Financial crisis shows danger of ‘stuffaholism’
As Christians, we place our faith in an unchanging God. But as citizens, we want to know about the circumstances that led to a massive breach of our trust.
While there’s plenty of blame to go around, at the heart of it all was the belief that God was wrong, that the borrower is not the slave of the lender (Proverbs 22). We began to believe that by digging an ever-
deepening hole that we could eventually build a mountain of wealth.
We are a culture that is saturated with “stuffaholism.” Jesus referred to this as “loving the things of this world.” We have fallen for the lie that equates stuff, sex and money with happiness. If that were true, then the happiest families would all be in Hollywood!
Sadly, many Christians who are called to be the “salt of the earth” have lost our savor. Many of us are in the same mess. Even Christians, who would be critical of others who abuse drugs and alcohol, think nothing of anesthetizing the pain they feel when the credit card bill arrives by going back to the mall.
There are three lessons that might turn this very difficult experience into a learning experience and growing opportunity for us:
• Jesus’ half-brother James put a high premium on wisdom (James 1:5). Today there seems to be confusion between wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge is what tells us that tomatoes are a fruit; wisdom is what tells us not to put a tomato into a fruit salad.
Today’s world has plenty of knowledge but a dearth of wisdom. It’s time to realize that whenever one gets something for nothing there eventually will be a disproportionate price to pay.
• King Solomon was fond of saying, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Is this so different than any other crisis, including the Great Depression? The root cause is the same. It pivots on the three things that John warned the early Christians to be on guard against. “Do not love the world, nor the things of the world … For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:15,16).
• The best financial teaching is in the Bible. Paul told his protege, Timothy, the secret to dealing with money in 1 Timothy 6:17-19: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”
Note the three things Paul says to wealthy Christians (and in a global sense, a majority of us are wealthy).
First, he tells us not to be prideful and arrogant.
Second, Christians should not put their trust in their 401(k) plans. As we’ve all seen, dollars in the bank do not guarantee anything.
Third, the wealthy are encouraged to enjoy their wealth — but to be ready to share at the drop of a hat. It gets back to appreciating the difference between knowing a lot about wealth and actually having the wisdom to use our wealth properly.
I would submit that what we are experiencing might not necessarily be a bad thing. Most humans (Christians, too) only look up when they have been sucker-punched and are lying face-up on the floor. That’s when we tend to see the eternal through the temporal.
Will we as a nation get through this? I suspect we will. Over the last 100 years, stocks have gained value in every 10-year period, including during the Great Depression. Will there be pain in the meantime? I suspect there will be.
The question is: How will we respond to this tempest in the teapot of eternity?
What if this causes Christians to again become salt? What if we led by example? What if we bought fewer “extras?” What if we paid off our credit cards, bought cars we could afford and saved more than we spent?
What if we always had money to give to others — and were truly ready unto every good deed?
STEVE DIGGS is a minister for the Antioch church in Nashville, Tenn. He presents the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar at churches and other venues nationwide. For more information, see www.stevediggs.com or call (615) 300-8263.
FeedbackThe people I know enough personally that have money problems doesn’t always have to do with the love of stuff primarily. I believe it goes deeper to an addiction. The part you said that they “anesthetize” the pain they feel. However, the pain is not the pain of being in debt. It’s pain in other parts of their lives. The spending is the symptom, not the problem. When the problem is solved (deep-rooted self-esteem issues, using spending to soothe themselves just like an addict uses drugs), then they could get out of debt. Until then they can take courses, and it won’t help. The courses tell you “head” knowledge many times, not “feelings” issues of why they are spending in the first place.Eva P. ScottFriendly AvenueGreensboro, NC
USAMarch, 2 2012