January 2009: How Do I Handle the Financial Crisis?

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past year or so, you probably already know this country is going through what many call a "financial crisis." I would argue that we have been going through a moral and spiritual crisis for much longer and is something certainly more pressing, but the crises are not unrelated. In fact, we look to God's word and find that we are not unlike Israel of old, especially as described by the prophet Amos.

In the book of Amos, we find that the Israelites had rejected God and His ways and were basically following their own ways. To them, their service to God was mere ritual and they thought nothing of following the false gods right along with the true God (Amos 4:4-5). They looked at the Sabbath (God's holy day) as a mighty inconvenience, and they could not wait to get back to the business of making money (Amos 8:5). They looked at their service as a drudgery and a nuisance, and had their minds set on what they could do if those bothersome days did not exist! They treated their fellow man poorly (Amos 4:1), exacted taxes from the ones who could least afford it (Amos 5:11), and they devoured the poor for the sole purpose of getting them out of the way that they might take what was rightfully theirs (Amos 8:4). They had such disregard for their own brethren that Amos opens and closes with the condemnation that they sold their brethren for silver and traded the needy for a pair of sandals (Amos 2:6; 8:6). Such was their greed for having it all, it is said they even desired the dust that remained on the head of the poor (Amos 2:7). Taking away their personal possessions and goods was not enough, it seems!

In their efforts to indulge themselves and subjugate their own brethren, they treated their fellow man unfairly (Amos 2:8) and forced some to break their vows (Amos 2:12). They sold in measures that shorted the buyer and proclaimed their money less than its true value (Amos 8:5). What they did sell was nothing more than the chaff of the wheat-- useless for food (Amos 8:6). And if that was not bad enough, they made a special effort to persecute those who lived humbly (Amos 2:7) and intimidated others into silence (Amos 5:13). They hated anyone who spoke of "righteousness" and rebuked their rebukers (Amos 5:10, 12) and the sad part about it all was that they simply did not care about their fellow man and how badly they were treating them (6:6). They were too busy living a life of luxury and ease to be concerned with others (Amos 6:4-8).

Does any of that sound familiar to you? I cannot help but think of the parallels between Israel then and our country now, but I say that with no happiness whatsoever.

That being said, how can I, as a disciple of Christ, make it through this? It may be argued that our moral and spiritual failures led to the current financial crisis, but knowledge of how we got here does not make my life any easier. How can I handle this current situation? More importantly, I should be asking how I, as a Christian, should handle it. Let us take a look at some things God has given us to help us through these difficult times.

First, I need to examine myself and make sure I am doing what I should be doing. For the topic at hand, that means I should make sure I am not part of the problem! Materialism and greed contributed a great deal in getting us to where we now are, as a country, and I should not be a part of the problem. I, as a Christian, should set my mind "on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth" (Colossians 3:2). If I find that I have put myself in a precarious financial situation because of my materialism, I need to make corrections quickly and do what I can to start living as I should have been living all along. If that means refraining from unnecessary purchases, selling a car, moving into a smaller house or apartment, or eating at home more often, that is what I better do. I imagine it was difficult for the faithful Israelites to resist the pull of their materialistic brethren during the time of Amos, but the ones who survived were the ones who put their trust in God, not in their riches. That is exactly what I must do if I want to make it through these difficult times (cf. 1 Timothy 6:17).

Second, I need to make sure I am the worker I need to be. When many companies are looking to cut their expenses, downsizing is often the first choice and someone will be looking to see whose position is expendable. I probably do not have to tell you many employers will cut the ones who contribute the least to the company, so now is the time to examine myself and see if I am giving them my best. Am I someone who is recognized for his or her hard work, honesty, and loyalty? Christians should, more than anyone else, be hard-working, honest, and reliable employees because that is the kind of character we are supposed to have as God's people. If I am unwilling to work, I should not expect rewards (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We would do well to heed the words of the wise writer, who said, "whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Finally, I need to just put my trust fully in God. I must do this because even if I do everything right, that does not mean I will not lose my job or I will not be adversely affected by the current situation in this country. I must learn to commit my way to God and let Him be the guide of my life (cf. Psalm 37:5). I cannot spend endless hours worrying about what "might" happen or what "has" happened; sometimes things just happen! What I must do is stick with God, keep living faithfully before Him, and trust that He will see me through. It worked for Job, and it will work for me, too. And you!

Steven Harper