Dealing with economic problems and worries is the main concern for many of us today. Our concerns range from the current problem of increasing unemployment and consumer debt to long term plans concerning our investments for the future.
This recession is global, affecting all of us.
Webster's Dictionary defines recession as "a period of reduced economic activity." A healthy economy thrives on buying and selling. When consumers cut back on spending, businesses lose income and cut expenses by laying off employees. When this takes place on a large scale, the vicious cycle of increased unemployment, resulting in further reduction in spending, greater loss of income, and additional layoffs sends the economy into a tailspin.
What does all of this mean to you and me?
What can we do to survive the hard times that lie ahead? How can we plan investments that will lead us to future stability?
First, let's understand that the term "economic problems" can be misleading because the fundamental causes are not merely economic. As I wrote in a previous commentary (God's bailout-plan), we are currently reaping the consequences of greed and deception—too many consumers buying on credit what they could not afford and lenders making irresponsible loans, especially in the housing market. This has sent shock waves of fear and worry, spawning a crisis of confidence. Now, instead of overspending, many worried consumers are now under-spending.
Resultant business downturns and failures have led to massive losses in stock markets around the world, leaving many with steadily declining retirement funds. It could be said that, "Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!" (Haggai 1:6, New Living Translation). Why? "Then the LORD sent this message through the prophet Haggai: 'Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins?'" (verses 2-4).
Sadly, this is also true today. The apostle Paul wrote that at the time of the end people would be "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:4). This certainly describes a growing trend today.
Columnist Gene Edward Veith bemoans this trend, "In 1920 the church gave 10 percent of the total offering to missions, compared to today's 2 percent, … giving less per capita than Christians gave during the Great Depression. It is to our shame that we are so stingy with our money toward God" (World Magazine, October 22, 2005).
The Bible quotes God asking, "Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! But you ask, 'What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?' You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me" (Malachi 3:8, NLT).
If you live in the United States, the solution to our economic problems can be found in your wallet or purse. I don't mean dollar bills, but what is written on them, "In God we trust." Oh, that this were so! The greatest crisis of confidence is faith and trust in Almighty God. While we pursue the good life, the house of God lies in ruins—economically and spiritually.
Jesus stated bluntly, "No one can serve two masters … you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24, NLT). He reminds us that God knows our needs and promises that if we "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness," He will supply all of our needs (Matthew 6:33).
God's challenge to you is no different than His challenge to others in the past: "Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing" (Malachi 3:10, New Revised Standard Version). God can and often does exercise control over who receives or doesn't receive the blessings of material wealth.
So what is your best investment? That depends on whom or what you trust—God or money. Jesus Christ's advice is to "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust [or inflation or recession] destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).
For additional guidance on what you can do to receive God's blessing in today's unstable world so that you may reap the true riches that God promises to those who seek first the Kingdom of God, I encourage you to request, download or read online our free booklets, Managing Your Finances and The Gospel of the Kingdom.