That I’m still under the weather makes today’s post all the more apt. Feeling lousy may be a state many of us will better understand in the days ahead.
The fifth largest investment bank in the United States collapsed Monday. Please read that again.
Now read this: 60,000 homes in my state of Ohio are in the process of foreclosure as of last quarter. That’s the worst in the nation.
When I first read a nondescript, well-hidden article in The Wall Street Journal last May concerning problems in the sub-prime mortgage industry, I told my wife, “This is it. The ripples are going to be devastating.”
Long-time readers of Cerulean Sanctum know that this is one of the few Christian blogs out of thousands that talks about economic issues facing the Church in America. I’m no prophet, but it didn’t take a seer to read the handwriting on the last recession’s wall. My church’s number one prayer request was for meaningful work. Number one. Sadly, many of those who lost jobs in the last recession could not find jobs that paid as well as the ones they lost. This is a serious concern that many people, including economists, ignored.
The chance that we would suffer another economic meltdown worse than the one that hurt us for nearly five years seemed lost on all the stampeding bulls when the US economy supposedly turned the corner sometime in 2004-2005. Sadly, though, that corner turn didn’t trickle down to many people. Every economic survey known to man showed that real wages only improved during the last “rebound” for those in the top one or two percent of wage-earners. The rest of us could not keep pace with inflation. But those dour, yet real, numbers got lost in the giddiness over the fact that the ultra-rich got ultra-richer, and their continued ultra-richness drove up all the positive economic figures disproportionately.
Now the greed of many of those ultra-rich, particularly those who drove ludicrous speculation in investment sectors, is threatening the entire world economy.
Once again, the question must be asked: How has the Church prepared for any of this?
Perhaps this poll figure will show us:
Answer? Not at all, it seems. Once again, we’ve been caught napping.
And this is patently sad, as I see it. One can’t read the Bible and not note that God blesses people who are prepared. Imagine a world where Noah failed to build the ark. Think on Joseph ignoring God’s counsel, leading to an Egypt ill-equipped to handle seven years of famine. Scratch those and there is no story of salvation, folks. The world grinds to a wet, watery end. Or it starves to death.
So which of our churches stored up for seven years of famine during the few years of “plenty” we supposedly just experienced? Just two percent by the poll responses. As far as I see it, every “unknown” response might as well be a “false,” because if it’s not obvious we’re preparing (and our preachers aren’t talking about it), then we haven’t been.
Half of us said we could help a family in need up to a month’s worth of groceries. I figure that’s good for a one-time gift of $200-$300.
My concern here, though, is whether this will be enough when the need moves from being a lone family in your church and mine to dozens. Or in the case of some megachurches, hundreds.
While it looks as if this poll shows a drop in what respondents thought would be the largess of their church versus what they would give themselves, it balances out because some believed their churches would handle more expensive needs. That’s a positive answer. Let’s all pray that it reflects reality.
The last recession lasted three to five years, depending on which economists you read. The news for this poll question, though, deals with the increasing length of time it takes job searchers to find decent jobs lost during an economic downturn.
On average, the last recession saw the unemployed enduring ten months of nada before finding replacement work. Considering that most unemployment payments end after six months, it’s a four month shortfall on income. That’s all that half the respondents had set aside. God help us if things should be worse this recession.
About five years ago, I sat in a church amid 2,500 or so people and raised my hand when the pastor asked how many had at least six months income set aside. I looked around that massive auditorium filled with people and a grand total of six hands were raised. My wife and I counted for two of those hands.
This was not a throwaway poll by that pastor, either. He beseeched people to be honest. What was most scary was I would deem the majority of people sitting in that church that night to be middle to upper-middle class. These weren’t poor people already scraping by, but the ones who should know better.
How is it that we are not better savers? Why is the savings rate in this country in the negative numbers? I was playing a trivia game a couple weeks ago and a question asked, “What percentage of Americans spend more in a year than they earn in wages?” I guessed around 30 percent. The answer? Closer to 75.
Yeah, you read that right.
Folks, we Christians need to be better prepared than that and far more serious about money than we appear to be.
If this answer were truly the case, then why are our churches unprepared to take care of people, both members and outsiders, if and when the economy tanks?
A CNN poll today said that three out of four people believe we’re in a recession. I wonder what the poll above would show today versus three weeks ago if I re-ran it.
In the church finances poll, most respondents said that staff salaries comprised the largest chunk of financial outlay for their churches. Fortunately, clergy positions are exempt from payroll taxes. Same for property taxes for churches.
Now imagine if those were removed on a church on thirty acres of land that had a dozen exempt-clergy positions. That’s a mighty big resulting ouch.
I would not be surprised if in my lifetime churches lost their tax exemption. Increasingly, city governments are fighting harder to keep churches out of any area deemed business-worthy. Why? Because the locality can’t draw taxes from that church, and the church keeps one more business from locating on prime, taxable turf. You can bet that sooner or later someone, somewhere, is going to run the numbers on all that uncollected tax money and somebody’s not going to be happy with failing to get a cut.
This issue becomes even scarier when we realize that the Fed position on church tax exemption considers it a privilege rather than a right. A series of court rulings in the 1970s formalized that “privilege, not right” position legally. And what is labeled a privilege is typically taken away when it seems most expedient to do so. Like in a deep, protracted recession. Just the kind that economic experts at the University of Michigan claim we now face.
Wouldn’t it be dispiritingly ironic if the American Church lost its tax exemption in order for the government to fund social services the Church should’ve been handling anyway?
Pascal’s Wager is a famous apologetic that states it is far wiser to believe that God exists than to bet that He does not and be forced to pay the consequences of His existing. In other words, if God doesn’t exist, then it doesn’t matter who believes in Him or not, the end of all humans is the same. But if He does exist (and particularly if the Bible establishes His rules for living), then those who don’t believe in Him are in one world of hurt when they die. Better then to believe in Him.
Describing the Church’s position on the End of All Things poses the same problem, except for Christians. It’s nearly impossible to gather a room of noted theologians and get them to agree on issues like the Rapture, the millennial reign of Christ, and the meaning of the symbols and events of Revelation. Eschatology divides more Christians than just about any other issue.
In that case, would it not behoove Christians to prepare for the worst possible end times scenario rather than the least? If so, the worst would be that the Church goes through the entire Great Tribulation. If the Church gets raptured out of here at the first sign of trouble, then great! We avoid the Great Tribulation altogether. But what if that’s not the way it works? (And no one thought it worked that way until the late 19th century, so what does that tell us?)
Where then is our preparation? How will our churches handle persecution? What alternative economic systems are church leaders developing so Christians can exist outside the corrupted world economic system? Have we identified people in our churches with specialized skills? Are we doing anything at all to weather even a few months of the storm? Anything?
We simply are not ready and have no excuse for our lack of preparedness.
Almost a third of poll respondents said they believed that Jesus would return in the next 5 to 25 years. That’s a pretty astounding number, though not unusual. I believe that most Christians throughout history have believed that the Lord’s Second Advent would come in their lifetimes.
Still, if one person out of three believes this, where is the evidence of our preparation for His return? One out of ten of you believe Christ will not only return soon, but that the Church will persist through the Great Tribulation. Where then is the evidence that one church in ten is prepping for that reality?
What we say we believe and how we live that belief MUST align or else we deceive ourselves.
I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, but it’s hard not to see today’s Church in America as the grasshopper in Aesop’s tale. We need to be more like the ant—or should I say that we needed to be more like the ant. Because if winter is indeed already upon us, it’s going to be a brutal and savage cold like we’ve never experienced before.
34 thoughts on “Banking on God: Crisis, Part 1”
For most of us, preparing means “saving more money.” But the dollar is plummeting. Necessities – food, gas, rent – are more expensive. If you save six months’ worth of living expenses, expenses are rising exponentially. Six months’ worth might be worth four months now.
I try to think twice about where I drive. I cannot afford as much gas as I want to burn. I took Tuesday-Thursday classes instead of Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes so I could eliminate one day’s commute to campus. A casual trip to a friend’s house? A phone call may have to do. Those in trouble may have to face real emergencies for me to drive now. Do I attend a church across town? Are they more in touch with Jesus than two churches within walking distance from my house?
I find it disheartening to read a financial book or Web site’s tips on how to save money and find I’m already doing every single thing they recommend—and have been for decades.
Once, when I had to stay up with a sick kid, it was a little before 2:00 AM and I decided to turn the TV on. Of course, there was nothing worthwhile, but an ad promised an upcoming episode of Oprah at 2:00 discussing amazing tips to save thousands of dollars on your monthly bills. So, gritting my teeth, I decided to watch, if only to pick up a tip or two here and there that might be worthwhile.
So they profiled these four families and how Oprah’s financial guru helped them save a small fortune. So I was sucked in waiting to see what incredible tips this guru would tell me.
The first family had four people in it and six cars. The guru’s advice? Lose a couple cars.
The second family couldn’t say no to a single thing they saw on sale and thought they needed. They bought everything in sight all the time, like $10,000 worth a month on credit cards. The financial guru advised them to stop buying everything they saw.
The third family had a half dozen monster TVs in their home, each TV running a separate cable TV box, each being billed separately. Plus, they subscribed to every paid cable service that existed—and for each TV. They racked up something like $700 a month in cable TV charges. The financial guru recommended that they lose some of the cable TV boxes.
The fourth family spent hundreds of dollars a week on repeat visits to beauty parlors, barbers, manicurists, pedicurists, and just about every service built around making people look “beautiful.” The mom alone hit the beauty parlor three times a week. The financial guru thought that perhaps all that was excessive and advised the family cut back to perhaps once a week.
So I’m sitting there, watching these train wrecks, and I wonder how in the heck anyone can consider these families to be in any way normal. My seven-year-old has more common sense in spending money! And this financial guru? What a strain it must’ve been for her to counsel these people out of maintaining six cars, a house full of TVs, an inability to say no on buying everything, and plain old vanity! She worked so hard to help those people pinch those pennies!
So obviously, I got nothing out of the “amazing tips” Oprah promised. Not a darned thing. Well, except perhaps to get a look at some people who were absolutely deluded about money and had probably never clipped a coupon in their lives.
Yet I wonder how far off the mark those people were. I’ve known plenty of people that you look at their expenditures and you just shake your head.
But how those of us who are already cranked tight as a drum get any tighter? Heck, I don’t know. Maybe I should be writing a book of savings tips!
Best book on living on nothing I’ve seen: “Possum Living” by Dolly Freed. What I’d like to know is if she’s still living like that.
I drive a fifteen year old Mazda pickup that got around 22 mpg on the highway. For a pickup, that ain’t bad. Last year, I noted the mileage dropping precipitously. Took it in. Bad oxygen sensor. Had that replaced. Got a tuneup. Mileage got better, but not back to what it had been. Then the mileage plunged again. This time, it was a throttle sensor. Not a cheap fix, but I had it replaced. Didn’t change a darned thing. My mileage is still around 15 mpg highway. Spent $650 all told and my mpg still stinks.
So now, I try not to drive the truck unless I have to.
Living in the country, everything is spread out. It’s nothing for us to drive an hour to a destination and an hour back. That’s par for the course. Our church is fifteen minutes away by the highway, but that’s considered near. So we put on a lot of miles. My wife’s 2000 Corolla is pushing 200,000 miles now.
At one point, we were spending upwards of $500 or more a month on gas. So yes, this definitely impacts my bottom line in a huge way. Despite my having altered nearly every electrical system in our house to use less energy, our electrical bills have doubled, largely because of massive rate increases.
Sometimes, you just can’t win!
Oh, and I forgot to mention that with the cost of diesel now over $4/gal., my fuel bill to maintain my farm now runs almost $100 a month.
Maybe I should sell the tractor and buy a horse.
You want tough? I know a farmer with several thousand acres who goes to my church. During the growing season he uses up 2,500 gallons of diesel a DAY. Think that pain’s going to trickle down to the consumer? You betcha.
It could be that they’re sneaking a higher percentage of ethanol into your gas. Ethanol is incredibly inefficient, and will kill your mileage.
Ohio mandates big stickers on pumps that dispense gas/ethanol mixes noting the percent of ethanol added. I tend not to buy from stations that dispense gas/ethanol because some older cars don’t have gaskets designed to resist ethanol damage. Ethanol eats through rubberized products pretty handily.
I wonder when the comparisons of the current financial debacle and the Home Savings and Loan Crisis of the 80’s will begin. Especially as it relates to two names: Bush (as in Neil) and McCain (as in the Keating 5). The $124 billion in tax payer money that went to shore up that issue will be a drop in the bucket compared to the financial tsunami that is approaching. The collapse of one investment bank is only the waters receding from the shore. The combination of war, criminal culpability, out-of-control speculation, and economic slowing are the ingredients of every major recession this country has ever had.
Most of my money is in institutions that prudently avoided the whole “sub-prime” greed-fest. But those investments still suffer as a result. As a whole, I’ve lost about 18% of my money in the last several months. It’s annoying, because I’m losing my money due to the greed and corruption of people that have nothing to do with my investments. But their actions have impacted my life none the less.
But I’m in my forties, and I can work. What about people who are facing 70 and are still smarting from the dot com bust of 2000? Is the body of Christ willing to sacrifice for the errors of others? Is the body willing to give until it hurts? Is the body ready to open their homes to those who will soon lose theirs?
The thing that holds me back is decades of teaching from the pulpit and from my elders that I must be prudent and careful about giving, because we must be “good stewards”.
It’s that same thinking that caused the unfaithful steward to bury his talent in the back yard.
His reward for being prudent and careful was to be thrown into hell.
The life of a Christian is one of incredible risk; of losing our life so that we may save it. For me, it’s an incredible struggle not to be risk-averse.
In the Eighties, I had money in the bank that started the whole Savings & Loan Crisis, Home State Savings Bank in Ohio. The bank routinely outperformed all the other banks in town in nearly every financial category, plus they treated their customers very well. Problem was that they did well because they invested in super-high-risk securities. When a few of those investments soured, so did the bank. It was backed not by the FDIC (most savings & loans weren’t back then), but by Ohio’s own version of FDIC. Problem was, when Home State went belly up, it completely drained all the money out of that Ohio guaranteed savings trust because Home State had many branches. Fortunately for me, I did not lose my meager investment, but many people lost nearly everything they’d saved.
No one saw that house of cards in Home State until it was too late.
I had several financial advisors tell me to put my money in Enron in the late 1990s. When I checked the company’s financials, they looked fantastic. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how the company made money, but I figured they were the classic middlemen who took their chunk out of every energy transaction nationwide. With Enron’s astonishing returns, I went with the advisors, trusted the SEC, and ultimately kissed my entire investment goodbye.
So I’ve been there.
No one’s going to escape this. What bank can you trust? If all of them, and I mean ALL of them, are connected to securities companies like Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, and so on, and those securities companies are in trouble, then the banks will be, too. If the foundation crumbles, it doesn’t matter how well-built the house is that sits on that foundation. It may take longer to collapse, but it will nonetheless.
J.P. Morgan swallowed up Bear Stearns, but I fail to see what they got out of that deal except a lot of pain. If Bear Sterns was reduced to bacteria-laced roadkill baking in the summer sun, J.P. Morgan’s in for a huge belly ache for eating it. And if J.P. Morgan, one of the weaker “national” banks stumbles, then Citicorp and BoA are sure to pick up Morgan’s gut troubles sooner or later.
Everything else you wrote resonates. All those Crown Financial seminars will not help any of us. In fact, their advice may actually run counter to what the Church truly needs to do in this case. We’ve been taught in our churches for years, as you noted, to be like the monkey reaching for the banana in the trap. No matter what happens, we won’t relinquish that banana, even if it means getting caught.
The time for us to explore the godly, less obvious, way is now.
In days of old, when a prophet spoke and his words did not come true, he was to be stoned. (Unfortunately, even when prophets did speak the truth, they were murdered as well, so that’s not always a great indicator of forecasting success.) But this was sure to dissuade the false prophets, to some extent.
For many years, we’ve been misled by economic false prophets. I believe this trend goes back many years — long before the tech bubble, before the last recession, even perhaps before the days of the supply-siders and the beginnings of deficit spending.
I have many friends and acquaintances who have invested substantially in “The Market” or “Real Estate”. A great many of them have come out not much better — watching their 401Ks or IRAs plummet in value, others who have seen the investment in their house and property eroded (while property taxes continue to rise).
On the other hand, I have seen the vast enrichment of the fund managers, the banking institutions, and the real estate industry through whose hands our hard-earned money so easily passes. “Invest in stocks.” “Invest in Real Estate”. Message: trust in us and you will be enriched. True translation: enrich us and, if you are lucky and your timing is right, you might make a few bucks yourself. False prophets are an industrious lot. They don’t get stoned — they get rich.
For the past three years, though, I have had the distinct pleasure of being in the presence of a True Prophet. No, he is not a Christian — in fact, his lifestyle is perhaps one we would more associate with the “senseless pagans” that Paul writes of. He is truly “of this world”. But he also seems to know the (economic) truth.
In July, 2005, we were talking about the economy. “The number of distressed properties is increasing rapidly,” he said, as if it were a well-known fact (although it did not even hit the front pages of The Wall Street Journal for many months). “The derivative markets are poised for a tumble. It’s going to take the rest of the U.S. economy with it.” At the time, I didn’t even know what a ‘derivative’ was.
“How soon?” I asked, wondering if there was time to react.
“Eighteen months, I’m guessing. Two years, maybe.”
My friend can be forgiven if his foresight failed him in naming the exact day and hour, but such things can be hard to pinpoint. He wasn’t more than a few weeks off, though.
Since then, his warnings have become more dire, but his predictions have always come to pass. “Expect a federal bailout — but it’s just a bandage, only delaying the inevitable adjustment.” “The Fed has stopped publishing the M3 money supply figures. It may mean they are up to hiding behind smoke and mirrors”. “Cash – and stocks – are losing true value. I’m moving most of my investments to precious metals and commodities.” “The Fed is printing money like it is going out of style.” “Inflation figures are being purposely understated.”
Now, all this might sound like fear-mongering or worst-case scenario talk. But he’s not alone in his assessments, although you won’t find these voices in the Administration, or coming out of the mouths of mainstream economists. The fact that it caught many by surprise is not novel. Think about the Great Flood.
So, recently, I asked the obvious question. “What can the average person do?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “Nothing.”
He shrugged again. “It takes money to make money, especially under these circumstances. You pass money back and forth between various investment vehicles, always looking for an increased return. But if you have nothing to start with…”
Fast or slow, like a deluge or a steady dripping, I truly believe there is an economic Day of Reckoning staring us in the face, one which only the very wealthy will avoid. My friend spoke in terms of falling real estate prices (already a reality), followed by hyperinflation (haven’t seen it yet, but…). The dollar, a fiat currency, being replaced by another currency internationally (although which one, he doesn’t know yet).
So why say all this if nothing can be done to stop it? Because so many are clinging to what I’d consider false hope, looking to the Fed to bail them out, being encouraged by every up day for the Dow Jones. The most realistic are the ones who have already lost jobs, houses, lifestyles. They are about to be joined by a host of fresh faces.
And perhaps the Church will soon be in a position to offer spiritual comfort in the wake of temporal disaster — but only if the Church and itself is not caught unawares. I truly believe we will accompany many non-believers on the economic spiral downwards. It will not help them if we are too busy unexpectedly drowning in our own troubles.
I may have been persuaded by the words of a false prophet, but I don’t think so. The sinking dollar, Peak Oil, a multi-trillion dollar defecit, a trillion-dollar war, and a world full of folks who wouldn’t mind seeing the U.S. drop a notch or two on the economic front are conspiring against us. We have little in our favor at the moment, temporally speaking. We have the Host of Heaven and the God of the Universe on our side — but it may be His will that we pass through this valley and drink this cup. As a church. As a nation.
It’s funny, but I could just never shake the feeling the last few years that the powers that be in economic sectors have been leading us astray and lying through their teeth about it. That may be because I live in Ohio, which seems to be the new economic canary in the coalmine, but I certainly did not see any recovery from the last recession. Most people I know got taken down a peg and never quite got back to where they were. They all seemed to work harder and get less for their effort.
The Wall Street Journal drove me crazy, too, because they’d be talking about how great things were, yet on the same page were all these company reports noting layoffs, downsizings, revenue declines, and other alarming news. And those bad reports always outnumbered the good ones.
It suddenly dawned on me that the top one or two percent of wage-earners in this country were playing games with the companies they ran. Like Mitt Romney, they bought companies, drained them, then threw the husks away. Sure, they made a small personal fortune in the process, but they toyed with the lives of all the people under them who counted on their companies to give them an income.
In the process, these ultra-rich, who are almost always identified with conservative causes, gave real conservatism a black eye. And that’s why conservatives, be they genuine or fake, are going to get slaughtered in the upcoming election. The socialists will run the country and we’ll get our nanny state—if there’s a state left by November 2008.
I believe it’s all greed. The markets work when people are moral and sensible, not when they are driven by greed and corruption. One might argue that it’s always been greed and corruption, but I think the level of greed and corruption has only increased in recent years as people have become less God-fearing. With huge oil reserves discovered in Canada and Brazil, there’s no reason for $105 barrels of oil. None. But the oil speculators are making a fortune and they don’t want it to stop, no matter how much it cripples this country. So they bid up oil futures like crazy and someone has to cover those bids. Those speculators are in it for themselves alone and could care less the harm they cause so long as their personal bank accounts are stuffed to the gills.
The sub-prime thing is greed, obviously. We tend to blame the people who took the loans, though, and not those who offered them. That’s the mistake. But it’s always easier to fault foolish people of lower means than it is to go after the real crooks.The scary part is that the people who are defaulting on loans now are not the poor credit risks, but people with average credit ratings.
What’s the answer? Jesus is the answer. Now what are His people going to do about the mess we are being handed?
I learned long ago that what is good for stock prices is bad for the long-term survivability of a company. The reason is that the people who are buying the stock are doing so with short-term gains in mind. So when a company announces lay-offs, the stock goes up. What’s bad for the consumer and employees is good for the stock-holder, simply because they know they won’t be holding the stock long enough for the long-term results of short-term actions.
Something I’ve wondered, as the US becomes a service economy, is how the financial gurus think it can be sustained. Service produces nothing, but it consumes immense amounts of resources. It’s like asking the economy to become a perpetual motion machine. Sooner or later the motive energy needs replenishment. Then what?
About a dozen years ago, I read a futurist who said that the United States would be forced into an entertainment economy. While that seemed feasible on one level, it’s impossible. Not everyone can be an entertainer, first of all. Secondly, how do you run an economy based entirely on entertaining each other?
This has come to pass if you look at a larger definition of entertainment. I admitted my addiction to entertainment the day I woke up, turned on talk radio, listened until I went to work, listened at work until the last show I liked ended, turned on the TV at work until I went home, and turned on TV at home.
I soon realized almost everything had something to do with entertaining myself. I ate mostly to entertain myself, not to nourish my body. I read the paper for fun, not to inform myself about the world around me. I watched TV for no other purpose. Most of my educational and career choices have been made with one question in mind: How do I minimize the amount of work I do while maximizing the amount of fun?
Most stuff for sale is designed to entertain. People load their houses with electronics. Most of us even have more kitchenware than we need to sustain ourselves. Why? To entertain ourselves. Our economy would collapse in short order if people contented themselves purchasing what they need rather than much of what they want.
Your post is very eye-opening. I was one of the “poll answerers”. My flesh wants to be fearful and think of ways to save money, but I cannot go there.
My husband and I could possibly save a considerable amount each month were we not supporting our “church”, and a local initiative promoting the LORD’s prayer in John 17 to His Father – that we would be ONE as He and the Father are ONE. We also support two prisoners – one of which has no family besides his adopted family (us). Then there are requests for love offerings at least every-other-month, sometimes once or twice per month for people in desperate need.
As a result, we pretty much live hand to mouth. However, I do not regret it. I am very thankful to our LORD for making it possible to give as much as we do. I am also very thankful that He is in charge and must depend on Him to provide for our needs. We must have faith that when all else fails, He will be there as our Sustenance. He is enough.
I appreciate what you have done here. I realized how much I do not know about the finances in my own “church”. And I agree with you wholeheartedly that the “churches” should be prepared in whatever ways possible – to attend to the needs of those in desperate situations.
Many blessings, Dan.
If you sacrifice is for the betterment of others, then you will be richly rewarded.
But most people have not gone to the length of giving so much that they themselves must do without. I expect that in days to come, that’s either going to change for the better or get much worse. It all depends on how much we are willing to trust God.
Still, it would have been better for us if we had prepared more wisely.
Welcome to pre-trib not financially prepared churches in China, 1949.
Oops, I mean welcome to America, 2008.
“If this answer were truly the case, then why are our churches unprepared to take care of people, both members and outsiders, if and when the economy tanks?”
Maybe our churches just don’t listen to the sorts of people who read a blog like this. 😉
Yeah, Travis, we cantankerous outsiders sure make it hard for others to remain complacent! 😉
I think, in the seven years of plenty, so much food grew that the price of food plummeted. The price of labor, if you had to hire labor, went up. Why work for you if I can work another field for more money? Rich landowners must have been screaming for hired help. This benefitted the poor: cheaper food, higher wages. But eventually, this would have been bad for rich landowners.
Joseph gathered a fifth of harvests into storehouses. Why did the rich landowners not store up another fifth in their storehouses? They would have had enough to eat and probably could have earned a nice living during the seven years of famine. Even the poor probably could have done this. Climate conditions may have been so optimal, grain would have grown anywhere: a backyard, a roadside, anywhere. The poor probably could have stolen plenty of grain. Who would have noticed?
One possibility: higher exports. The rich wanted cash, not grain. Surrounding nations may have found it cheaper to buy grain from Egypt than grow it themselves. Just because Egypt had seven years of plenty did not mean the other nations had similar harvests. The poor? They probably wanted more trinkets. Rather than spend their better earnings to stock up on food, they bought the latest baubles and stocked up ancestors’ tombs with more wealth their poor, deceased relatives could enjoy in the afterlife.
What is the temporal moral of the story? Given a choice, people prefer cash. Both rich and poor Egyptians could have saved enough grain – which could be eaten, unlike cash – to outlast seven years of famine without selling themselves into slavery.
One solution to the mortgage crisis could be magnificently simple. All right of ownership to defaulted properties transfers from borrower to lender. The lender allows the borrower to live on the property while paying rent (albeit rent lower than the old mortgage payment) until a buyer is found. The lender receives more money than if the borrower is forced out. The borrower has a place to live without having to move for a while, possibly for a long time, since buyers may be few and far between. Most borrowers would exercise at least a minimum of care over their domiciles. Empty houses will succumb to the weather, the drug trade, and homeless squatters.
Unfortunately, this simple solution is not as simple as scrambling for the last scrap of cash in a falling real estate market. Lenders need the cash for their bottom lines, lest shareholders abandon them. Renters have so many legal rights over landlords, they right themselves out of the homes where they wanted to live in the first place.
For those people whose house payments are now for mortgages that are more than the house is currently valued, why can’t people just refinance those homes at a lower rate? Sure, the bank takes a hit for the difference between the selling price and the current price, but the bank won’t be able to unload that house for anything less than a fire sale anyway. At least they retain some income, albeit less than they’d hoped. Still, something is better than nothing.
Otherwise, people are just going to chuck their keys inside, lock the door, and walk away. Oddly enough, some financial sources are advising people to do just that! Like that’s not going to kill the banks in the long run. Talk about poisoning the well!
Like you, Dan, our family has for years sought to do everything “right” in terms of planning for the future: securing a fixed, low interest rate on our mortgage; maintaining an excellent credit rating so our car loan rate stays low; setting aside a nest egg, etc etc. Even so, the now-daily headlines on CNN and Fox News have really been frightening. I’ve never been a person (in the past) given to much fear and anxiety, but over the past 5 months my anxiety has just exploded over all of these economic woes. The gas prices are already choking us, and they say the prices are going to go up even more?? The higher the gas prices climb, the less money our family has for food, because we are now having to pay for our weekly gas fill-ups by taking the money out of our food budget. I am completely worried sick about the thought of having $4/gallon gas. I don’t see any way for us to survive that. And I know we’re not alone — how is much of America going to survive?
The “what-ifs” are simply too scary to ponder. A person can have a little money set aside, a good job, an excellent credit rating, a stable mortgage — everything can seem to be OK, but if the economy plummets further (and it will), whose job is truly safe anymore? Is anyone’s, really?
As the sole income for my two children, I am terrified, actually. I trust in the Lord to provide and I do *try* to take my thoughts captive, but I admit I live each day in abject fear, worrying what *might* happen and what will happen to our little family if the very worst occurs. I suppose I am truly faith-less to admit to such anxiety, but try as I might to reassure myself that the Lord cares for His children and will care for my family, too — these are desperately harrowing times to live in. And the worst is, it seems it’s only just begun.
The problem with energy increases is that everything depends on energy. And all those costs trickle down, like I noted. If a farmer like the one who goes to my church who owns/rents thousands of acres burns 2,500 gallons of diesel a day at $4+ a gallon, how will that not increase the price of food? And it not only increases the price of food up at the farm level, but all the way along production and into shipping. By the time all the energy is accounted for, everyone’s added their fuel surcharge into the mix. Suddenly, the corn flakes you bought last year for $2 are now $5. That puts strain on businesses to pay their employees more, which they can’t do amid falling demand due to higher prices of doing business, which means layoffs (as that’s the cost-saver of first choice anymore). Now you’ve got more people out of work, which means they can’t afford to buy things, which further depletes the economy.
As you can see, this is a vicious cycle with no end.
And we did not prepare for it in our churches.
All that said, Holly, God is still in charge.
However, my wife and I are convinced that what we are experiencing is, in part, judgment against our country for failing to follow the Lord. We can’t kill 45 million babies and not pay for that somehow. We can’t pillage the land, cheat the poor, condone same-sex marriage, elect corrupt political leaders, ignore the Lord, and live high on the hog like we did and still do. All that will catch up to us sooner or later.
Jerry Falwell, of whom I was never a big fan, did get one thing right when he said that 9/11 may very well be God’s judgment against America. EVERYONE shouted him down on that, even Christians, which is a shame because he may very have been right; we just didn’t want to admit it.
Dan, I couldn’t agree more. Judgement has to come–otherwise God will have to apologize to Sodom and all the other nations He has destroyed. A people touting hedonism and denying God will reap what it sows. “He who doesn’t learn from history is destined to repeat it.” Every civilization that fell into the sort of sin many Americans think normative behaior has collapsed. Why should we be exempt? The Bible also has words to say about a nation that stands with God’s people versus a nation that opposes them. What are we doing now?
My husband and I have sold most of what we own to buy the sailboat on which we’re embarking on a missionary venture. From a purely secular viewpoint, our income is now dependent on regular payments from the folks who bought our house and for whom we hold the mortgage and on a meager Social Security check. But that’s the secular viewpoint. What small amounts of cash we have in the bank we hope to keep, but I’ve been aware for many years that the bubble wasn’t going to last. So, we’ve been trying to store up treasures in heaven–which is the only place they can truly grow. My husband and I figure we may be down to a subsistence lifestyle: bartering skills for grain, fishing off our boat, not using the diesel engine but sailing everywhere. At least we have no debt, soon will have no car, and find ourselves able to live on very little. It should be even easier in a third-world country.
I worry, though, about the rest of my family and friends, especially those whose treasures rest in banks and the stock market. I do think the time is coming where people will need to move in with each other so that they can pool resources. Our family home in NC is like yours, Dan, miles from any store. But at least one can grow a garden and eat from the waters.
I wish we could have simple answers, and I suppose we really do: Trust Jesus. The level of faith that is going to be required of each of us in the coming years is nothing like any we’ve exercised before.
Do you think perhaps it’s harder for a Christian to trust the Lord when it concerns entrusting his or her family into His hands? It seems like it’s harder to trust where one’s children/spouse are concerned. That’s the point at which my faith fails and where the anxiety over “what-ifs” come flooding in. I think part of it is because of maturity — we know as adults that God will give us strength to be resilient; that He will give us the needed grace to endure whatever comes down the pike. We’ve had years of experience in knowing that God can be trusted — He always cares for His own and has never failed us yet. I know that and would stake my life on it — God is utterly faithful and not ONE word of Scripture has ever failed to come to pass. All His promises are true and can be clung to no matter how fiery the furnace.
But for our little *children* — that’s where the fear comes rushing in like a waterfall cascading over the depths. So many children today just have zero frame of reference for a coming calamity such as the one being warned of by the likes of the Glenn Becks and the Paul Krugmans of the world. What will become of our precious children? I truly think that’s the core of the paralyzing fear afflicting many Christians in these troubled economic waters. It’s the fear of uncertainty over how this crisis will affect those who *depend* upon us — and what will happen to them if we ourselves go down.
Speaking of Paul Krugman (Princeton economist) — Fortune Magazine just released a very telling Q&A:
Dan, I think you and your wife are dead-on right. It seems America is ripe for judgment and the only question is, why did God delay so long? His mercy stayed His hand, but I wonder if the cup is close to full. How angry He must be at our wanton killing of babies and parading in the streets celebrating gay pride. Is it because He has long been “silent” that He isn’t feared (Isaiah 57:11)? I too agreed with Rev Falwell’s controversial remarks. (Some of them, that is — and some were just whacked.) He caught alot of flack as you noted, but I thought there was much truth to what he said about America’s sins. Today, as was then, people desire to hear “peace, peace!” even when there is no peace. But the true men of God will speak the truth, no matter how unpopular the message.
Honestly, I think one of the worst things people can do is put all their hope in a pre-trib rapture. Granted, we could all be wrong and He *does* decide to honor Scofield’s theory — but it sure seems like Scripture teaches we will be here for at least part of the Tribulation. (For us, we are historic premill.) Even if that’s wrong and there IS no Tribulation at all — as you noted, wouldn’t it be better to be prepared? But I hear alot of Christians almost singing the merry tune of “I’m leaving… on a jet plane, don’t know if I’ll be back again…” and they think that no matter as bad as all this is getting, it’s OK because their “jet plane” (rapture) ride up to heaven is almost here. They read the signs of the times and they rest, thinking check-out time is upon them. And they’re not prepared at all. That is just scary beyond BELIEF.
Actually, it was J.N. Darby’s theory. I guess Scofield popularized it, though. ;o)
I’ve been led to believe that the measure of a prophet is not in the accuracy of his predictions of forthcoming events, but in the truthfulness and passion of what he preaches.
Are you sure you’re not a prophet, Dan?
Tell me, Dire Dan, why is this not the Punishment of America?
Maybe Vincent Xavier had the right sow by the ear?
Our political elites—these supposedly smart “Harvard and Princeton educated” people—they never cease to amaze me. Their mendacity, greed, ambition, recklessness, and stupidity have now brought a once-great nation to the brink of utter ruin.
Tell me, how many billions are we spending each month on our little “democracy project” in Iraq?
(I am ashamed to admit that I voted for Mr. He-Lives-in-a-Bubble-of-Sunshine-in-the-Whitehouse, who is totally clueless as to what is happening. But read the prophets: you’ll see that one of the things God does as He destroys a nation is to first reduce its leadership to being nincompoops and buffoons.)
Churches are too busy installing Starbucks cafes into their buildings (so they can discuss Emergent philosophy over a sip of cappuccino) to be concerned with the plight of the economy.
I knew the real estate market was headed for a crash from at least 5 years ago. When I wrote about it to warn Christians of what was coming I was mercilessly mocked and ridiculed, so it is with some sick sense of satisfaction that I am finally seeing these jerkwad purpose driven “chrischuns” getting their just deserts.
Many here believe this nation will be judged and ruined, but judgment will first begin in God’s house. Christians will feel the full brunt of ruin due to their foolishness long before the world does.
Since the church abandoned those of us that were in dire need and left us to rot., let’s see how you like it now. 😛