March 15, 2023
Is there a more personal—and potentially uncomfortable—subject than money? Today’s stories have an economic theme (banks, budgets, and economic powers), and that always creates a risk of anxiety. The good news is that Jesus talked a LOT about money, so we have ample guidance on how to approach the subject, and there is every reason for us to have confidence as we work toward a healthier relationship with our personal finances.
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Adorned in Splendor
Money and anxiety tend to go together. I am chief of the guilty on this, as I slip into worry over money more frequently than just about any other topic. This is not cause for self-defeat or even reprimand (the frequency with which Jesus addressed the topic confirms He knew we would struggle with it), but it should be cause for us to eagerly seek out the scriptures for how to best handle our resources. I personally divide my need for guidance into three categories: 1) The need for money, 2) My pursuit of money, and 3) My use of money.
I am grateful the Bible speaks clearly to each of these. Matthew 6:19-34 alone gives us a framework by which to manage our resources, and I encourage you to read the passage today as we think about how to continually put our financial house in better order. But for our brief moment together, I’ll give you a spoiler as it relates to our three categories:
1) God knows we have tangible needs, and He cares about them as a human father cares about his children’s needs.
2) Our pursuit of resources should never be rooted in worry, but rather with a constant eye toward what will last into eternity.
3) "Our" money really belongs to God, and it is only one of the ways He provides for us. Our use of money should reflect the eternal priorities He’s given us.
Why did Jesus talk so much about money? Perhaps it's because it is one of the easiest parts of our lives to keep from God, and to hold for ourselves. We are afraid to release control, because we are afraid to lose control. But let’s press in to this counter-intuitive principle, because our God not only owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps. 50: 9-12), but He also deems us as much more valuable than the nature around us that He has adorned in splendor. We can trust Him with our finances!
Moth and Rust
In what is essentially a large-scale (not to mention real life) version of the bank run depicted in the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life, Silicon Valley Bank collapsed on Friday, making it the second-largest (based on assets) bank collapse in U.S. history. That wasn’t the end of the story, however, as Signature Bank became the third-largest bank collapse in U.S. history on Sunday.
While the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has a standard that is supposed to insure up to $250,000 for each depositor at a member financial institution, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell, and FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg announced on Sunday that all depositors at both banks would be “made whole.” The announcement also stated that “[s]hareholders and certain unsecured debtholders will not be protected.”
Eternal Perspective: A bank collapse is a good time to remember Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” It is wise and prudent to be responsible stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us. This should include appropriate planning for lean times or a sudden change in circumstance. But in doing so, we should also live in a way that reflects an ultimate trust in God rather than wealth or possessions. While it is a worthwhile endeavor to guard against both individual and collective economic crisis, we should do so mindful of the certainty that everything belonging to this earth will one day pass away, and that we are to focus primarily on laying up treasures in heaven, where “neither moth nor rust”—nor a bank collapse—can destroy (Matt 6:19-24).
President Biden has released his Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) Budget. Before you curl up to read it, be forewarned that the main document is 184 pages of text and tables, it is accompanied by at least 14 assumptions and explanatory fact sheets, and there will be thousands of additional pages of reports and supplements yet to come. The bottom line proposes total spending in FY24 of nearly $6.9 Trillion, while total receipts are projected at just over $5 Trillion. The President’s budget does not become law, but merely triggers the formal beginning of the annual spending debate in Congress.
Analysis: There is no real budgeting in Washington, DC. The “budget” submitted by the President—no matter the party—is routinely more of a political document than an actual spending document. In fact, it is commonplace for Presidents—again, of both parties—to miss the deadline set by federal law for submitting a budget. It has also become routine for these budgets, as well as the eventual appropriations made by Congress, to exceed the revenue brought in by the federal government. So while the term "budget" is still used, it does not hold the same meaning as when it is used by a business or a family.
Luke 16:10 says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” While there are certainly varying degrees of financial mismanagement in the federal government, Jesus followers of all political persuasions would do well to use our voice to advance better stewardship in our circles of influence.
Won it by a Whisker
Xi Jinping was sworn in for a third consecutive five-year term as the President of China. The vote in the National People’s Congress was 2,952 to 0, and it followed an earlier change to the Chinese Constitution that limited Presidents to two terms. Like the previous two occasions on which Xi was elevated to China’s highest office, the NPC’s vote was a mere formality, and there is a near-universal belief that Xi will be President for the remainder of his life, or until he voluntarily chooses a successor.
Analysis and Prayer Point: The vote was 2,952 to 0. This was not an election. While some will fairly point out that it is not the role of the U.S. to mandate Western-style democracy in every corner of the world, it is also fair to point out when a process is very clearly erroneously labeled “democracy.” As Jesus followers, we should be most concerned with what this situation means for the Chinese people living under a communist regime. We should pray for the rapidly-growing Church in China, and that believers would be encouraged, strengthened in their faith, and physically protected from harm. We should also pray for the physical safety of other religious and political minorities.
The Old Rugged Cross
At the halfway point of this Lent season, we are lingering in the unique beauty of the cross. In his book Culture Making, Andy Crouch brilliantly describes how Jesus transformed a method of torture into a symbol of sacrificial redemption. What had been engrained as the pinnacle of pain and suffering became a cultural beacon of transformative love and healing.
As we interact with the world around us this week—including the myriad of economic pressures it holds—let’s do so while holding close the beautiful reality that Jesus already paid it all for us. Our debt of sin is gone, and the symbol of suffering has become a symbol of beauty for those it redeemed.
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross
The emblem of suffering and shame
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain
So I'll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it some day for a crown
- George Bennard
Money issues are challenging. But they are incredibly insignificant when compared to the beauty of the cross. You are loved with a never-ending love. Let's face the world from that place of reality and beauty!
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