NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The headlines are all heralding a disaster on the horizon:
"Market set to fall on oil price, financials" "Bankruptcies on the Rise" "Rate uncertainty hangs over U.S. stocks"
It is impossible to be within earshot of a television or radio, or scan the headlines of a newspaper, or open an Internet news site and not hear or see reports about the economy. These were random headlines found after a quick glance of online news on an average Tuesday.
Discussions about the economy are more prominent these days than war, healthcare, politics, global warming, mortgage companies, oil prices and tuition increases, mostly because each of these are micro parts that contribute to the overall health of our macro economy. Some days it seems as if the whole thing might collapse. The stress saps a significant amount of emotional and mental energy as we wonder how we are going to make ends meet. This reality is new ground for many, especially those 40 and younger who for the most part have known nothing but economic prosperity their entire lives. The anxiety affects all areas of our lives, and a recent LifeWay Research study titled "Economy pinching most churches, but giving still strong," indicates the church suffers as well.
Can there ever be certainty in the economy? Well, that depends upon which economy you are focused. Jesus launched His ministry with the greatest sermon every preached (Matthew 5-7). He lays out the Beatitudes, covers a wide range of relational issues, defines how to give, how to pray, how to fast and tells us our material possessions – our economy – can rule our lives. Fortunately, He then tells us how to live.
"This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or your body, what you will wear" (Matthew 6:25; HCSB).
This statement is extraordinary! Food and clothing – along with shelter – are among the most basic, mundane needs and He tells us not to worry! According to his definitive 1943 paper titled, "A Theory of Human Motivation," Abraham Maslov, the father of humanistic psychology, writes that these very basic things are needed if one is to make the most of one’s abilities, fulfill his or her potential and move toward becoming all he or she is capable of becoming.
Jesus points His listeners to God. In fact His next statement in that same verse couldn’t be a greater contradiction to Maslov’s egocentric teaching: "Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?" Jesus says that it is the idolater who seeks his security in things similar to those that build Maslov’s pyramid, but it is the person who first clings to the pursuit of righteousness who finds that a deep, abiding, sufficient, joyful, fulfilling, meaningful relationship with God goes beyond self preservation – way beyond. It is life itself." Knowing God this way through Christ is the very reason for our existence.
Maslov’s hierarchy of needs is the nature upon which our economy is built. The pursuit of God and righteousness is the foundation upon which life is built. Jesus said one can’t serve God and money. It is easy to give lip service to truths like this in days like these while holding back a portion of our devotion, "just in case." But Jesus tells us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). Press that into your heart! He wants us to really want God.
We only have so many resources, even during booming economic times, yet the question remains: "In whose economy are you investing; Maslov’s or God’s?"
Dr. Thom Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist.