My good friend Wallace Benn, and area Bishop in Chichester Diocese got himself into the national press recently as a result of his article in the Diocesan Newspaper November 2008. He said:
“I believe that God ultimately has allowed this crisis for good.
“Our nation, like all the western nations, has become consumed with materialism. It has a stranglehold on our lives.
“We have found our security in ‘securities’ and have failed to grasp that nothing is permanent other than God.
“Our confidence has been misplaced. Something was needed to shake that and that is what we are experiencing.
“If this shakes our confidence in mammon (money) and forces us back to our creator and redeemer it will have been worth it!”
Of course, the National Press feel that it is outrageous that Wallace should imply that God might have anything to do with the current global financial woes. For sure, there are explicable reasons for the current states of financial affairs. Gordon Brown promised an end to the “boom and bust” years, but even I know enough about Macro economics to understand that there is a cycle which produces inflationary pressure in a kind of seasonal rotation. Fluctuating oil prices and problems in the sub-prime mortgage market are contributory factors which have accelerating the sudden onslaught of economic winter.
I am nearly at the end of my economic knowledge, but it is not only for that reason that I want to stick to theology and agree with the spiritual diagnosis brought by the Bishop of Lewes! It has always been the case that individual prosperity or paucity are not necessarily directly the result of their individual favour with God. However, I have no problem surmising that God would send/allow a financial crisis to awaken a spiritually sleepy nation. Moreover, if a nation decides to reject the God who made us and worship at the altar of Mammon, should he not be rightfully wrathful seek to awaken us?
Where do we turn for some sense of God’s perspective on the things that really matter? Isaiah 55 helps us reorientate our priorities along the lines of the things which really matter to God:
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money , come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” (vv.1-2).
My hope is that during the world economic downturn we will do what the prophet encouraged and ensure that we put our confidence in God and not in any of the things of this world and recognise that God rightfully rules over all:
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:6-9)