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.