Feb 12, 2009

RECESSION-PROOFING I- Expect Rightly

There is such a thing as having right expectations. There is also such a thing as having wrong expectations. Healthy living in this failing economic environment requires us to expect rightly. What we expect regarding the world economy hurts or redeems the quality of our lives in the face of current economic crisis.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:19 about what is and isn't right expectation as far us our world economies are concerned. He warns us to expect a sudden collapse or meltdown of our earthly securities and investments. He warns us that moth and rust are sure to nibble away on our lives' savings.

We are seeing the spectacular fulfillment of these warnings in our time as huge Wall-Street conglomerates collapse overnight. They are taking with them thousands of dollars of investors' money and workers' jobs.

Isn't this the rust and moth that Jesus is talking about? No matter how gigantic a worldly system might be, it will ultimately collapse. It is natural for it to come to a sudden or gradual demise. It will succumb to external factors that are not of its' own making and over which it has little or no control at one point or another. This is the reality of a fallen world.

Jesus further warns us that if not rust and moth, we are likely to see thieves break in and steal what we have. Here He is speaking of the flawed human character. The idea that as humanity, we are fallen and flawed, therefore, we cannot expect systemic perfection.

At a very basic level, we cannot expect societal justice and fairness without external divine help. There are people who will exploit others for short-term gain. Whether cunningly or by force, these thieves will break in and steal what others have labored so hard to build. There are people who will lobby their power, not for service to others, but for destruction of others, their properties and securities.

We are seeing this break-in as Harvard-educated genius CEOs horn their stealing skills to make a quick buck only to be found out after impoverishing thousands. We are seeing this in public servants and politicians who luck integrity. They steal from the public by not paying their taxes. Our lack of internal self-governance, when let loose, results in the exploitation of those around us. So long as we are the inventors and managers of our systems, they will be flawed.

That is why we should take Jesus seriously. Taking Him seriously requires us to consider the short-livedness of our earthly investments. It sobers us up in our expectations regarding our returns. His is a call for us to have a loose hold on earthly possessions. His is a call to a looseness that allows you to rejoice whether in plenty or in scarcity.

Furthermore, when we expect and accept the inevitability of sudden disappearance of our earthly securities we will be wiser. We will place our most priced investments and possessions elsewhere. We will also take pre-emptive measures to protect ourselves from the despair, anxiety and excessive sadness that grips people at such times.

We will take steps that shield us from emotional collapse or from making irrational decisions that are driven by fear rather than faith. Most importantly, we will seek to know the true meaning of life and to invest our resources differently. We shall anchor our hearts with God.

Our current high levels of anxiety are symptomatic of our flawed expectations in worldly economic systems. When eighty percent of us are worried over the economic outlook, it speaks volumes about our invested confidence in these failed systems. There is a correlation between our high levels of economic anxiety and our expectations regarding the returns from the economic systems. It is a misplaced confidence that leads to immeasurable disappointment. Simply put, our anxiety reveals our idolatry.

Jesus' call in Matthew 6:19 is for us to expect rightly. There cannot be true redemption and a path to healthy living in this environment without an adjustment of our expectations. We should expect rightly regarding returns on our earthly investments. We should expect rightly regarding the functionality of our economic system. We should expect rightly regarding the integrity of those who are entrusted with safeguarding those investments. And we should expect rightly regarding our own integrity and trustworthiness in the process. Expecting rightly is part of the larger picture in redemptive living for now and for the future.

Feb 9, 2009

RECESSION PROOFING--Introduction

(In this picture: Christian Businessmen faced with hard times meet over breakfast coffee in Minneapolis to study what the Bible says about recession-proofing and to stand with each other through prayer. I shared with them these principles that I will be discussing).
A few posts ago I wrote here on how to live well in the middle of economic anxiety (See October 8th 2008 post). My premise was that the Bible, more specifically Jesus, gives us a blue-print for recession-proofing our lives. I wrote that it is possible, in times such as ours, to live anxiety-free. I gave five approaches or principles to such a way of living which we find in Jesus' teaching from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:19-34. Among these principles was the principle of expectation (Vs 19). Jesus warned that we should expect a sudden collapse or meltdown of our earthly economic securities and investments. He warned that moth and rust are sure to nibble away on our lives' savings. Over the next few posts, I will be taking a more detailed look at each of these principles. I will delve deeper into why they are important to pay careful attention to them. We will start with the above mentioned principle of expectations discussing the biblical approach to expectation management. Next will be the principle of investment prioritization as we take a look at Jesus' call for us to invest differently. This principle is about safe-guarding whatever little we have left. Moreover, although we may have lost financial savings it does not mean we have nothing left to invest. Thirdly we will discuss the principle of Refocusing. Sometimes life requires us to reboot. The principle of refocusing is a call to evaluate our present state and if necessary, reboot. Jesus clearly calls us not to let the darkness out there encroach on the light inside of us. But when the light inside of us is darkness, we must of necessity reboot. Fourth will be the principle of Loyalty. We will see Jesus' call for us to remain loyal to God and how that brings about our personal well-being and ushers in our economic recovery. We will explore the connection between loyalty to God and sound financial management. Fifth and final is the principle of trust. This is a principle based on the premise that God cares more about us than we care about ourselves. The idea that whatever economic anxieties or life-situations we are going through have not escaped God's attention. That in fact we will emerge out stronger and with a more comprehensive outlook on life if we do not give up. So there you have it. I hope you enjoy and are strengthened through this series on recession-proofing our lives as given to us by Jesus. See you back!