We have been shocked, sobered and scared by recent economic developments in the United States. The complexities of this crisis were simply overwhelming to the average citizen. But almost everyone was able to grasp very quickly the enormous magnitude of the initially proposed $700 billion dollar “bailout” plan.
Higher taxes, greater federal debt, a larger spending deficit, rising fuel costs, inflation and further devaluation of the dollar will be the likely consequences as investors divert money from the volatile stock market into commodities including crude oil. The alternative, we are told, is economic disaster for the nation on a scale comparable to or in some ways perhaps even worse than the Great Depression in the 1930s.
I am not an economist. But one thing I remember from my economics class in college was the instructor’s play-on-words representation of one basic view of economics: God helps those who help themselves, so take plenty.
Actually, this humorous one-liner strikes at the heart of our current economic crisis. The fundamental cause is not economic but spiritual—human nature.
The Bible warns that, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10 1 Timothy 6:10For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
American King James Version×). From Main Street to Wall Street, greed and deceit (including self-deceit) have led us to where we are today. For years, businesses and financial institutions seeking greater revenues have dangled their wares in front of gullible consumers, enticing them with easy credit.
For those people who spent money they didn’t have on things they couldn’t afford, the so-called American Dream was simply a fantasy that has turned into a nightmare—for them, for the entire nation and for the rest of the world. Another one-liner asserts: “Unless your income exceeds your outgo, your upkeep will be your downfall.”
On The Oprah Winfrey Show economic advisor Suze Orman put it this way, “A lot of you have built your personal financial foundation on deceit and lies. You bought a home that you couldn’t afford … You spent money like it was going out of style and it wasn’t your money to spend … When you borrow money, you leverage yourself. The United States of America leveraged itself so high that when it started to come down, the whole thing now has fallen down” (oprah.com ).
So government officials and their economic advisors began scrambling to take immediate action on an unprecedented scale in hopes of stabilizing the economy by rescuing major investment firms on the verge of bankruptcy. Will their plan really halt the nation’s economic decline or even be of any help? Experts are not sure. For certain it will not solve all of our economic problems but possibly it may delay the inevitable consequences of our living beyond our means, which constitutes self deception.
The government’s plan has been aptly described as a “bailout.” This is very much like an overprotective parent bailing a delinquent child out of jail instead of allowing him or her to suffer the consequences of his or her actions. In psychological terms, it is called being an enabler. We must all learn from the law of cause and effect. Always protecting someone from the consequences of bad decisions allows that person to continue wrong courses of action, leading to greater problems in the future.
A fundamental truth of the Bible is that eventually sin will lead to disaster and righteousness will be rewarded, but those same scriptures also acknowledge that for a time the opposite often may be true in “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4 Galatians 1:4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
American King James Version×). Nevertheless, key passages in the book of Psalms address this inequity and point us to the fact that ultimately God will right these wrongs (Psalms 73:3-22 Psalms 73:3-22 3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. 5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. 6 Therefore pride compasses them about as a chain; violence covers them as a garment. 7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. 8 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. 9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walks through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return here: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. 11 And they say, How does God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? 12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. 13 Truly I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. 14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. 15 If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of your children. 16 When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; 17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. 18 Surely you did set them in slippery places: you cast them down into destruction. 19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. 20 As a dream when one wakes; so, O Lord, when you wake, you shall despise their image. 21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. 22 So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before you.
American King James Version×, Psalms 37:1-40 Psalms 37:1-40 1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers, neither be you envious against the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. 3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shall you dwell in the land, and truly you shall be fed. 4 Delight yourself also in the LORD: and he shall give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. 6 And he shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday. 7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not yourself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass. 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not yourself in any wise to do evil. 9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait on the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. 10 For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yes, you shall diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. 11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. 12 The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes on him with his teeth. 13 The LORD shall laugh at him: for he sees that his day is coming. 14 The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation. 15 Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. 16 A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. 17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the LORD upholds the righteous. 18 The LORD knows the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever. 19 They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied. 20 But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away. 21 The wicked borrows, and pays not again: but the righteous shows mercy, and gives. 22 For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off. 23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delights in his way. 24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholds him with his hand. 25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. 26 He is ever merciful, and lends; and his seed is blessed. 27 Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for ever more. 28 For the LORD loves judgment, and forsakes not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off. 29 The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever. 30 The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, and his tongue talks of judgment. 31 The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide. 32 The wicked watches the righteous, and seeks to slay him. 33 The LORD will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged. 34 Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt you to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, you shall see it. 35 I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. 36 Yet he passed away, and, see, he was not: yes, I sought him, but he could not be found. 37 Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. 38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off. 39 But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble. 40 And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.
American King James Version×).
Man has yet to learn the fundamental lesson that there are some problems we cannot solve apart from God. The Bible reveals that God has the ultimate bailout plan to save mankind from self-annihilation—which would happen if our foolish choices were not curtailed (Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×). God’s plan is the only one that will work, because only He can change human nature—which He promises to do (Ezekiel 11:19 Ezekiel 11:19And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:
American King James Version×; 36:26).
When the final elements of that plan are put into place then and only then will all of our economic woes and other problems be solved. In the meantime we need to make sure that our own house is in order economically—and especially spiritually.