A Biblical Perspective We All Need in Good Times and Bad!
God is purposeful. He has reasons for allowing this recession to come to America. No doubt He has many purposes, but surely one of His primary goals is the spiritual growth of His people. If we miss what He wants to teach us, we will only become cynical and begin to doubt His love and care.
The first lesson is the most obvious: He wants us to learn that He is with us not just during prosperity but also in times of adversity. When there was famine in the land and Isaac was tempted to follow everyone else to Egypt, God appeared to him and said, “Do not go down into Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live…and I will be with you and will bless you” (Genesis 26:2-3). God promised to bring him through the famine rather than offer him escape from it.
Joseph learned a similar lesson. We read that God was with him when he was exalted in Egypt; we also read that God was with him when he was unjustly accused and thrown into prison (Genesis 39:2, 20-21). God is with us in prosperity and poverty; He is with us when we can pay our mortgage and when we can’t.
Second, I agree with John Piper, who says that in this recession, “God intends to expose hidden sin and so bring us to repentance and cleansing.” Because money makes all the same promises as God, it seduces us with the promise that it will be there for us in sickness and in health, in good times and bad. Only adversity can expose our false loves and keep us from hidden idolatry.
Third, God wants us to enter into the experience of believers around the world who have known nothing but recession of the worst possible kind. Most of the world struggles for its daily food; thousands—yes thousands—of children die each day of malnutrition. Millions of Christians live in countries where there is repression, persecution, and no support system in times of crisis. Most of us have lost the better part of our retirement income but we still have food on the table and a place to sleep at night. Let us begin to empathize and pray for our brothers and sisters who are living in squalor, with little hope of life as we know it to be.
Finally, God is teaching us how to love and care more deeply. We can no longer live in our homes and be indifferent about those who have lost their jobs. Families are learning to “double up” and live with one another as houses foreclose, and jobs are lost.
This is also time for us to expose the folly of those preachers who tell us that God wants everyone rich, and that if we only had faith we would all be enjoying the bounties of life because we are “King’s Kids.” Yes, we are King’s Kids, but that doesn’t mean we are promised financial prosperity—only that God will grant us the grace to endure whatever deprivations come our way.
The God who told Isaac to stay in the land of famine, is the same God who assures us that we can face an uncertain future with confidence and joy.
Do I Have a Duty in the Recession?
In the midst of recession, myths and fears about money are everywhere. Here, Pastor Lutzer debunks some of the myths and gives us a biblical perspective to follow about our finances—one that’s true in good times and bad.
Q: How is The Moody Church trying to respond to the financial crisis?
A: There are two parts to my answer.
First, on the leadership side we are cutting our church budget to the bone…spending only that which is absolutely necessary. Whatever we can cut must wait for another time.
Second, we have also formed a Re-employment Training committee to help those who find themselves out of work. Specifically, this committee (1) leads special prayer groups for those in need and (2) conducts seminars on how to write resumes, do job interviews, how to navigate the job maze, and (3) we have a database where members of our congregation can post various job openings that they know about so those who are looking for work can connect their gifts and aptitude with this information. We could do more but our small efforts are being blessed; people are being helped.
Q: What do you say to those who think that they cannot continue to tithe during this time because they need the money for the increased bills and also, to save a bit for the future?
A: To revise our giving percentage downward during a recession is a mistake. Here, as perhaps in no other way, we prove our faith in God. Paul said that the Christians in Macedonia gave out of “extreme poverty…beyond their ability” (2 Corinthians 8:1-3). We should give as God has propsered us, whether that be little or much.
Q: What obligation do wealthy Christians have during this time of economic meltdown?
A: Let’s be careful here. First of all, we know that God will judge all of us (rich or poor) for our generosity or lack of it. Of that much we can be sure.
Second, I need to debunk the widespread notion that rich people are greedy. I’ve observed that greed lies in every human heart, including the hearts of the poor. I thank God for wealthy people because often they give big gifts without which we could not do ministry.
So in answer to your question, of course the wealthy have an obligation to be generous, but we cannot expect them to “let us off the hook,” so to speak. All of us share equally in the challenges and opportunities before us.
Q: A practical question…how do you as a pastor speak about money from the pulpit without giving the impression to people (especially visitors) that all that the church ever talks about is money?
A: I’ve learned a couple of things throughout the years. First, it is absolutely necessary to connect money with ministry. People have to know that they don’t give to pay the utilities or salaries. All of these things are steps to a great and glorious end, namely the transformation of lives by the Gospel. I’ve learned that if we preach our vision, people will be more motivated to give
Second, I don’t think that we as pastors should ever give the impression that the church is desperate for money. If we understand the spiritual dimension of giving, God will take care of ministries He wants us to continue; if not, we must accept that.
Third, we must let people know that the real reason for giving is not just to benefit the church, but even more importantly, to benefit them. It is the stingy Christian who is the loser…he loses a great river of blessing in this life and especially in the next.
Q: Any predictions for the days ahead?
A: I believe that the President’s stimulus package will greatly delay a recovery; but we hope and pray for the best. We are all in this together.