Ummm God, What About my Checkbook?

The US is going through one of the worst financial downturns in years. Businesses are closing across the country at an alarming rate. Employees are being laid off. As of the writing of this article, some sources are quoting the American jobless rate at close to 10%. Even if you have a job you are still nervous. If you don’t, chances are you have probably been job-hunting for at least a year, if not more. It would appear that currently we are living in a culture of fear. Fear of financial ruin, fear of losing our 401k, fear of instability in general.

During this time it is normal to ask “where is God in all this?” Are we simply a product of our economy? Bound by the ebb and flow of normal economic lulls and highs? Is God out to lunch? Does He even care? As I have been thinking about these questions, a few things have occurred to me. Both my wife and mother-in-law have provided interesting insight here, as well as the Bible itself. Let us examine for a minute what we really lose vs. what we gain when our environment forces us to tighten the belt a bit. Now let me start off by clarifying that I am not forgetting about people who have lost their homes, lost their retirements, or cannot afford to eat. For these things there is no easy answer. But lets talk for a minute about some of the things that relative wealth (and America is still a wealthy nation) allows us to do.

When our materialistic needs are being met, I believe we have a tendency to become cocooned. Let me explain. If I have enough money to get the groceries I need, to take my family on vacation, to make every mortgage payment, and to keep up on some of life’s more enjoyable activities; then what purpose am I fulfilling? Sure I can contribute to charity or to church if I choose to do so – that is the good part. But what is happening to my spiritual side? Might I not become more or less a little apathetic when it comes to caring about other people? Or for that matter, needing other people? Needing God? If I can live on my own “island” and everything is comfortably provided, then what need do I have to seek out the rest of the world? I can simply keep buying HD television sets, new cars, and upgrading my cell phone each year. If I wanted to, I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone face-to-face at all.

But what about when that financial current is rattled? What about when I get laid off, or my spouse gets laid off, or all of a sudden I can’t make my mortgage payment? Well I can react in 1 of 2 ways. The first way is that I can hoard everything I have left, panic, and become depressed or even angry. Angry at God and/or everyone around me. The other option is to see this as an opportunity to possibly live the way God wants Americans to live. Needing each other and helping each other. Stepping out from behind the Internet or cell phone and into the real world. We must come outside of our comfortable bubble; we must leave our “island” (at least temporarily) and begin to wade through the deep water. In times of trouble God’s people should not become bitter. Though Job was subjected to severe circumstances in the Old Testament, he never rejected or renounced his creator. I don’t think God is punishing America. But if it is a judgment, we may in fact deserve it. What does a country get when it sets itself up as its own creators? When we are shown that our wealth is always transitory? I think we come face to face with our real selves -- for better or worse. As my family and myself are by no means aloof from this latest economic recession, I am hoping that I come out of it with the lesson learned, and not the anger. I am hoping the same for America.


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