Tag Archives: Economy

Yet You Did Not Return to Me: Economic Disaster

I recently wrote that coronavirus might be judgment from God and an opportunity to draw nearer to God. But, by my observation, most people and many Christians seem to be focused on the sins of others. Uncivil discourse on racism, LGBTQ rights, MAGA, the pandemic, abortion, cultural Marxism, and a myriad of other concerns consume our time as people trample each other in a panic of virtue signaling. Instead of examining ourselves against God’s standards, we’re promoting ourselves as righteous based on which group or cause we identify with. This is not repentance.

Lost in all this turmoil is any sense that coronavirus might be a wake-up call from God. Instead of an opportunity for individuals to repent, various groups see the pandemic as an opportunity to advance their worldly agendas.

Prosperity & Turning Away from God

Before bringing catastrophic judgment, God gets a nation’s attention in a variety of ways. A nation that turns away from God and ignores him often does so in the midst of prosperity. This is consistent with Jesus’ teaching that we cannot serve both God and money, either we will hate one and love the other or we will be devoted to one and despise the other (Matthew 6:24). In the time of the prophet Amos, the rich in the northern kingdom of Israel oppressed the poor in their quest for wealth (Amos 2:7; 4:1; 5:11; 8:4,6).

Missed Opportunities to Repent

God brought calamities upon Israel to remind them—“I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8). He brought disaster so that they might repent.

But they did not.

After each calamity the Lord declared—“yet you did not return to me” (Amos 4:6,8,9,10,11).  As a result, though God had been longsuffering, eventually Israel would be destroyed by Assyria.

Economic Disaster

The first calamity God brought upon Israel was economic disaster, which, in an agricultural economy, is expressed as draught, blight, locusts and famine (Amos 4: 6-9).

Sin reflects our desire for happiness and satisfaction apart from God. When God removes our prosperity, he thwarts our efforts to find heaven on earth and provides us with an opportunity to repent. However, a person with a rebellious and hardened heart “shakes his fist” at God and refuses to repent and draw near.

America’s Economic Sins

As did Israel in the time of Amos, the world in general, and the U.S. in particular faces economic distress. But the majority narrative that the U.S. economy was strong and our economic problems will go away when the pandemic is under control is a lie. It is strong delusion. This narrative ignores our economic sins. As long as we fail to recognize our sin, there is no chance anyone will repent.

What do I mean by economic sin? We are a debtor nation that cannot repay the debt owed to our trading partners. This is wicked (Psalm 37:21). Our lifestyle is subsidized in part by some of the poorest nations on earth. When the plunder of the poor is in your house it gets God’s attention (Isaiah 3:13-15). The pursuit of wealth dwarfs the pursuit of God as we convince ourselves that either God doesn’t exist or that we can serve both God and money. We condone an economic system that can only thrive on discontent and debt even as it demands our full allegiance. This is problematic for Christians as it leaves little time and energy to advance the Kingdom of God (Proverbs 23:4).

The Worst Is Ahead

Our economic actions have assured consequences. We reap what we sow. Record individual, corporate, national and international debt is evidence that we have lived beyond our means for decades. The party is over and the economic hangover will be the worst we’ve ever experienced. To make matters worse, U.S. monetary policy (with the Federal Reserve believing they can stave off another Great Depression by buying debt) is on a collision course with hyperinflation. If they don’t reverse course, everyone’s savings will be wiped out.

We dare not carry on as usual during these times unless we know for sure we have nothing to repent of. We do not want to hear God say of us, “Yet you did not return to me.” Our economic famine might turn into an actual famine. Furthermore, if our nation follows the pattern of Israel, we will also experience ”not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” Dare we think that those who desire to tear down our statues and our society will not come after Christians? When persecution arrives, will we be ready spiritually?

Still Doubtful About the Precarious State of Our Economy?

If you still hold doubts about the precarious condition of our economy, these articles explain why our economy was weak before the pandemic:

The Wizard of Odd – Trump Edition. Why debt is a problem and why our standard of living must go down in order to pay it back.

What Really Causes Inequality? Contains answers to this question that both conservatives and liberals will love and hate.

How Much Socialism Does it Take to Collapse an Economy? – Part 2 Explains why U.S. monetary policy is headed toward hyperinflation (this article is fairly technical).

The Money Changers Have Stolen From Our Future – Why We Will Have to Live on Less Explains why the prevalent financial practice of ignoring the future to attain short term gain makes our economic prosperity unsustainable.

America’s Level of Prosperity Is Not Sustainable – Explores the implications of our trade deficit.

Feeling Repressed? Discusses stealthy methods used to transfer your money to the government. Hint- it involves inflation.

Why Christians Care About Economics

How we make our money is just as important as how we spend it.

Economic activity is one of the most common and basic forms of human interaction and the Bible has much to say about it. However, it takes time to understand the complexities of our modern economy so that we can better apply God’s principles to our everyday activity. Here are five reasons your effort will be worthwhile.

1) Good stewardship includes taking care of the economy.

Everything is God’s (Psalm 24:1). We are given the privilege of being stewards of God’s creation. (Genesis 1:26–28). But good stewardship involves more than charitable giving, wise spending, and performing our jobs with integrity.

Good stewardship includes taking care of the economy. In Israel, people provided for their families utilizing land, capital (tools and animals), and their own labor. Prohibitions against theft, laziness, and moving boundary markers were designed to maintain everyone’s ability to steward his allotted piece of God’s creation.

In today’s complex economy, protecting each person’s ability to steward from the evil schemes of others is no less important. In an agricultural society you literally reap what you sow. But in our economy, most people entrust their money to a local bank, the government, or a financial institution. The problem is, as attested by events leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, they may invest your money in dishonest ways that enrich some while bankrupting others. You might become a victim or unwittingly victimize others.

How we make our money is important because, if we gain wealth at the expense of others rather than produce wealth, we take what God has given to others to steward and thus deprive them of that opportunity.

A better understanding of economics will help Christians identify, oppose, and refrain from participating in investment vehicles that simply transfer wealth rather than produce it.

2) God expects us to defend the defenseless and deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

The Bible often describes the wicked in terms of economic interaction. The wicked have no concern for the poor (Proverbs 29:7), use dishonest and deceptive means to gain wealth (Micah 6:10–12), and are free to oppress the poor when society honors their vile practices (Psalm 12:5–8).

Psalm 82:2–4 neatly sums up our responsibility to defend the poor, orphans, and the oppressed from the wicked. We can only maintain their rights and rescue them when we stop defending laws and systems that show partiality to the wicked.

Understanding economics helps us uncover wicked practices in an economy that is, by design, complex and non-transparent. Further motivation to study economics comes from knowing God’s heart to defend the poor and his determination to judge their oppressors (Isaiah 3:13–14).

3) We want our government to restrain evil, not enable it.

We know stealing and lying are wrong, but in our economy there are legal ways to get something for nothing and deceive others on a grand scale. Economists refer to one such practice as “rent seeking” which has been popularly described as an effort to grab a bigger slice of the economic pie rather than make the pie bigger. One familiar form of rent seeking is lobbying to gain an unfair advantage. Those with more money have more opportunity to obtain rents from the government. Thus these transfers of wealth tend to be from the majority of taxpayers to the rich, though sometimes, economic equals compete for rents.

Also, when government fails to properly restrain evil in financial markets, wealth is transferred by deceptive or fraudulent practices simply because people can do so without consequences. Quite the contrary, they often can expect the government to bail them out.

Legalized theft is not a new problem. Consider this from the Heidelberg Catechism (1563):

Question 110. What does God forbid in the eighth commandment? 
 Answer. Not only such theft and robbery as are punished by the magistrate; but God views as theft all wicked tricks and devices, whereby we seek to draw to ourselves our neighbor’s goods, whether by force or with show of right, such as unjust weights, ells, measures, wares, coins, usury, or any means forbidden of God; so moreover all covetousness, and all useless waste of His gifts. (emphasis mine)

4) We want to leave an inheritance to the next generation, not debt and a ruined economy.

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children (Proverbs 13:22). One can argue, considering other passages that condemn the accumulation of wealth for selfish purposes (Luke 12:16–21) or for security (Job 31:24Psalm 52:7), that the biblical emphasis is on preserving the ability of the next generation to steward resources. In economic terms, this means stewarding present resources in a manner that leaves the next generation unburdened by debt and in a position to work productively.

5) We need to keep ourselves unstained by the world economy.

Any economic system devised by sinful humanity will often be opposed to biblical values. Our economic system encourages covetousness and scoffs at contentment. It rewards debtors and punishes savers. It implements immoral wealth transfers. It enables one generation to live beyond its means and pass the bill to the next.

We must not be deceived into thinking that conservatism or liberalism has the answers. God has given us the answers in the Bible. Our first priority is to learn what the Bible says about money, but an understanding of economics helps Christians test economic practices and the words of economists, bankers, business leaders, and politicians against biblical truth.

God, the “Father of the fatherless and the protector of widows” (Psalm 68:5), views our religion as pure and undefiled when we look after them in their distress (James 1:27). To rescue the needy or to be a Good Samaritan or oppose oppressors will always cost us something. Whatever cost, inconvenience, or trial we encounter because we choose to live by biblical economic principles cannot compare to the immeasurable joy that belongs to us who, because we are followers of Jesus, steward our time and money wisely (Matthew 25:22–23).

(This article first appeared at desiringGod.org.)

The Wizard of Odd – Trump Edition

wizard hat and money

Two years ago I wrote an article that poked fun at President Obama’s notion that America’s economy was strong and that it would adapt to the global economy. Since then the elephant in the room that President Obama and most of America ignored has only gotten fatter.

Swamped by debt, American households owe more money now than ever before. Government debt is at an all time high. Our trade deficit has worsened. America’s high standard of living rests on a foundation made of sand.

If you went out and borrowed a large sum of money you could purchase all sorts of goods and services and make it appear that your personal financial situation is strong. You might even think to yourself that future pay raises will allow you to pay off your debt and maintain your lifestyle. But deep down you know, or you should, that there is a limit to how much debt you can take on. Some day the party ends and you have to pay back what you borrowed. Then your standard of living will decrease.

But somehow, according to most politicians and economists, when you multiply the above scenario by 325 million people, it’s different. Magically, government debt presents no problem at all!

In his state of the union address, President Trump touted the rise in the stock market and decreases in unemployment since he took office. This is odd since during the presidential campaign he called the stock market a “big, fat, ugly bubble” and described the unemployment numbers as fake.

After the election, based on the promise of a business-friendly Trump administration, the stock market rocketed upward anticipating economic growth. Though it is true that consumers and companies spend more money when they feel wealthier because of asset price gains; it is also true that spending money based on unrealized gains may not be the most prudent plan. With recent tax cuts, an action that increases the national debt, many businesses felt even richer and they increased spending and hiring. This led many people to believe that all is well with the economy. Perhaps this explains the relative silence about the massive increases in spending (and debt) that will result from the latest budget legislation.

I have a few questions.

Who is going to buy the increased production of American workers this faux economic boom provides?

President Trump vowed to decrease the trade deficit but, in 2017, it increased. If he continues to fail in his goal, we will increase our debt to other nations as we consume our production plus that of export nations.

Oddly, hardly anyone is talking about what happens if he succeeds. In 2017, the U.S. dollar lost 12 percent of its value against a basket of currencies that included the euro, yen, pound sterling and Canadian dollar. This means the price of foreign goods will rise and that we can buy fewer of them. Significantly, a larger percentage of our collective work effort will be going into producing goods that foreigners consume—in other words, into exports. Since we will buy fewer foreign products and consume fewer of our own, our standard of living must decrease. The wealth that has been flowing our way for so many years will reverse.

How have we been deceived into thinking that our national debt doesn’t matter?

It is odd that President Trump and other elected leaders believe making America great again means prosperity powered by increased indebtedness.

Governments may think they can borrow forever but the Bible says otherwise. To repay debt with more debt is not repaying at all. The Bible says it is wicked to do so (Psalm 37:21). Christians surely know our nation will suffer serious consequences for this behavior. We should be outraged at recent tax cuts followed by spending increases.

Inevitably, massive debt erodes the value of a nation’s currency to the point where foreign holders of dollars would rather buy U.S. assets or our exports than buy treasuries (debt). This means interest rates must rise to attract buyers of government debt used to run our oversized government. The cost to run government becomes more onerous as interest payments on the national debt increase. (Think of an adjustable-rate mortgage on a national scale.)

Higher interest rates increase the cost of doing business and cut into profits. Consumers buy fewer houses and automobiles because of increased loan costs. The economy slows down into a recession and workers get laid off.

The supply of goods collapses because we can buy fewer imports and more of the goods made here are exported. Less supply means prices increase further. If we try to maintain the current level of government spending, inflation will get even worse.

Does this scenario sound to you like a booming economy? The power brokers in our nation would like us to believe the economy is so good that it is in danger of overheating. They turn the facts on their heads, claiming rising prices result from too much of a good thing (demand from a booming economy) instead of from too much of a bad thing (demand caused by inflation of the money supply via debt). Instead of taking blame for high prices resulting from money inflation, they tell us they can control it. (This article explains why they won’t be able to next time).

But, as I said in my article two years ago, reality takes a back seat to hope in the Land of Odd. In Obama’s make-believe world, government supplied us with hope; in Trump’s fairy tale, “free” markets that are “fair” to America will deliver us from our folly.

Dawn of a New Day or Midnight In America?

Dawn of a New Day or Midnight in America

Some on Christian radio proclaim Donald Trump’s victory as an act of God’s mercy, giving our nation a second chance. I suggested in a previous article that we should consider the choices we had for president this election as judgment from God.

So, is this a fresh start for America? Or, have we applied the brakes too late or not at all?

It really shouldn’t matter to Christians, at least not when considering what our next step should be. Is not our immediate task in any case to draw nearer to God?

Defining a Nation’s Greatness

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

A return to economic prosperity won’t result in righteousness. In fact, prosperity is probably a major source of our problems.

Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die:

 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; 

give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.

 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you

 and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ 

Or I may become poor and steal,

 and so dishonor the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9)

Evangelical Christians have rightly stood against abortion and sexual sin. But, I’m afraid we have acquiesced to greed and covetousness, turning a blind eye to our economic sins. Too often we link prosperity with God’s approval regardless of how we attain our wealth.

Midnight in America

Interestingly, the Bible doesn’t specifically state how much money is too much or how much is too little. But, as we see from Proverbs 30:8-9, having too much is as perilous as having too little, at least from a spiritual standpoint. Furthermore, either extreme may reveal our true heart condition. Here and in the Lord’s Prayer no more than one’s daily provision is requested implying we can be content with that. Perhaps an examination of our hearts and our present actions will reveal to us how we might respond to the following:

  • If we lose everything will we still praise God as did Job?
  • If we lose everything will we resort to dishonest gain in any form?
  • If we prosper, will we trust in our portfolio or in God for our future?
  • If we prosper, will we consider our wealth to be ours to do with as we please?

If we place our hope in our leaders to make America great again while we whistle past the graveyard of our sins without forsaking our idols, then it is indeed midnight in America.

What About Consequences?

God doesn’t have a blind eye.

If we think a fresh start means that we won’t suffer the consequences of past sin, we err. God is not mocked.

Our nation will suffer the consequences from decades of abortion, covetousness, greed and all manner of evil. We will reap what we have sown. But of one thing we can be certain –we won’t get a better result by continuing to disobey God.

A repeal of immoral and unjust laws whether Roe v Wade, laws redefining marriage or laws governing our economy will unquestionably be good. Doing so will restrain evil. There is, however, something more fundamental to address.

Dawn of a New Day

It is the dawn of a new day for Christians in America. We will at some point have to live out our faith in circumstances we would rather avoid. Even so, we will be much richer in faith if, in response to our plight, we trust God and not in our wealth.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:8-10

Let’s pray that by God’s grace we emerge from this present darkness – having renounced our friendship with the world, having mourned our sin and having been humbled by sin’s consequences – into the presence of the Lord and into a comfort that exceeds any that can be attained by earthly treasure. (Mt. 5:4)