GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)–In the process of trying to get a handle on their finances, people often ask me, “What role should money play in our lives?” That’s really a good question to consider — and it’s one that the Bible answers. Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13).
Jesus was describing the tremendous danger of allowing money to become our master instead of Him. When that happens, we allow the entire course of our lives will be controlled by the wrong master, which is akin to despising God.
Many times, the clearest indicator of the direction a person is moving comes from following the “money trail.” Just a glance at their use of money can reveal the direction they are headed. While this is true for individuals, it also holds true for businesses and governments.
Dr. Yin-Kann Wen has a distinguished career as an economic scholar, including 20 years serving as a senior economist at the World Bank. I recently had the privilege of interviewing him as a guest on our MoneyLife radio program, and I want you to hear and heed his strong words of wisdom.
By following the money trail, Dr. Wen can clearly see the “dangerous direction” in which America is headed. He believes our current course began with the rejection of God’s financial principles that warn against debt and overconsumption.
This economic scholar and committed Christian ties America’s financial crisis to failure to meet the conditions set forth for Israel (or any God-honoring nation) in Deuteronomy 28 — conditions that require obeying God.
“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 28:1-2).
What are the economic rewards for the nation that obeys the Lord?
“You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. The LORD will make you the head, not the tail” (vss. 12-13).
Notice the economic consequences are inverted to those nations that disobey the Lord’s commands:
“The alien who lives among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower. He will lend to you, but you will not lend to him. He will be the head, but you will be the tail” (vss. 43-44).
In view of these conditional promises of God, Dr. Wen comments, “Observed from the statistics, the United States up to the 1970s was the world’s largest net creditor country.” In other words, we were lending to many nations out of our incredible abundance, blessed by God. However, “in 1985, the United States had turned into a net debtor nation, and by 2004 the U.S. became the largest debtor nation in the world.”
The dangerous path we are on is a result of our disobedience to the Lord. Even more dangerous is the “solution” for economic recovery — more federal debt borrowed from foreign nations. Dr. Wen says that while increased federal debt to stimulate the economy is helpful in the short term, in the long term it is “like quenching thirst with poison.”
In addition to his concerns with the excessive debt and overspending by the U.S. government, Dr. Wen notes how individual Americans are in a similar situation. The average American family has high debt and low savings. Fourteen percent of after-tax income is consumed for debt service alone, and the savings rate is less than five percent of gross annual income.
WHAT SHOULD CHRISTIANS DO?
The noted scholar gives this straightforward advice:
1. We should pray to God for the United States and Europe — nations who have historically enjoyed God’s economic blessing — that they would return to God and not continue moving away from Him. We should ask the Lord to grant mercy and a spirit of repentance to reject sin and degeneration and to embrace God’s Word once more.
2. We should use our influence and exercise our civic responsibilities to elect leaders who will rein in government overspending and the sustained accumulation of debt.
3. As individuals, we should return to the teachings of the Bible. Because we belong to God, our resources also belong to Him — we are stewards, not owners. We must remain faithful and obedient stewards of God. In practice, we should increase savings and work to retire every debt, including home mortgages. And finally, we need to live a contented life, free from the love of money (see Hebrews 13:5).
Dr. Wen and his wife, Keiwyin, have joined the staff of Crown Financial Ministries as volunteers. I thank God that He has sent us such capable servants for such a time as this.
Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries and host of Crown’s MoneyLife™ radio broadcast. Discover the unique roles that work and money play in your life, and get your free copy of Crown’s Work Your Money Discovery Kit at www.Crown.org/Discover. Cofounded by Howard Dayton and the late Larry Burkett, Crown Financial Ministries (Crown.org) is an interdenominational ministry with 200 staff and over 10,000 volunteers dedicated to equipping people globally with biblically based financial stewardship tools and resources through radio, film, seminars, small groups and individual coaching. Based in Georgia, the ministry has offices in the United States, Canada, Latin America, Africa, Europe, India, Asia and Australia.