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A Christian perspective on the 2009 recession

Indulge me for a few paragraphs on the recession: I was trained in economics and business, but am a minister by vocation.  It makes for an interesting perspective.  Feeling that our debt bubble demanded a day of reckoning, I monitored the economic tea leaves and warned of the current co…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Indulge me for a few paragraphs on the recession: I was trained in economics and business, but am a minister by vocation.  It makes for an interesting perspective.  Feeling that our debt bubble demanded a day of reckoning, I monitored the economic tea leaves and warned of the current collapse last year. But then that’s been forthcoming for a while now – I remember sitting down over lunch with Larry Burkett about a decade ago and hearing him decry the high debt levels in America.
You don’t have to be a genius to understand that we will see the economy continue to slide in ’09.  Obama’s monster “economic stimulus” package will be disbursed too late, in the wrong places, and will actually be counterproductive as it increases our national deficit and therefore worsens our underlying problems.  The best description I’ve heard comes from Rachel Marsden: “The economic crisis is currently being exacerbated by endless meddling –
like when you pluck your eyebrows and it comes out uneven, so you just
keep plucking and evening them out until you have nothing left. That’s
the US treasury.”
And compounding our problems here, world trade is falling off a cliff with U.S. exports dropping at a 35% clip. Demand is continuing to fall and as it falls, factories are forced to shutter, resulting in higher rates of unemployment. Recent reports of a $25 trillion write-down by European banks spell even greater turmoil in the global economy. A good friend of mine works for a local forecasting firm that predicts the markets have much further to fall than they’ve fallen already. And his firm may be right. You can count on continued deflation for a while – no matter what the government does, prices are going to fall.
So what is a Christian perspective on all this? First of all, we need to begin by recognizing that we have placed far too great a value on making money here in the west.  It takes on average about 6% of a person’s income to meet the most basic of human needs. After food, clothes, and shelter, everything is discretionary. I bless those who are good at making money and using it to build the kingdom of God. In fact, I’m in awe of some of you who practice such wise stewardship of your resources.  But many of us have chosen a different path – a lifestyle that puts us in bondage to this crashing economic system of ours.  We find ourselves beholden to forces beyond our control.  We end up caught in a cycle of worry because we’ve forsaken our first love, pursuing careers instead of seeking first the kingdom.
Please, I’m not condemning anyone here. But what I am saying is that the economic downturn may be God graciously offering us a fresh opportunity to reassess our priorities.  And perhaps even graciously forcing us to go through a season of purging.  We need to rediscover what real needs are.  The children of Swaziland are happy with a daily plate of rice and beans garnished with a bite of goat intestines. Many have no parents and have themselves become heads of households. It gives us perspective.
A second observation is that the pain we’re going through creates an opportunity to offer to others the thing we Christians have in abundance – our hope. Not hope for a better salary or even a job necessarily, but hope that there is a God in heaven who created you and me and made us for more than a slog through a life of nihilism.  Hope in a God who is in the business of redeeming adverse circumstances, a God who delights in showing himself personal and involved.
In times like these, we Christians have what Hebrews describes as hope that is “an anchor to our souls.”  People are finding that they’ve anchored against things that are uncertain. The times will force many of us to examine what is solid and what is shifting in our lives.  If we follow Jesus, we have a master who has given generations the serenity to face death itself with a smile.
Yes, it’s a hard time for many nonbelievers, but for Christians fully trusting in God and his provision, there’s no better time to be alive. 

Comments (5)

  • I just stumbled upon this article. I must say, after a few months to evaluate, you had some very sage positions. The recession has been very painful for many Americans and as usual, those at the margins have suffered the most. However, you are right. This recession has afforded many Americans an opportunity to realize that money is not nearly important as those fundamental connections, family, friends, and community, which are most important.

    Excellent article.

  • Been listening to the news the past few days and hearing everyone busily blaming Gordon Brown, our Prime Minister, for encouraging Lloyds Bank to take on the ailing HBOS. There would seem to be a £1.6 billion discrepancy between how bad the losses were said to be and how bad they actually are. Given the length of time between the suggestion of the merger and it actually happening, one wonders where the guys were who were doing the due diligence on it! A sizeable chunk of debt to miss in your calculations!

    This uncertain financial climate gives huge rise to the blame culture so prevalent in the West. It’s uncomfortable for me, so it must be someone else’s fault. You are so right, Seth. It is actually a time to check out of the blame culture and check in to faith instead. To remember that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and when He supplies your need it is according to His riches in glory, not the poverty of the need. And He knows what you actually need to live.

    That much misquoted scripture “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Not money, but money as your first love. “You can’t serve God and money” said Jesus. How hard it can be to realise that you are when you think you’re not. And how scary it can be to trust an invisible God instead of the visible cash in your hand. Devalue the cash and the choice becomes a little clearer.

    Guess those two paths just diverged in the woods again. Time to choose the one less travelled by……

  • What recession? Everything I have belongs to God! I have always lived like that. If I wake up tomorrow and all I have is a cardboard box to sleep in then I thank God for the cardboard box! As long as He is holding my hand leading me which way to go next I dont realy care about the rest of it.

    I thought thats what ” laying down your life to follow me” meant?

  • One thing to “talk” about Trusting in the Lords provision,a totally different thing to actually trust only in His provision especially when time goes by and nothing happens.
    We had a car crash coming back from Church the Sunday before last, The guy who drove into the back of our car,(which was stationary at traffic lights) admitted he was distracted by his baby in the back, his “fault” totally he was sorry, our insurers have been worse than useless despite this being our first ever accident and fully comp, we are still walking almost two weeks on and we are badgered to claim whiplash injuries,(which we all have) we are not at peace about this and the western blame and compensation culture and we probably will decline to go down this path, I have been astonished by the sheer numbers of well meaning friends both Christian and not who have advised us to take them to the cleaners re personal injury etc etc especially when my old but immaculate and well maintained car was “automatically” written off by our insurers due to its age. this is where the rubber meets the road isnt it, problem is there seems to be a strong instinct in the Church to embrace the ways of the world, and express the attitudes of it too, no wonder it is so lukewarm, a foot in both camps isnt going to do it is it, Its costing us as a family, and some are already saying were being foolish.

    As for me and my house…we will trust the Lord! Brian Manchester UK

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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