The news coming out of Wall Street is quite dire.
Large investment banks are faltering. Some go bankrupt; others get sold for a fraction of their previous value. Insurance companies are in trouble. The government feels compelled to take control of mortgage companies. Uncertainty reigns. The stock market loses value.
Other factors do not bode well. Utility costs are very high. Food costs are rising. Infrastructure is crumbling. Healthcare costs rage out of control. The dollar remains weak.
Main Street is also suffering. Small businesses are squeezed by higher costs while trying to maintain competitive pricing. Necessary credit is difficult to obtain. Debt loads on the government, on businesses, and on families make it difficult to keep up with all the rising costs.
It is easy to see why so many are in economic distress! What are we to understand from the situation? How can we avoid so many of the problems that have caused such distress? What does God have to say about all of this?
We can first understand that all of this did not just come out of nowhere: many decisions were made that has led to this distress. Many people in the business world took on very risky investments based on assumed continued yet unsustainable growth in many markets. Money was loaned to people who were clearly credit risks, and many defaulted on their loans or mortgages. What should be expected when people engage in such behavior? Paul speaks truly:
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7).
When people sow risky and reckless behavior, they reap turmoil and distress. This is true in economic terms as well as in behavioral terms: when one engages in risky sexual behavior, or engages in drug use, one should not be surprised when the terrible consequences of their actions come back to haunt them.
We also can learn that the impact of risky and reckless behavior extends far beyond the people immediately involved. It is astounding to see large and diverse financial institutions fail or be reduced to very little on account of one aspect of their business! It does not matter how profitable other sectors may be: the whole thing goes down when one aspect collapses. The same is true in our own lives: the decisions we make do not just impact ourselves. They impact our family, our friends, and maybe people we do not even know (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:26)!
The significant levels of greed involved in the situations that have led to the economic distress is also quite telling. For too long, too many in the business world have served the pursuit of money above every other consideration. Ethics be cursed– we just want the money! Loans are intentionally offered to people who have little ability to repay so that money can be earned on fees and penalties. On the other side, people freely signed off on costly loans in their pursuit of wealth and prestige. There was so much money to be had, it seemed, that few had problems throwing caution out the window.
There is wisdom in Agur’s words:
Remove far from me falsehood and lies; Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is needful for me (Proverbs 30:8).
There are difficulties with both poverty and riches, and we know full well the pangs of pain experienced by those who seek after money (1 Timothy 6:10). We cannot serve both God and money– we must decide who will be our God (Matthew 6:24).
It is quite tragic that so many people have lost their livelihoods and their savings in the recent economic distress, yet this underscores the greatest lesson we can gain from God:
Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).
We may not consider ourselves “rich,” yet we need to learn God’s lesson here. We cannot completely trust in anything on this earth. Any wealth is uncertain. No one would ever have expected the downfall of some of the banks and corporations that have fallen, and this provides us with a needed reminder. God alone is eternal. God and His Word are the only secure foundations for life (cf. Matthew 7:24-27). The only guaranteed treasure is that which we store up in Heaven by our faithfulness to God, not whatever we place in our bank accounts (Matthew 6:19-21, 1 Timothy 6:19).
We may be in times of economic distress or economic prosperity; nevertheless, we must always remember that God alone is truly dependable, and we must live in faithfulness to Him. We cannot trust in worldly wealth, and not allow worldly concerns to choke out our spiritual trust in God (Matthew 6:19-34). Let us trust in God and store up true riches!