Last time I wrote, things looked bad. On Friday they hit rock bottom. The major governments of the world have ridden in like knights in shining armour, and Monday saw the biggest one-day bump in shares on Wall Street since 1939. However, I don’t think the problem is quite at an end yet. The reality is that the whole nature of the economy has changed. Big questions are being asked about about the fundamental viability of the ‘free market’ and, like it or not, in many parts of the western world we have just nationalized significant parts of the banking system. It is still a moment for Christians to be speaking about the obvious failure of the ‘gods’ of the modern world.
So before I jump in and share some reflections on particular issues, I thought that I’d share an email from a mate of mine doing ministry in a pretty wealthy part of old Sydney town. Here are seven conversation-starters for helping Christians think about topics that have been raised by the crisis. (Thanks Craig):
The troubles gripping global financial markets, national economies, superannuants and households are all-consuming (if the media is any guide). There are many in our suburb who will be acutely affected by these times, especially as the traditional Christmas bonuses evaporate and people have borrowed money to fund lifestyle in the expectation of using their bonuses to repay the debts. Have you thought about a Christian response to these times? Here are seven conversation starters I came up with over breakfast:
- Greed is not good. The credit crunch started with the collapse of the US sub-prime market, fuelled by greedy citizens borrowing more than they could afford, and greedy lenders lending more than they knew their borrowers could repay. Greed is idolatry (Col 3:5).
- We’re not that smart. The complexity of derivative financial instruments meant regulators were left behind and that users could not foresee all the consequences of these ‘sophisticated’ products. Psalm 2 describes God’s response to the arrogance of those who think they are in complete control: God laughs at them.
- We’re not that smart II. No-one has the solution to this financial crisis, other than cutting interest rates and throwing money around. We’re not all-knowing, which means the secular humanist movement (let us advance at all costs, and we will find all the answers) has failed us. See Psalm 2.
- A debt-fuelled lifestyle (living today on tomorrow’s income) makes people feel good/satisfied/fulfilled/confident/complete in the short-term, but in the coming months, it will make those same people feel sick. That craved feeling of completeness/satisfaction comes only when a person comes to a saving relationship with Christ. CS Lewis said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world”. The Bible says, “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim 6:6).
- Think long-term. Investors in the sharemarket (if you have superannuation, this is you!) are being told to think long-term: the market will rebound and you will be okay. Take that strategy a step further. Think longer-term. Think past your retirement/your move to a nursing home/your funeral: will you be okay as you stand before the true and living God? ”People will die once and then face judgement” (Heb 9:27). The great news of the gospel is that Jesus died for you to take away your sins. Trusting in him delivers the ultimate payday. (“There is no condemnation for those who trust in Christ”—Romans 8:1.)
- Don’t put your trust in the nations. In Old Testament times, God’s people were urged by God’s prophets not to put their trust in the nations in the face of the Babylonian threat (specifically Egypt with their advanced weaponry—their chariots!). Instead, they were to put their trust in God. But they chose Egypt, Egypt failed to deliver on a rescue and Babylon conquered them. We are being told “Australia is okay. We’ve got China’s advancing economy powering our resources’ earnings. We’re well-placed.” But just this week, China’s appetite for steel is showing signs of rust. Don’t put your trust in the nations; put your trust in the God of the nations. (“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses … but do not seek help from the Lord”—Isaiah 31:1-2.)
- We’re selfish. Until a few months ago, our national conversation was all about the environment, each one making small sacrifices for the long-term good of others. But now that our wealth is under threat, we’ve stopped talking about selfless sacrifices in order to concentrate on saving ourselves. Even our most “righteous acts are like filthy rags” in God’s sight (Isa 64:6). We’re not that good—certainly not good enough for God.
I’m sure you’ll find other ways to commend the great and saving news about Jesus to your friends.