Thursday, October 16, 2008

The economic Crisis

The economic crisis is hitting our lives in so many places and in so many ways. There is a lot out there in the media writing about it. It is enough to scare you to death. I was asked by one of our United Methodist Women circles to write something for them to use at their meeting to lead into a discussion. This is what I wrote.

When I was at the Catalyst Conference this last week, Dave Ramsey was one of the speakers. He reminded us that we have not been given a spirit of fear. He told us that the media has stirred up a lot of fear and reactivity. He said we should get ourselves out of personal debt if we are in debt. He thinks we should keep tithing and saving as we can and live within our means. He thinks the markets will rebound and that at the same time we are in for a rough ride for sometime. But that we should have a spirit of fear. He said that we as Christians who live within "God's principles" have a witness to those who have bought into Consumerism mentality and the fear mentality.

I think it is important to remember that no matter what the crisis is in our lives, God is on his throne. I won't lie or cover this up, it may get very bad before it gets better. We don't honestly know where this is going to go. But as Dr. Gattis and I were talking about this, no matter how bad it gets we will still be better off than most of the world. And that it is important to keep our focus on God and eternal things than temporal things.

The following was taken from an article by Al Mohler in Christianity Today: "Greed raises its ugly head when individuals and groups seek an unrealistic gain at the expense of others and then use illegitimate means to gain what they want. Given the nature of this fallen world and the reality of human sinfulness, we should expect that greed will be a constant temptation. Greed will entice the rich to oppress the poor, partners in transactions to lie to one another, and investors to take irrational risks. All of these are evident in this current crisis.

The current crisis sheds light on what happens when things get out of control, when various pressures distort the proper operation of the markets, and when irrational valuations entice investors to make poor investments. Dishonesty enters the picture at many levels, and the individual investor is too often left in the dark. When these things happen the economy is threatened by a lack of trust, and trust is the most essential commodity of all when it comes to economic transactions. Without trust, the entire system collapses.

Christians should think seriously about this economic crisis and ponder what it would mean to come to a Christian understanding of what it means to be participants in this economy. This current crisis should also remind Christians that we are not called to be mere economic actors, but stewards. Everything we are, everything we do, and everything we own truly belongs to God and is to be at the disposal of Kingdom purposes. This world is not our home and our treasure is not found here. We are to do all, invest all, own all, purchase all to the glory of God."

Our denomination, The United Methodist Church, declares in its Social Principles that all economic systems are “to be under the judgment of God … and recognizes the responsibility of governments to develop and implement sound fiscal and monetary policies that provide for the economic life of individuals and corporate entities, and that ensure full employment and adequate incomes” (¶163 IV. The Economic Community, "Social Principles," The United Methodist Book of Discipline).

I think Jesus was very clear when he said Matthew 6:19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." If we follow this passage, then we have nothing to fear. We have a God perspective about what is going on. We realize that if unhealthy selfish greed got into the CEO's and money managers, that they had not laid up their treasures in heaven and did not have a God perspective. We also see this things for a God perspective. We do live in a sinful world, and thus we as humans are tempted to sin and do sin. But we can always repent and ask God's forgiveness and turn around. I say that to say, there has got be a whole lot of repenting going on by those who sinned when it came to the abuse of money, and lending practices. But there is a whole lot of forgiveness on God's part as well.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism said the following about money;
"We ought to gain all we can gain but this it is certain we ought not to do; we ought not to gain money at the expense of life, nor at the expense of our health. "
"Having, First, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then 'give all you can.'"
He said the purpose of earning and saving is giving and that you should then give to the following:

"First you should give to yourself--food, clothes, shelter--what moderate living requires. Second, you should give to your family and employees providing for their needs. Third, if there is still money left, you should give to the household of faith--other Christians. Fourth, you should give to all men in need."

This is what he thought it meant to "lay up" treasure and reasons to set aside money:
  • To pay your debts for this is right.
  • To provide yourself the necessities of life.
  • To provide for your family is your duty.
  • Necessary investment to carry on business.

“When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart.”

During his time in England there was a great divide between the wealthy and the poor. Wesley became very concerned for the poor in England, and became very involved in trying to improve their lives. He proceeded to venture into London during much of his free time and work with the poor, providing medical aid where he could. Wesley and his Methodists worked hard to raise the money to provide food and clothing for the poor. One of his more innovative ideas, in my eyes, is that Wesley introduced interest-free loans to the poor in London, “rescuing them from lenders demanding extortionate interest that would have compounded their distress.” (Marquardt, 29). In addition, Wesley’s Methodists devoted themselves to helping the poor to find jobs. In a time and place in which many viewed poverty and sickness as an indicator of the worth of the individual, Wesley preached God’s love for all mankind and demanded unrestricted love for one’s neighbor.

And Jesus said;
Your father knows what you need before you ask him. So do not worry, saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today's trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:8b, 31-34)

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God's sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7)

Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest. (Luke 12:25-26)

Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

I also highly recommend Sojourner Magazine and the blog God's Politics by Jim Wallis.


stinuksuk said...

Cool! Dave Ramsey is right on the money!!!
Just wanted to let you know, I tried your Apple Crisp recipe from awhile back and added some maple granola I had on hand and it turned out awesome. LH is in seventh heaven.
Thanks for sharing a great recipe!

seethroughfaith said...

great writing Abi

this credit crunch is reminding me again and again how we say we depend on God but in face we - in the main - put our faith in our bank accounts. :( the disciples (and Jesus) managed just fine on a whole lot less than we have.

Part of the interesting thing for me is that we (in Europe at least) are moving away from Christendon to postchristendom with church on the margins. That's good in as far as we can get back to the simple message and stop bowing down to the idols that church all too often has become here.

But it isn't easy to trust. And we shouldn't pretend it is.

Thanks again for your very wise words