By Jack Kelley
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ( Luke 12:16-21)
According to a government analysis, the retirement accounts (like pension funds and 401k’s) of working Americans have lost more than $2 trillion in the past 15 months, half of it in the last 3 months. That means the average American family has just lost nearly 25% of its retirement fund, and we’re being cautioned that the end is not yet in sight.
This is on top of the 25% hit they’ve just taken in the value of their home and the increase in fuel and other costs associated with their daily lives. Many families have seen their net worth cut nearly in half. It’s not a pretty sight. Only the stock market crash of 1929 has been worse.
Who Started This?
If you’re following the editorials and news reports like I am you’ve been reading some of the most incredible speculation about what’s happening and why that we’ve seen in a long time.
Some say conditions are being created for the anti-Christ to step in and take charge. According to this scenario, he’ll be a financial peacemaker, and will take over the world’s banking systems to get control of the situation and restore order. At that point he’ll be able to determine what everybody buys and sells, excluding those who won’t follow him from the marketplace.
Others say that this crisis has been manipulated by a hand full of shadowy figures at the pinnacle of the US financial world. They’re the ones who triggered the Asian financial crisis a few years ago and now they’re implementing the same tactics against Europe. Their goal is also to control world finance but for the benefit of their cronies at Goldman Sachs, Citibank and JP Morgan.
Still others claim this is the long predicted (but studiously ignored) outcome of applying the philosophy of social activism to economic matters. They claim that since the days of the Carter Administration the government has been ignoring the basics of mortgage banking by forcing its sponsored lending institutions to grant loans to people who couldn’t pay them back. Such requirements as good credit history, proof of income, and down payments were all ignored to help more of the nation’s “disadvantaged” to own their homes. Their hope (which didn’t materialize) was that if more people in poor neighborhoods owned their homes, they’d help improve the neighborhoods which would increase the value of their property. Payment plans were sometimes adjusted downward to the point where they didn’t even cover the monthly interest charges, meaning that the “home owner’s” debt actually increased each month. While this program started off “small” in 15 selected markets, it was vastly expanded by President Clinton to become essentially a nation wide effort.
They say Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac ultimately failed because of these bad mortgages, which by government decree made up about half of their portfolios, and that triggered the failure of other institutions who bought their “Asset Backed Securities”, as bundles of these mortgages were called. Just about every sizable financial institution in the world with a fixed income portfolio holds some and will share in losses that could run in excess of $3.6 trillion dollars (that’s 3.6 with 11 zeros behind it). And that doesn’t count the losses caused by the sell off of other stocks as investors lose faith in all the world’s financial markets. The IMF estimates those losses to be another trillion or so.
And then there are those who say that God Himself is behind this. He’s giving “what-for” to those who’ve put their trust in silver and gold in an effort to humble the proud in fulfillment prophecies like James 5:1-6.
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.
They see this all happening around the time of the Fall Feasts as being a sure sign that it’s from God. This, in spite of the fact that Israel, whose time of judgment the feasts were designed for, has been much less damaged by all this than the Gentile world.
One thing everyone seems to agree on is that this isn’t going to be over anytime soon. They all say that we’ll have short periods of relative calm that will make it seem like things are OK, but they’ll be followed by more times of unrest and even greater uncertainty. Many believe that our mountain of credit card debt will come crashing down next, and before it’s all over we’ll see a totally new world wide banking system, and perhaps even a single world wide currency.
Now What Do We Do?
How should a Christian family respond to these things? The natural way is to tighten the proverbial belt, stop spending money on things we don’t need and try to reduce living expenses as quickly as possible. Many will reduce their charitable giving immediately, thinking it’s the most discretionary of all their spending, and indeed some already have. Others are turning to Ebay and Craig’s List, hoping to convert non-essential possessions into cash to help pay the bills.
The Bible suggests a different strategy. It says not to worry about it. It says you should sell unnecessary things and work to reduce your income needs, but then give the money you recover to the poor. When things are declining in value the sooner you turn them into cash the more cash you’ll get, and the more you get the more generous you can be. If your retirement fund is disappearing anyway, why not give some of it away while you can and feel good, instead of watching it disappear into thin air and feeling bad?
You’ll also be building treasure in Heaven where things like inflation and depreciation are unheard of, and at the same time cranking up the measure of blessing you receive on Earth because with the measure you use in giving, the Lord’s blessings are measured to you. (Luke 6:38)
The anxiety people feel just now comes from watching something they’ve worked for and put their faith in eroding uncontrollably right before their eyes. And if, as some believe, this erosion will continue until there’s little or nothing left the stress can only get worse. Shifting your trust from your bank account to the Lord will immediately reduce your anxiety because you’ll be putting your faith in the One who has promised to look after you, and who will never run out of money. And using part of what He’s already given you to help the less fortunate will give you such a boost that you’ll finally understand what that phrase “peace that passes all understanding” really means.
Where your treasure is there your heart will be also. Now’s the time to move your portfolio to some place where things like this can’t ever happen. Since you’re going there soon anyway, now’s the time to send it on ahead. Financial advisers caution us against converting everything to cash because they say when we do we lock in our losses. But investing in the Lord’s work will store up treasure in Heaven . It pays an eternal dividend that will put anything you could earn here to shame.
I know this sounds counter intuitive. I know every fiber of your being is telling you to tighten up and horde what you have. But I’m saying that now’s the time to become generous. Now’s the time to switch your allegiance from the things of man to the promises of God. When you do, you’ll have finally found that “sure thing” that investors have hunted for in vain since the beginning of time.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
In these three articles on Living in Hard Times I’ve identified three Biblical principles that can guide us safely through.
1. Seek His Kingdom and His Righteousness.
2. Increase Your Faith.
3. Store Up Treasure In Heaven.
Seeking His Kingdom means to start living a life more pleasing to Him, not by keeping a bunch of rules, but by offering your life to Him to use as He sees fit. Increasing your faith means trusting Him to provide for you as His part of the bargain and watching your faith grow as He comes through for you. Storing up treasure in heaven means helping the work of the kingdom as the Lord guides you, using what He’s given you for His glory. All three require us to abandon conventional wisdom and the ways of this world in favor of Biblical truth. It’s one of the biggest paradigm shifts we’ll ever make but it’s based on Paul’s admonition of 2 Cor. 4:18. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
So come on, Church. It’s time to get our hearts and minds out of the world and into the Kingdom, to finally walk by faith and not by sight. To recognize that we’re citizens of Heaven and our temporary stay here is coming to an end. To stop worrying about things that aren’t our responsibility and that we can’t control and focus on things that are our responsibility and that we can control. Time to think about going home and what it’s going to be like there, and to send our treasure on ahead so it’ll be there when we need it. It’s time to place our trust fully in the One we can neither leave nor lose, the Giver of every good and perfect gift, who has promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age, and to see to our every need along the way.