What Can Our Economy Teach Us About Faith?

I’ve recently just gotten my finances in order in the last month or two, honestly for the first time in several years. Much to my wife’s dismay, I’ve taken a very “set it and forget it” and “oh well” approach to finances for the last few years. Now that I have my finances in order, it’s become more and more obvious how little control I have over the monetary side of my life, especially under our current economic state. I’ve been trying to come up with a decent plan for saving for the future recently, but I’ve run into a bit of a dilemma:

  • I can’t invest my savings because the markets can’t be trusted to not go under.
  • I can’t let the money just sit because inflation will rapidly decrease its value.
  • I can’t simply spend the money because then I’ll have no savings, and since it’s an IRA account, I’d be severely penalized for withdrawing it.

This dilemma makes me hesitant to try and save much at all. If the value of the dollar decreases exponentially in the next couple of years, where will I be when my savings are worth less than they were when I started “saving”? Why am I working so hard to put away money when it could all be disintegrated at the drop of a hat?

These thoughts have once again shown me that my worldly efforts are most often worthy of nothing. I need to take my finances to Christ, and have faith that He will provide for me whether I’m financially well-off or hurting for money. I’m reminded of these famous verses in Matthew 6:

19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I praise God that I have faith and do not have to worry about my future. Otherwise, I think I might worry myself to death. If my pride were in my finances or my material possessions, I would likely be too depressed and burdened to keep pushing forward. Likewise with any other worldly area of my life.

Of course, this is not to say that financial planning and responsibility is a bad thing (it is important, in fact), but it is something that should be prayed about and spiritually considered, rather than observed from the typical hoarding perspective. Those who hoard live in constant risk and will eventually lose everything; those who share will gain life and salvation.

So here are my questions for you:

  • What are some of the ways you are able to seek financial guidance from God?
  • Does anyone have a real-life story that drives this point home?
  • Does anyone disagree with any of the points that I’ve made?
  • What has God taught you in managing your finances or dealing with our current economic state?

I’ll look forward to your responses. :)

This entry was posted in Culture, Economy, Faith, Finances. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to What Can Our Economy Teach Us About Faith?

  1. Ainsley says:

    Well, since I don’t have money right now and I probably won’t for at least the next 5 years (because of college) I can’t say anything about my financial state. It’s nonexistant. =)  I will say that this is awesome what you have to say. And where you worry about finances, I worry about who I can confide different things in, because right now I have no specific bestfriend that I would normally tell ALL these things too.
    And I just love that verse that you used in Matthew 6. It reminds me of Godspell, but it also reminds me that I have something bigger and better in Heaven when I love God with all my heart and I give everything to Him.

  2. Jason Carr says:

    Amen, Ainsley. :)

    That’s one of my favorite verses, too.  It sums up a whole lot.

    And you know that you can always confide in me… :)

  3. Amber Carr says:

    As long as you have the job that you do. You definitely will have to save money in order to be able to afford college education for our kids. Families with higher incomes don’t get the breaks in financial aide that lower income families have. Also, because of our economy and culture, we have to save for living expenses of retirement.   I don’t think those expenses would be considered storing up treasures on earth, but rather more basic needs.
    I think that God wants to make sure that money and things do not become too important to us. That we know that no matter what happens in the end, it’s not coming with us. To be thankful for what we have and to not spend it greedily.  And yes, there will be times of financial struggle but we know that as long as we are doing what we can to survive, and faithfully serving and giving/tithing to God, he will help us through. You definitely need to research more savings programs. I know there are a lot out there. Some specifically for college or for retirement. I also think a lot of people don’t pray about their finances and that should be done more often!
    That being said, I am very proud of you for getting with it financially and being responsible. It sure has taken a load off of me.  And I believe it shows you’ve grown spiritually. Not wasting your money, but being careful to make sure you save it for what’s important is a huge accomplishment! I’m glad I have a husband who wants to do what’s right by God. I am blessed.

  4. Jason Carr says:

    I love you, too, honey. :)

    We’ll see what God has in store for us.  I hope we’re poor. :)

  5. Amber Carr says:

    You hope we’ll be poor?

  6. Jason Carr says:

    Poor people need Jesus.

  7. Amber Carr says:

    Rich people can use their resources to do good things and help poor people… and rich people need Jesus too. :P

  8. Amber Carr says:

    “Wealth itself is not sinful and can be a means to bring about miracles with spiritual and eternal values. But wealth was never meant to be lavished upon us with no regard for others’ need”–something I read in devos this morning.

  9. Nolan says:

    Amber meantioned your blog to me, and even though I haven’t had that much financial experience, I have already seen how trusting in God and being wise with finances “pays off” (lol).  God seems to pull through when you couldn’t predict that He would.
    For example, it can be really hard to land a job sometimes, but when Daisy moved to Nor Cal (that’s Northern California for the non-locals), she applied for a few places and got like 3 interviews right away.  The job she ended up getting was really stressful and she was at it for a few months because she had already planned to move back to LA after being up here for a while.  But anyway, the job got so stressful and dangerous that she was at the end of her rope and she was about to quit the job.  God told her through her prayers to stay in ther just a little longer.  A couple days later, the group home (where she worked) closed down.  This meant that if she quit before it closed she wouldn’t have received unemployment, but since she stayed, she was able to get unemployment while she was looking for another job, and she’s been looking for another job for about a half year or more already.  Furthermore, she was looking for jobs in LA and wasn’t getting them there, but now she’s looking in Nor Cal, and maybe she’ll find one quicker because maybe this is where God wants us.  He seems to be opening some doors for us to live here, like the possibility of me getting part time at the church along with the one on one aid stuff I’m doing.
    I think that financially, God wants you to be wise, but also to remember that He’s in control at the same time.  The thought that “God is in control” is true, but it shouldn’t be used to be lazy in finances because maybe God doesn’t want you to be lazy in finances.
    However, as Matt. 6 alludes to… Worrying is the problem.  And worrying doesn’t even help the situation.  I think that “worrying” is the stressful thing about finances, and it’s not easy to not worry when it doesn’t look like things are coming along well.
    In reality, people in America don’t TEND to have to worry about finances in the sense that they wonder whether they will have a roof over their heads or food to eat.  In other words, it’s not a survival worry (Matt. 6 might be talking more about a survival worry because its written in a 3rd world type limited goods society setting and the things mentioned there have to do with the basics: clothes, food, etc.).  What Americans tend (I say tend because I don’t want to rule out the possibility of those in US who do need to worry about survival)  What Americans tend to worry about is quality of life.  Will I be able to keep the kind of house/apartment that I have?  or be able to keep the stuff? My family deserves better than this, etc.  I hope that I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes here, I have a lot to learn and those worries are not pathetic worries.  I hope I’m not coming off that way.  But anyway the main point is that Matt 6 says, “Don’t worry.”
    Another problem about finances would probably be simply loving money too much.  This can often result in worry, but also results in valuing possessions over people and over things of eternal value.  This is not proper Christian conduct either because we should store our treasure in heaven.  Well, I’ve probably said too much already, so I’m going to end my reply here.

  10. Kent says:

    I figured I should leave a comment just to let you know that I do read the notes you tag me in.  I may be beating a dead horse, but in response to the last one you tagged me in, about what to do with worldly possessions, I did think of something.  Someone else may have said it already, I didn’t take the tiem to read everyone’s replies because you had plenty, and I figured that b/c there were so many I didn’t need to leave one.  just a thought on that:
    Jesus, who was/is God, and had the ability to heal people of all their diseases and sicknesses, did not spend all of his time doing so.  Jesus was a carpenter until he was thirty, he was in the family trade, to make a living for his family (it is believed that Joseph, his father, passed away and since Jesus was the oldest son it was his responsibility to take up the family trade to support his family).  More importantly, however, how many times did Jesus leave the crowds that were following him?  Though he had the ability to heal each and every one of them, he didn’t.  Do we need to do every possible thing we can for people or just give when we are led by the Spirit to give?
    Again, sorry if that is beating a dead horse.  On to this post now.  I do not have a lot of experience handling finances, but I do have some, and it is definitely relevant to me since I am newly married.  One thought, not necessarily one I will always live by, is that if no one ever trusts the government and no one ever invests the economy will never improve.  Personally, I do not know much about economics and do not have educated economic advice.
    More important than saving your money is being responsible with your money (which I think you know).  I know I always feel more secure having money saved up, but at the same time it isn’t absolutely necessary.  I know you want to have money saved up for your kids to go to college, but God can make it work anyway.  Scripture calls us to be good stewards with our money, but also, not to store everything up.  Most importantly is to tithe and give back to God.  But beyond that, spend what you have to spend where you have to spend it, but listen to the Spirit’s guiding when doing so.  Some things you may find that you should give up in order to save a few bucks, but other times God may ask you to spend money to support a good cause.  Granted, hearing God’s voice in small matters is a whole different story.  Save if you can, but don’t fret if you can’t.  Trust in God, listen to God’s guidance, relax in God’s care.
    You have a good heart and I know you want to do what God wants you to do.  You are an encouragement to others.  Keep seeking Him.  

  11. Jason Carr says:

    Thanks, Nolan.  All good points, and I think you’ve added a lot to the message here.  I very much agree that worrying is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) issue for most people and their finances, and I agree that it’s an important point to make that we even worry about non-important, petty financial issues such as whether we’ll be able to afford our satellite television this month.

    I’m glad you brought this up, because I tend to look over this part of it simply because I don’t often tend to worry about my finances.  I go to the other (sometimes sinful) extreme – in the past I’ve often not even bothered to examine my finances with the attitude that “God will take care of it.”  This, of course, is a bit ignorant and is not at all what God wants.

    Thanks, Nolan, for your input; I really appreciate it.  I hope you’re able to contribute again. :)

  12. Jason Carr says:

    Kent, you’ve brought up an interesting point.  You’re right, Jesus didn’t spend all of his time healing and preaching to people, and yet he was perfect.  I do believe that it is better to say that we are to give when called to do so, than to say we are always to give everything we have.  I admit I have matured my viewpoint on this matter significantly since I started the discussion, and I am very appreciative of everyone’s thoughts because they were very helpful for me.

    At the same time, it can be argued that Jesus did spend all of his adult life loving God and loving others, though sometimes it may appear to be in odd ways.

    Perhaps a better way to look at the finances situation is to give everything to God, and look to him to determine how he would have you use what he’s given you.  This can probably also be applied to your ability to love and share with others.

    One thing I have thought about, though, is that throughout all of this I believe God is calling me to do something radical with my finances, though I don’t know what it is yet (and I don’t know if I ever will, but I sure hope I do eventually).  God has taught me through everyone’s comments that he has laid this on my heart, but this isn’t necessarily something that God lays on everyone’s heart, as God has a different relationship with each one of us.  That’s been another important lesson for me.

     

  13. Jason Carr says:

    Kent, regarding the economy, I’m no expert either.  But I’m not confident that God would consider a thriving American economy of any kind of importance in his perfect plan.  I do not think that America’s success (financially or on any other level) is necessarily important to God.  I sometimes think the opposite would be better.  But, of course, I can’t really say either way, just that I think that would be a bit of a dangerous assumption.

    I very much agree with what you’ve described on handling your personal finances, and I think you’ve got it down much better than the vast majority of Christians that I’ve talked to.  You’ve also helped me to better define my own views with your thoughts.  I really appreciate that.

    I find that a lot of Christians refuse to fathom the fact that God might want us to occasionally (or maybe repeatedly) live by the seat of our financial pants, without any savings or safety blanket.  God doesn’t necessarily always ask us to do this, but I find it difficult to believe that he never does, and it’s obvious that most Christians would simply refuse him in this situation.  The benefits of living in risk are obvious; you have no choice but to rely on God in these kinds of situations.

    I’m so glad that you commented, Kent.  Thanks for your thoughts and I really hope you’re able to contribute in the future.

  14. Brian Hoyer says:

    I’m so reluctant to post anything here, but I’m also bored enough that I think I might give it a shot to add something that may or may not be of any value.  Well here goes…
    Jesus had a lot to say about money but not much to say about the American economy…in fact, much to a lot of Christian people’s dismay…Jesus was not pro-democracy and really didn’t have much of an opinion about capitalism or world economics and trade.  That wasn’t really the focus of his message, and aren’t we all glad of that!
    However, many principles from His teachings can be contextualized into our everyday lives even today.  I think that in Jesus day, it was much easier to give away everything you had and travel around.  Think about it… if you did have a home in the Roman Empire in the first century, what could you actually take with you if you left it?  Not much…you just have your donkey, maybe a carriage trailer thingy with some horses if you are really well off…but most furniture back then was super heavy and probably stayed with the house if they ever decided to sell it unless the person was super wealthy and had caravans of slaves and servants hauling away all the furniture, statues, and paintings from their home.  The gap between the rich and the poor in those days was MUCH greater than it is today in America.
    Just think about how the disciples were able to drop everything and follow Jesus as his apprentices… they were fishermen in the first century.  They didn’t have glasses, contacts, cell phones, cars, internet, or jobs 20-50 miles away.  They had a knife, fishing sticks, maybe 3 different pairs of clothes, a pair of sandals, and possibly an old donkey that they were planning on giving to their younger brother as a hand-me-down “beater donkey”.  Fishermen could go into any town and make a means to live on…they would eat what they caught.  Today, if you are a programmer for say, a tool company, you can’t design a program that will generate all of the essential nutrients into your families bloodstream (although that would be pretty neat)…you have to work for the system to get paid by the system to buy from the system at the grocery store so you can eat.  There are many more loops to go through today than back in Jesus time just to get the bare necessities.
    In today’s culture you could not literally do what Jesus says to do when he says sell everything you have and give to the poor.  They key principle from Jesus teaching is simplicity, not a drastic liquidation of your possessions derived from a blind or blurred stupidity of literal interpretation of Scripture.  That being said, I don’t think anyone here in this blog has come to that drastic of a conclusion and interpretation.
    So Jason, as far as investing your money and using what God has blessed you with you have 2 choices, both of which will be faithful to the teachings of Christ: 1) sell your house and anything you have that forces you to rely on it as a means to something that you need to survive, buy as much land as possible (that’s the only thing that will hold its value in this economy), start a garden, get some pigs, cows, and goats, invest in solar panels, and fend for yourself.  All about being self sufficient. That way everything you produce is used and anything extra can be given away to the poor OR 2)  Stay where you are at, Try to cut as many expenses as possible, be thrifty, grow a small garden, buy local meat (sometimes way cheaper and it cuts out a middle man…learned that from Johnny Depp in “Blow”) sell all the non-essentials, or give them to a thrift shop so they can be used by someone who really needs them, and try to invest the best you can (right now I’d say Apple & Google would prevail even if China took over the world).
    The real point Jesus wants us Christians to understand is simplicity and also trying to invest wisely with our money & resources so that we can make a little go a long long way.  John Wesley said it well, “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”
     
     

  15. Jason Carr says:

    Thanks, Brian.  Yes, things are certainly much different now than they were when Jesus walked the earth.  I wasn’t so much thinking along those lines, so I appreciate the point.  I do think that we sometimes make that a bit too much of an excuse, and let it cripple Christ’s message, but it is clear that our basic needs today are a lot more involved than they were back then.

    I have to say, though, that even though I tend to agree with Wesley on the vast majority of things, I struggle with his “make all you can, save all you can, give all you can” quote.  This is the first time I’ve heard that quote, and I haven’t read any of the surrounding text, but it’s hard for me to accept that “save all you can” fits well into Jesus’ teachings.  There’s not necessarily anything wrong with saving, but saving “all you can” seems to encourage hoarding, even if you’re giving generously.  At the same time, I don’t believe that “making all you can” is necessarily the best way to approach making money, because I would expect Jesus to consider so many other things more important.

    Wesley’s quote also seems to imply that making, saving, and giving are all equally important, and I would consider making and especially saving of significantly less importance than giving.  After all, Jesus was able to give and give and give despite the fact that he (at least at certain points of his life) made nothing and saved nothing.  Perhaps I’m reading too deeply into Wesley’s quote, but I do find it a bit misleading.  Or, maybe, my views here are truly significantly different than Wesley’s.

    Thanks, Brian.  Any more thoughts?

  16. Brian Hoyer says:

    Well a few more things that your post made me think about … 1) A little off the subject but one of my pet peeves that I have with many people (not you Jason…your post just made me think about this topic) is this:  Trying to understand Christ’s message in the original context and understanding the audience he was speaking to at the time is essential in extracting the principles of His message.  When we do that, it allows us to take that same principle and apply it in a very different world no matter what part of history we happen to be born into.  The fact that things are different now makes all the difference in applying the principles we find in the Bible from the stories in their own contexts.  It’s my opinion that many pastors and people that claim to be authoritative in their preaching take the context of Jesus message way too lightly and by doing that misinterpret Scriptures or totally miss the point…possibly making another good point, even a point Jesus may agree with…but nevertheless missing the REAL point.
    2) I think John Wesley’s point by that quote is that whatever you do, you should do it well…accept raises you get at work, do your job with integrity…make all you can.  Save all you can…don’t waste money, be sensible about saving money because you never know when you may have an emergency or may even be able to bless someone later on with it (that’s part of storing up treasures in heaven rather than on earth) And of course give all you can is self explanatory.  You see all of these principles in Christ’s teachings (parable of the tenants, sermon on the mount, etc.)  The world is full of money and greedy people with money who use it for selfish purposes, but it is also full of Christians who have the ability to make money and use it for selfless, Christ-like purposes.  Because our time on earth is so temporary, any resources that we can use for Kingdom purposes should be sought while still respecting God’s creation (the planet, animals, people, etc.)  If you are poor, you CAN make a difference in today’s culture by what you say, do, and only in your immediate location with your own hands (just look at Mother Theresa and Ghandi)…BUT if you are wealthy, it really is easier to make a difference in places you can’t go, in ways that other people are better gifted, and also in your own immediate location by making your resources available and giving them away in a wise manner.
    Well that’s all I’ve got for now.  Good topic…could go on forever!

  17. Jason Carr says:

    Oh yes, yes it could go on forever… ;)

    I get irritated by people getting the wrong idea from scripture as well; most notably in the last three years the big issue has been women in ministry.  That one’s tough because it’s so easy to take so many scriptures out of context, and there’s a whole lot of people who believe wholeheartedly that God condemned women in ministry.  There’s so much ignorance on the subject it’s daunting.

    As far as Wesley’s quote, I have a feeling I would agree with it more had I read the surrounding texts.  I agree with the vast majority of what you’ve said, it just feels like that quote might take it a step too far, but perhaps Wesley better defined what he was saying in the surrounding text.  I wholeheartedly believe that “whatever we do, we should do it well,” and I agree that this was likely part of what Wesley was trying to teach in his message.  I struggle a bit with the things I’ve described above, but perhaps I was just reading too deeply into his words.  After all, they’re not the words of Jesus. ;)

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