All you have to do to feel a healthy dose of fear these days is listen to the news. All this stuff about the economy, the desperate need for a bailout, the Congress defeating it, the stock market plummeting…I don’t even play the market, and don’t have investments there, and it’s enough to make me queasy. So I can imagine what people are going through whose retirement accounts and/or jobs are on the line right now.
I’m not a doomsayer about such things; I’m not ready to jump into every dark theory about world economic collapse. I don’t know what this is, honestly, or how deep the hole goes. But as I’ve been watching all this unfold–not just over weeks but over months–I’m being reminded of something that we as Christ-followers really need to hold onto these days:
We are not to rely on the world’s economic system. We are subjects of another kingdom.
Now, recognizing all the abuses that have come from the prosperity message, we must understand that most teachings that get out of hand begin with a nugget of truth. When we deconstruct that wrong teaching, we mustn’t do away with the truth part of it (i.e., don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater). What I am saying is that while Scripture does not condone the culture of greed and selfishness that has come out of the prosperity doctrine, there is still plenty of Scripture that underscores God’s desire to see His children provided for and taken care of.
I don’t intend to launch into some big teaching here…but couple of Scriptures come to mind to encourage my own heart. Psalm 37, for example, is a great Scripture to encourage us to commit our way to God. I’m especially reminded of verse 19, which says that “…in the days of famine they [the righteous] will have plenty.” In my mind, there is no better passage to express that we do not have to be governed by the economics around us, or worried about them. If it’s famine we’re headed for…we can trust God for plenty in the midst of it.
Another example where this actually plays out is in Genesis 26, where God actually calls Isaac to dwell in a land of famine. In verse 12, it says that Isaac sowed in the land and reaped 100-fold, and became “very wealthy.” The significance of this is that it was a time of famine–not a time when people generally sow seed. Isaac actually acted out of trust in God, not in reaction to the situation around him; as a result, God’s blessing of Isaac stood in stark contrast to the world around him–in the days of famine he had plenty.
I say all this to say that in times like these, we need to challenge ourselves to put our trust in God, who is higher than any economic power on the globe. If God can feed millions of people daily by dropping bread from the sky, and if He can feed Elijah from the ravens, He can certainly take care of those who put their trust in Him–both in tough times and in good. We need to be leaning on Him.
So…how does this “leaning” flesh out? Jesus talked about this idea of trusting in God over the world’s material system at length during what we call the “Sermon on the Mount.” In Matt. 6:19-34, Jesus tells us that our “treasure” is really a matter of the heart (v.21). He also tells us not to be concerned about our basic needs, that God knows and is fully able to take care of us–that our focus needs to be on His kingdom. When we can forget about the worries of our own heart to focus on what God is doing, that’s a good display of trust right there.
So these are the things I’m encouraging my own heart with, and hope to encourage you with as well. I think living this out includes choosing not to worry (which Jesus was pretty clear about), reminding ourselves that we aren’t governed by the economic systems of this world, but by Someone higher. I think it involves choosing to trust God, to lean ourselves upon Him, especially when we feel afraid. I think it involves not settling for lack–meaning that if we do experience lack, we shouldn’t just sit back and declare it to be God’s will for us, but to trust Him to get us out of that situation–to make a way for us.
And one more important point: I think we should not stop being generous. Just as Isaac sowed in famine, we need to sow good seeds of generosity. I’m not talking about working a seed-faith type formula as much as I’m talking about trusting God enough to practice the virtue of generosity even when it hurts. I’m not saying we should give our money to rich televangelists. I’m saying we should support people around us who are doing good Kingdom things, and bless those in need. Over and over in Scripture (both Testaments) we see that being a blessing to others is part of our birthright. When God blesses us in famine, it isn’t for us to horde it for ourselves, but for us to help others. And if you are one of those whom God has blessed with wealth–the Bible makes it clear that this comes with a high level of responsibility to care for others. But wealthy or no…we are not given permission to cease to be generous just because we are uncertain of what the future holds. In the world’s economy, you gain wealth by storing it up and hording it; but in God’s economy, receiving comes through giving. I think that choosing to remain generous in famine is one probably of the greatest acts of trust we can practice.
So…are we headed that way? Are we headed for days of lack? I don’t know. What I do know is, I don’t want to wait for some global financial collapse to scramble around looking for someplace to lean. I want to remember now that my heart should lean upon the Lord, especially in times like these. No matter what the TV or the papers say…God is fully able to take care of us. Even if it means sending ravens.