divine Principle which governs the universe, including man, if demonstrated, is sufficient for all emergencies" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896," p. 41). As 21st-century problem-solvers realize something of the nature and power and presence of Principle, they'll help bring divine sufficiency into view. The blessings will be big enough to meet the needs of each generation. No one has to lose.
Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.