Friday, 10 October 2008

Wisdom on the financial crisis

The lyrics should be changed: Not “money makes the world go round” but “money turns the world upside down.” If it hasn’t affected you yet, the financial crisis will - whether your job, house price, or utility bills. And this can be deeply distressing.

The Bible is a very practical book. In particular, its proverbs contain wisdom from our Maker on how we should best live. It seemed only fitting then, to briefly mention a little of what they have to say on money. I hope it may provide some direction and perhaps even comfort.

  1. Quash greed

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.” (Proverbs 23v4)

So often in our culture, the assumptions about we “need” or “must have” are excessive. This can lead to an unjustified sense that we will not cope, and so to excessive anxiety and perhaps excessive arguments in the home. In reality, people can survive comfortably on very little – even if it means buying home brands and second hand clothes. Learning contentment with less is therefore critical.

  1. Control spending

“He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves oil will never be rich.” (Proverbs 21v17).

The “oil” is not a reference to cars, but to a precious luxury in the ancient world. The point is that if we let our “wants” control us, debt will only follow. Self-discipline here does not mean luxuries cannot be enjoyed. But it will mean that they cannot dominate. In fact, we will probably enjoy them all the more when they are more sparse.

  1. Work hard

“All hard work brings profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” (Proverbs 14v23)

We might respond that people’s current experience is that this is not the case. But it is generally so. And when redundancy or crisis comes, the lesson is that the only way forward to is to breathe deeply, survey the scene and roll one’s sleeves up. Better to have any job, which means we can pay our way and take responsibility for our lives, than not to have a job at all.

  1. Gain perspective

“Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a rich man whose ways are perverse.” (Proverbs 28v6)

Here perhaps is the secret of contentment – to take more delight in being honest, hardworking and honourable, than attaining a certain level of possessions. When stemming from faith in Christ, it is these things that matter to God. And surely we see that the child who is raised in relative poverty but has these things, is “better off” than those who are wealthy and even well educated, but don’t.

  1. Honour God

“Better a little with fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil.” (Proverbs 15v16)

So putting God first is more important than all else. It not only means we can look to him for strength and call on him for help when times are tough, it means that come what may, we are destined for a world finally free from the worries of this one. Jesus told a parable about a man who fills his barn for retirement only to die and find himself facing judgement. It makes the right priority only too clear.

  1. Seek wisdom

“Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?” (Proverbs 17v16)

In being God’s Son, Jesus is described as the wisdom of God. And his brother James urges Christians to pray for wisdom. Well, if you have put God’s Son Jesus at the centre of your life, you can be confident both that God hears your prayers, and that you will start to learn wisdom as you study the Bible and hear it taught at church. And of course, with wisdom we will know how best to face the current crisis.

  1. Do good

Misfortune pursues the sinner, but prosperity is the reward of the righteous.” (Proverbs 13v21)

Again, a general rather than absolute truth. Often the Lord shapes his people through times of trial. Nevertheless, those who put him first and seek to continue giving of the little they have to the poor and to his purposes, often speak of how he ensures that more than their needs are met.

Weekly at the moment, we are praying as churches for those in the parish who are suffering financially. I hope in some small way, the wisdom above may help you.