Saturday, October 11, 2008

When The Money Fails

Saint Paul predicted that “in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1). When the Apostle describes what these perilous times would look like, the second element in the description has to do with “money.” “People will be…lovers of money”, says the Apostle( 2 Tim. 3:1). The word he uses for "perilous times " is a word that can be translated “covetous,” “avarice,” or “greedy.” Whatever else these “perilous times” will produce, the one thing that is certain is that they will produce people who are fearful hoarders, and greedy for more from fear of running out. I think we are in that time now.

Since the international banks and world-wide insurance companies began to fail a fog of uncertainty and fear is slowly creeping across the nation and across the seas. Banks and bank holding companies are failing---and an infusion of over one trillion dollars by the U.S. government has not put confidence back into the market. I think this is going to last for a while.

Economic depression or the fear of it robs individuals of a sense of peace and security. It turns ordinary human beings into wolves and wild dogs ready to tear into anything and anybody for the sake of survival. When the financial systems fail nation-wide or world-wide, it gives one the sense that the atmosphere is on fire, and one is unsure even about the air that one breaths. Fear, skepticism, trepidation, anxiety, frustration, and doubt are all hall-marks of a failing economy. Since we are unsure who to trust, it’s a safe bet to trust no one. This is true for individuals and entire nations.

This atmosphere of fear and frustration is heightened during a close election. Nothing speaks as clearly about our present situation than the fear and anxiety expressed during this presidential election. The world is going to bed every night and waking up every morning braced for news of an attempted assassination, or an actual assassination. Change is in the air, but so are anger, confusion, and fear.

The Bible records a time of world-wide depression, sort of like the Great Depression of the Twentieth Century, and what we are bracing for now. The book of Genesis says there was a “famine” over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, meaning an empire-wide economic depression. In describing the events of the depression the author of the book of Genesis uses a very peculiar term. Instead of talking about “perilous times” or “hard times” as St. Paul would a millennium later, this writer says:

And when the money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph, and said, give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? For the money faileth?” (Gen. 47:15, KJV).

The author uses two different Hebrew words to describe a failing economy. The first word is “tamam” and it’s used in Genesis 47:15: “And when the money failed in the land of Egypt, etc. In this occurrence the word “temam” carries the meaning of “having been spent” or “consumed all.” So this time this word could mean that the money was spent.

The next time the English text uses the term “money fails” (“money faileth”) is at the end of verse 15 which says: “why should we die in thy presence? For the money faileth?” This time the word translated “faileth” is the Hebrew word “‘aphec.” It means “to cease,” “to fail,” “to come to an end.”

In this instance the writer is not saying “we have run out of money,” but rather “the money has no value.” I once saw a picture of a German citizen during the Great Depression carrying a wheelbarrow loaded with about fifty-thousand deutschemarks. This was barely enough money to buy one loaf of bread. The money was worthless. The monetary system had failed. The monetary system was broken and it remained so for ten years: from October of 1929 when the Stock Market crashed to the first of September of 1939 when Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, and started World War II.

What will we do if there is a world–wide depression like the one in the 1930’s or the one described in Genesis 47? There are four distinct things that I think every person alive today should know, believe, and meditate on. Three of them come from this text and the fourth is taken from Roman history:

First, you must know that the history of nation-states is the record of God’s dealings with humankind. The history of humanity is not just a chronicle of market forces and social uprisings, of war, conquest, acquisition and buyouts. Behind the recorded pages of the events, occurrences, heroics, victories, defeats, sufferings, experiments, discoveries, expansions, and inclusions there is the unseen hand of the Sovereign Lord leading, guiding, judging, caring, and redeeming.

Many years ago, I heard the late Dr. Manuel L. Scott say: “God is at work in this world with an agenda to which he allocates the priorities.” We live in a world where evil takes place, but this evil doesn’t stop God from working. Sometimes he is working in the midst of the evil and sometimes he is working through it, or around it, but most often in spite of it. If the Stock Market goes down to zero, if every manufacturing plant closes, and if every bank shuts down---none of this will indicate that God has left his post. God is at work in the world.

Secondly, God never sends a world-wide judgment without a warning. The Prophet Amos under girds this truth with the following declaration:

Surely the LORD God will do nothing, but that he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7, KJV)

I believe that God has been sending out the call for repentance for the last several generations to America and we have not heard it. I do not mean personal repentance, but national repentance, felt on a personal level. Too many of us claim personal salvation in Jesus Christ while worshipping at the altar of extreme capitalism and prosperity. Far too many American Christians are only Christian by culture and not by conviction. Too many Americans believe that real faith in Christ has to do with their race and not their walk with God.

September 11th was a call for repentance, and for a while we did repent and bind together. Then we allowed ourselves to be lead into the very things that caused the tragedy in the first place: militarism, nationalism, and xenophobia. More than forty years ago, God sent his prophet, Martin Luther King, Jr., who said to the leaders of this nation: “America, God says, ‘If you don’t repent, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power.’” We have been warned again and again, but we did not repent.

Thirdly, you must know that God never allows (or sends) world-wide calamity without a purpose. There is a line in the book of Amos that supports this thought. It says:
“When a trumpet sounds in a city,
do not the people tremble?
When disaster comes to a city,
has not the LORD caused it?”
(Amos 3:6).

The Authorized Version of Job 34:29 brings the idea home: “When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? And when he hideth his face, who then can behold him? Whether it be done against a nation, or a man only.” These texts mean that God is still in control. When I say that God is in control, I don’t mean God controls the minutiae of life, I mean that "God is in control of the systems that control the changing energies of existence" (M.L.Scott)

On March 28, A.D. 193 Didius Julianus, (known to history as the Emperor Julian) a wealthy Roman Senator purchased the Imperial dignity of the Roman Empire at a public auction held by the Preatorian Guard. He was divested of the emperor’s crown and his life 67 days later when one of those soldiers from whom he had bought the crown forced him into a room in the palace complex and beheaded him.

The Emperor Julian paid the sale price that he had bid for the throne, and there was nothing wrong with the economy. The act of selling the government to the highest bidder was wrong but the economy was good. The Emperor had not considered that there are some things that even money cannot buy, and one of them is an escape from justice.

Fourthly, you must know that God is in love with justice, and he wants us to be also. The problem with the economy is not a lack of money; it is a lack of justice. Whenever justice is trounched in the street, the money will soon fail. When money is used to buy the lives and hopes of human beings and trample them underfoot, that money will soon fail. When people come to love money, wealth, and power more than they love justice, mercy, and wisdom their money will soon fail. The abhorrence of justice brings judgment. Sometimes the only way God can get us to love justice is to empty us of possessions and wealth, till we come to love what he loves.

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Blogger Keith D. Witherspoon said...


As always I am impressed by your ability to articulate your thoughts in such a profound way! God Bless!!

October 12, 2008 at 8:55 PM  

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