When there is a crisis it is an automatic human response to look for someone to blame. In this case it is very easy to blame the bankers whose trading in debt has landed us in all this trouble. But behind the bankers stand governments who encouraged the banks to lend to people who should never have been allowed to borrow, on assets that were not worth the money that was being borrowed. And behind this stand the millions of people across the western world who thought they could live the dream on borrowed money.
This only serves us as further evidence of the truth of the gospel: "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God..."
As one commentator put it:
For millions who have been toiling on the "hedonic treadmill" – a need for ever higher income merely to sustain wellbeing at a constant level – there will be the challenge of coming to terms with a sharp decline in living standards. But how sharp? And for how long? And for how many?
That phrase, 'hedonic treadmill', is a telling one. As an entire culture (not just the bankers) we have been pursuing a false god, and now we are paying the price for our idolatry.
But do not despair!
Applying the principles of biblical stewardship will help. My hope is that this crisis will encourage many more people to be more biblical with their finances.
There are some very simple things we can do, that we should all be doing anyway, and that I tend to assume everyone does, but it is obvious that many don't! Here is an action plan:
1. KEEP GOOD RECORDS: The Principle of Accounting
Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations?
You need to know what you earn, what you own, and what you owe. Do you?
What is the difference between your monthly income and your monthly outgoings? Is there a surplus or a lack? What are you going to do about this? Is there anything you can do to minimise tax, or reduce expenditure? What debts do you have? How much interest are you paying on them? How quickly are you reducing the capital amount?
Face the facts! You’ve got to get the facts!
2. PLAN YOUR SPENDING: The Principle of Budgeting
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
Now is a good time to plan your budget for 2009. Set yourself some financial goals and stick to them. Many of us are used to operating according to budgets at work, but find it far more difficult to do this at home – start practicing! Start planning. Start budgeting.
3. SAVE FOR THE FUTURE: The Principle of Saving
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
It is better to save now and spend later than to borrow now and default later. This seems to be one lesson that the credit crunch is teaching everyone…
4. RETURN TEN PERCENT TO GOD: The Principle of Tithing
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
Why should you tithe?
First, It’s a statement of gratitude. Anything we have comes from God anyway, so tithing is a way of recognising our dependence upon him.
Secondly, It’s a statement of priority. When “the first fruits” go to God it demonstrates who is No. 1 in our lives.
Third, It’s a statement of faith. When we tithe it demonstrates trust in God, especially at times – like now – when everything is screaming at us, “Hold on to your loot!”
Fourth, It’s just the right thing to do! People find all kinds of creative ways to try to get round tithing, but it’s a biblical principle, simple as that.
5. ENJOY WHAT YOU HAVE: The Principle of Contentment
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
The global financial crisis has been built on the back of discontent. We have wanted more than we needed and spent more than we could afford. It was inevitable that one day this train would come crashing off the tracks but greed blinded us into thinking it would all somehow always be ok – that we could just keep borrowing our way out of debt.
Far better to learn to be content. Far better to be a Christian hedonist than a slave to the hedonic treadmill. Far better to know security in a God who will never forsake us.