I have said a number of time in the past that I am not an economist. I don’t understand many economic terms, and I really don’t like even having to manage my own money – strange guy that I am. But I do read the Business page in our local paper which does give some food for thought. You see, I’m in the habit of contrasting values, those of natural life compared to those the Lord seeks for our good. Too much of what we have accepted as good, right, normal, standard practice, and so forth is not at all what our Lord desires for us. I realize that I cannot and should not expect the world to follow God’s values, but where we see the contrast it should make us think. Perhaps it will draw us closer to what God established for our good. Now back to the Business page. Under the title “Shell-shocked investors worry when, where next the next bomb will drop”. Many speculative investors are seeing a number of markets drop simultaneously. “In the global nervous system connecting modern markets, the synapses are misfiring.” The speculative investment market is not where most of us live. I can leave it to you to think about some of the parallel verse that tell us not to worry or be anxious about material things. I only draw the contrast for us to think about where we do live. How we are called to trust our gracious Lord, not being anxious about God’s provision for tomorrow?
Opinion polls and call-in radio programs! I don’t know what other countries do, but America seems obsessed with learning what the man on the street thinks. We are a democratic society where the voice of the people is important, but I think that voice is too often manipulated by selfish motives and societal trends rather than a true understanding of what is for the common good. A report this morning said, “A plurality of Americans believes that the so-called sequester budget cuts harm the economy, even though most see little impact on their own families, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.” Our country spends 40% more than it takes in, continuing to pile up an unsustainable debt, but as long as my family is doing pretty well things are OK, and we certainly don’t want to cut the budget because that will hurt an economy on which our life style depends. We have forgotten the teaching that said we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and that we are to make willing sacrifices for the good of others. Jesus taught us a life of sacrificial love for the good of others, but that doesn’t fit into the popular opinion poll thinking. Until it does, we will all likely be facing serious troubles.
Yesterday was a national day of Thanksgiving. I wrote about the difference in our giving thanks for things that are transient, and things that are lasting. Now, today is “Black Friday”, the day all the merchants want to begin selling their Christmas goods to end the year in the black. (Christmas, a day we set to celebrate the incarnation of our God!) A news headline this morning reads: “Black Friday shoppers across the nation are eagerly snapping up deals on everything from TVs to power tools.” On Thursday we give thanks, and on Friday we go out to buy more things to be thankful for! Over the last 3 hundred years we’ve built a society that is dependent upon getting and having more stuff. Individual merchants to large corporations are always looking at their bottom line. Nations are dependent upon international trade balances. I’m not an economists, and my words certainly can’t change anything, but should we not at least be conscious of what we have done, realizing that something is very wrong with the world? (I said the other day I raise issues we can’t do anything about!) But we can observe. We can compare what we see to the truth of Scripture. We can come before the Lord in repentance, asking for mercy. We can govern our own behavior, and strengthen our own values. And we can pray earnestly for the Lord’s return to straighten out the mess we’ve made of His creation.
Workers are rebelling against the early Black Friday opening of stores, and well they should. But this points to a problem with roots far deeper than merchants wanting to make a profit this Christmas season. Unfortunately, it is one of those problems I point out from time to time that we can’t change. Since the Industrial Revolution we have created a society dependent upon acquiring things. We must sell more. We want more. We must earn more. We make all kinds of changes and compromises in order to keep our way of life going. I said, we are not going to change it, short of a total economic collapse. I’m just as dependent upon goods and services as everyone else. But can we at least recognize it? Can we realize that this is not where the Lord wanted us; that it is one of the idols we’ve created, and bring it before the Lord in repentance and prayer? It was only when God’s people saw their desperate condition that they cried out to the Lord for help, and He heard their prayers.
We find ourselves in difficult and uncertain economic times. With the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating many have begun to panic. We are reminded of the famous statement in President Roosevelt’s first inaugural address that the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” At the depth of the depression in 1933 he reminded the nation that our difficulties concerned “only material things.” But that is the problem. We have built our lives too much around material things, and thus the need for keeping those material things going. We are physical people and we do need material things. We can’t pretend that we don’t, but they must not be the center of our life or hope. Paul remarked to Timothy, “If we have our food and clothing we are content.”(I Tim.6:8) We all have, and now need, so much more than just our food and clothing, but our life and hope is built on faith in our Lord, and we are strengthened by the support of brothers and sisters in Christ. Scripture continually tells us not to fear, but to keep our eyes firmly on Jesus.
I am pretty sure God never intended us to have our world based upon the accumulation of things. This is Black Friday, the day all of the merchants and financial analysts are looking at to see if consumers buy lots more things. That will be the indication of the health, at least economic health, of our society. I’ll eventually do my Christmas shopping too, but I’m sure not starting at 3 am this Friday, as some of the stores around here have offered to let me do. Jesus talked a lot about money and things, and He wasn’t opposed to them. He just wanted us to keep all things in their right place. He said, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ 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.”(Matthew 6:31-33) Things are nice. I’ve been blessed with a lot of them, but God is so much better. Let’s enjoy Him.