The financial turbulence and economic crisis experienced in our world in the past six to nine months has been described by some as the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Much has been said in the news about this fiscal storm, and it has become apparent that even the financial experts, economists and government officials are still sorting out what caused this international disaster and what strategies are needed to restore our economic health. There is a lack of trust in our fiscal system now, and without trust it does not work well.
Unfortunately, as Christians, we are not exempt from experiencing the effects of the economy. Many have experienced loss of employment, lost security in their retirement accounts, and some may be losing their homes through foreclosure. Our congregations and church institutions face declining offerings and are being forced to make spending cuts. Even though we may be living as faithful stewards, we are experiencing loss because of forces beyond our control.
This financial storm reminds me of the story of Jesus and his disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat when a great windstorm arose (Mark 4:36-41). The boat was becoming swamped by the storm while Jesus lay sleeping on a pillow in the stern of the boat. Fearful they would perish in the storm, the disciples finally awoke Jesus and said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” After Jesus spoke to the sea and they experienced a great calm, he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
These economic times should also remind us that we may have been putting too much faith in the systems of this world and not relying on God. When things are going well financially, it’s easy to take pride in our own wisdom and financial decisions. Now we realize the need to be more discerning in where we place our trust. Our financial decisions should be based on sound principles and trusted advice.
Recently, when an economist was asked what normal times will be like after the recession, he described the current situation as an economic heart attack. We know that life after a heart attack usually requires some lifestyle changes. There will be life after this economic heart attack, but it may require a change in our financial lifestyle. These times provide new opportunities for practicing faithful stewardship of God’s resources, discovering new expressions of mutual aid in the faith community and joining in God’s work of healing and hope in the world.
God instructed Jeremiah to purchase a field from his uncle Hanamel (Jeremiah 32:7), even though they were facing defeat and deportation. The message was that “houses and vineyards shall again be bought in this land” (Jeremiah 32:15). God called Jeremiah to make a faith declaration using a financial transaction. This is one of many examples from Scripture where we see financial transactions used as a tangible expression of faith. Life goes on, and we need to commit our financial lives to God’s plan for our lives. My wife, Wilma, and I have completed a new stewardship plan with our financial advisor. By focusing on what God is calling us to do, our goals and decisions are focused on God’s plan for our lives. Trusting in God and seeking new opportunities that align with our values helps us overcome our fears.
As followers of Jesus we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. There are many needs around us, and God has given each of us resources to care for others in need. I hear many stories throughout our denomination of people responding to the needs of others in their congregations and communities. There are many opportunities for sharing our time, talents and money in meeting the needs of others. Building strong and healthy relationships can help us overcome adversities. These times provide us with new opportunities for joining in Jesus’ work.
We do not know how long the recession will last or what we may face tomorrow or next year. Our faith in God reassures us that we have hope in the future. God is in control. No matter what happens to us, we can trust in God.
Larry D. Miller is president and CEO of Mennonite Mutual Aid.