Jesus and the credit crunch #2

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.)
  6. 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.)
  7. 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.

3 thoughts on “Jesus and the credit crunch #2

  1. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil 4:11-13)

    Another question to ask based on the above passage: “Are you relying on Jesus to be content in every circumstance?”  Paul was a guy who was in conflict with others, rejected, beat up, thrown in gaol, broke – yet he was content, not from material goods, but because he trusted and relied on Jesus.

  2. Revelation 18 describes the 2 reactions to the global credit crisis as Babylon falls. You either sing the funeral dirge with the kings, mariners and merchants OR you sing the hallelujah chorus that rejoices in God’s judgement.  So are we under the Babylonian judgement of God? Maybe

  3. This list of conversation starters reminds me again of the riches of spiritual knowledge and wisdom that are part of the joy of knowing Jesus.  Without our Saviour, God’s Word and his Spirit we would not be able to see what we see at work in the world today.  Without these blessings we would be lost in sin and darkness just like our unbelieving neighbours.  Let’s remember that although we have this precious knowledge in Jesus, we are unlikely to have the same perception and knowledge about our unbelieving neighbours’ current financial/employment situations.  Not only are we unlikely to know if they are now in difficulty, we are also unlikely to know the circumstances or actions which may have caused any difficulty.  So, whilst our understanding of human sinfulness might be right on the money (pardon the pun), I suspect our witness will be more effective if we focus first on compassionate and careful listening.  I’m still amazed at Jesus’ compassion for the rich young man – even when he has correctly discerned the young man’s idolatrous love of money, Jesus loves him (Mark 10:21).  He does not utter a single word of judgement, but offers him treasure in heaven if he will follow Jesus.  So let’s be careful not to use our God-given spiritual wisdom to judge others, but rather to love others, in humility and compassion, remembering that apart from God’s mercy and grace we too would be lost in our sin.

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