Douglas Jacoby, 1 February 2009
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Tragedy in 2008:
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An out-of-work money manager in California loses a fortune and wipes out his family in a murder-suicide.
A 90-year-old Ohio widow shoots herself in the chest as authorities arrive to evict her from the modest house she called home for 38 years.
In Massachusetts, a housewife who had hidden her family's mounting financial crisis from her husband sends a note to the mortgage company warning: "By the time you foreclose on my house, I'll be dead." Then Carlene Balderrama shot herself to death, leaving an insurance policy and a suicide note on a table.
I. What crisis?
The "bubble" has burst. Whether this is a recession, a depression, or worse, conditions have changed in the global economy. There is a pervasive atmosphere of anxiety.
During one recent week (in 2008), global stock markets tumbled 7 trillion dollars! This is affecting the entire globe! Everyone is talking. We have felt the crisis, at least indirectly (through our friends who have been hit, and through rising prices).
Can affect our faith, too. (Not to mention marriages.)
This is complex! Involves multiple agencies – hard to nail anyone down.
We are not going to solve it in a day! -- but we can get a biblical perspective….
II. How are people responding to the crisis?
Finger-pointing: Democrats! Republicans! Government! God! The Devil! America! Businessmen! Consumers!
Refusal to even think about it. Keep head down, keep going…
In some places, people have no choice but to think about it. Zimbabwe’s inflation rate recently hit 231m%. Imagine having Z$1m yesterday, and today it’s barely worth $1!
“I believe there is God’s justice in action in what’s going on here and we haven’t seen the end of it… We’re going toward a one-world bank and a one-world monetary system, and if you believe the Word of God and you read Revelations… you will see clearly what’s being spelt out, and we are in the end times.” – James Bidgood, Australian MP
Easy to give up, either ignoring it or else rationalizing it with a Que será, será attitude.
There's a different sort of aloofness, a way to ignore the issues:
Some of us are doing just fine, and say “It is a blessing from God,” or “I must be a good person,” or “I am pretty good with money.”
But it ain’t necessarily so!
Ecclesiastes 9:11. Not everything is so neat and tidy, so predictable! There is a possibility that some of it comes down to chance – Black Swan. God allows some random things to happen.
The book of Job: Bad things do happen to good people. Could be a test from God. Even if he didn’t custom design the crisis for you and me, it can still be a sort of test: how will we respond? James 1:2-15.
On the other end of extreme religious reactions, “It is a lack of faith,” as one eminent evangelist said on TV. Blessing if you get everything you want? If a child gets everything he asks for?
The reality is complex… Many consider money to be a personal matter. Yet there are more passages on money and wealth and possessions than, say, all those on faith and repentance and baptism combined. So, how we respond is important. Nothing diminishes our need to live responsibly! Here’s where the Bible has a lot to say.
III. How does the Bible shed light on the crisis?
- The financial crises in the Bible offer parallels.
- Famines had similar effects:
- In the time of Joseph [Genesis 41-47]
- In the time of Elisha [2 Kings 6-7]
- In 1st century Judea [Acts 11:28-30; 2 Corinthians 8-9].
- These are testing times, driving up prices, straining relationships, affecting families, removing comfort, leading to despair, revealing character.
- Famines had similar effects:
- Realize that money is not the answer!
- “Vanity of vanities” Emptiness! Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless (Ecclesiastes 5:10 NIV).
- The US government is throwing money at the problem. (Whose money?) A feast is prepared for laughter, and wine makes life happy, and money is the answer for everything (Ecclesiastes 10:19 CSB)
- “Daily bread” Moderation – Proverbs 30:7-9 "Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, `Who is the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God (NIV). See also Matthew 6:11.
- Balance hard work with generous liberality.
- Industry – Pull your weight. 2 Thessalonians 3:10: In fact, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you: "If anyone isn't willing to work, he should not eat" (CSB). and yet there is a balancing principle: Kind to the needy, giving to those who ask (Luke 6).
- Generosity. Keep giving! Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity (2 Corinthians 8:2 NIV).
- Although the N.T. does not command any particular percentage for giving, most of us western Christians are able to go beyond the O.T. norm!
- Note: Some believers have been generous to a fault. Those who are deep in debt and have not spent responsibly may need to give away less of their income until they get their house in order. The ultimate goal, however, is to be a generous giver.
- Live responsibly.
- Stewardship. Matthew 25.
- Study the Proverbs and strive to become a disciplined person.
- Watch out for materialism.
- Definition…. Pleonexia
- It was the sin of Sodom. Ezekiel 16: 49-50: This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.
- The Lord never promises financial prosperity. Jesus in Matthew 6 – “seek first…. and all these things…” “You can’t take it with you.” Nothing is ours to keep forever anyway. Don’t spend money you don’t have!
- “Credit, not debit.”
- Credit card debt – The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender (Proverbs 22:7 NIV)
- Don't be one of those who enter agreements, who put up security for loans. If you have no money to pay, even your bed will be taken from under you (Proverbs 22:26-27 CSB).
- People before things. 1 Timothy 6:7ff. Value relationships. What’s more valuable? Relationships, family… Use things and love people, not love things and use people…
- Be content.
- Philippians 4:11. We are still rich.
- We may have lost a lot. (Though is it only on paper?) But think of the rest of the world; most nations are poor.
- Be humble. Deuteronomy 8: 6-18: So keep the commands of the LORD your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams of water, springs, and deep water sources, flowing in both valleys and hills; a land of wheat, barley, vines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without shortage, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you will mine copper. When you eat and are full, you will praise the LORD your God for the good land He has given you. "Be careful that you don't forget the LORD your God by failing to keep His command-- the ordinances and statutes-- I am giving you today. When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, and your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, be careful that your heart doesn't become proud and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. He led you through the great and terrible wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, a thirsty land where there was no water. He brought water out of the flintlike rock for you. He fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers had not known, in order to humble and test you, so that in the end He might cause you to prosper. You may say to yourself, 'My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,' but remember that the LORD your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant He swore to your fathers, as it is today (CSB)
- Old covenant more physical, material…. Does not apply to us today.
- Still there are principles to learn:
- Be humble.
- We are not self-made people! Quote from Jim McGuiggan, Genesis and Us.
- Guard your heart! (Proverbs 4:23)
IV. Why should we talk about the crisis?
- We should talk. This area should not be taboo. Feeling pressure… need someone to talk to. Therapeutic!
- Even talking with our kids is good…
- Questions to ask myself about money:
- How did I get it? (Exploitatively? Legally? Ethically?)
- What am I doing with it? (All used for my own comfort, or helping others, too?)
- How is it affecting me? (Enslaving? Holding on to integrity? Distraction?)
- Questions to ask others:
- "How is the crisis affecting you?”
- “How are you handling things?”
- “Do you have any counsel for me?”
- We need to talk about this. Take advantage of the greater climate of openness.
- We need to care enough to ask. People need us to ask…
- Let’s talk about it. This is a great opportunity to connect with people, to get them to open up, to meet them authentically and to minister to them in a place where it hurts.
- Keep studying for biblical conviction. Turn to God, study the scriptures – as we have seen, they have a lot to say about this matter!
- Abraham & Lot (Genesis 12-19) – the contrast of the life of one swayed by materialism (Lot) with one more rooted in the Word
- 2 Chronicles 25:5-10 and Proverbs 6:1-5 – release from unwise financial commitments.
- The passages on famine in III (1)
- Proverbs — over 30 passages
- Luke – over 30 passages (see Acts, too)
- Take AIM! Spiritual Life DVD series. Nine speakers bring lessons on a variety of topics, including many vital spiritual and financial principles.
- Excellent books:
- Ronald J. Sider, Rich Christians Living in an Age of Hunger: A Biblical Study (IVP, 1977) and The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005). Deeply challenging.
- Robert Wuthnow, Poor Richard's Principle: Recovering the American Dream Through the Moral Dimension of Work, Business, & Money (Princeton University Press, 1996). Superb.
- Craig Blomberg, Neither Poverty Nor Riches (Grand Rapids: Intervarsity, 2001). A thorough and scholarly study, with many practical ideas.