People are scared, really scared. The US economy is enduring a recession at a time of multiple crises, the Administration which took office less than a month ago has shown no grasp of even the fundamental facts and forces at work, and the Congress has added a massive spending bill which has no direct effect at all on any of the root causes. Europe is also in trouble, with rising unemployment and its own financial crisis. Japan has lost more than twelve percent of its GDP in the last year, and China has laid off more than twenty million workers because of the global crisis. There is fear in the finance sector, in housing, in retail, manufacturing, and in government. Unemployment is rising in every industrialized nation and concerns about the future heighten almost daily. Some folks are even saying that the debt is so great, that all the money in the world cannot pay it.
And it is at that point of worry and doubt, that the pressure in my mind is abruptly relieved, and I realize we are trying to control too much. Money, after all, is an artificial construct, a human device used to describe and direct an intangible force. For all our formulae, theories, and even our experience, it must be understood that money is not something we can completely control; at best we can influence it, and we are not at our best just now.
That’s not to say that the effects of mistakes are not real. Indeed they are, but when seeking to address large-scale problems, even multiple crises as we see here, we must understand our limits, and more to the point remember that there is one who controls the Reality beyond our comprehension. Yes, I am talking about God.
God and Finance are not often paired together, and most of the time that they are, it is by a speaker who holds commerce in rather strong contempt. But we should know better. Abraham was beloved of God, and God made Abraham a wealthy man. God made Job wealthy, and David, Solomon, and countless other righteous men. It’s a sin to love money, but not to succeed in business. It’s wrong to ignore the needs of others, but no sin to provide for your family and community. Further, if biblical accounts are to be believed, the Lord has often shown favor to individuals, in business as well as other endeavors. The book of Genesis notes the rise of Joseph on the strength of business acumen, the same for Abraham, Job, and so on. Details are not given, so I am not about to try to sell the notion that the Bible has a blueprint that anyone can use to get rich, but I am saying that there seem to be forces at work that we can only partly comprehend, let alone control. The Bible contained the instruction for the year of jubilee, in which all debts were forgiven. It may seem simplistic to us, but such a model allows for people to look forward to a point in time when they can put mistakes and bad fortune behind them. Without such a model, it becomes difficult for a person to recover from even a single bad event, if it should be large or long enough in severity or duration. The careful reader may even note aspects of the modern bankruptcy code in the ‘jubilee’ concept.
So what concrete advice would I give to our leaders, as we wrestle with this present situation? Millions of families are in danger of poverty, or losing their homes, and of seeing their life savings disappear, and these are real, undeniable problems which demand effective, immediate answers. Is it as simple as praying to the Lord and trusting Him? Essentially, yes.
I do not mean pray and wait for the Lord to make it happen while we sit around and do nothing. Sorry folks, but we are here to work, and work we must, but I will surely say it’s a far sight better to know we have a patron who cares for our welfare, who wants us to do well, and who hears our prayers – and answers. We may not understand the answer, we may well not like the answer, but we shall be answered, and we shall find our way according to His grace. Those who refuse to ask His help will do as they choose, but I would not invest my money with anyone who thinks he can out-think God.
It also helps, I think, to consider whether what we are doing is pleasing to the Lord. I don’t think many of us would be foolish enough to imagine that the Lord considers alcohol and immoral entertainment to be as worthy a place for our investment as construction and manufacturing, much less spending money to help protect children from disease and support farms. Don’t spend money that is not yours, make sure you are honest and complete in reporting to investors what you do with their money. Old-fashioned values, those, but that’s what made us a strong country in the first place.
Pray to God, and get to work. And don’t worry about the politicians, in the end they will either get right with God or they just won’t matter.