I’m with the Pope

23 Oct
I spent this afternoon in London listening to one of the subeditors of The Economist talk about the politics and economics of Latin America; how it has changed and why it still has problems. Having got onto debating whether democracy and capitalism should ever logically be compatible, my brain hurt a little, but it was well interesting. I can think of someone who would have loved it.
Isn’t it interesting how "the current economic climate" has suddenly become one of the most common phrases on everybody’s lips? "Want sugar in your tea, Catherine?" "Well, not sure I should, given the current economic climate"… And so forth. Seriously though (and please bear in mind that I know little about the economy) this whole palaver has made me realise that there is really no such thing as "financial security". Not when, as far as I can work out, the world economy rests on how worried some people get about the world economy. Having travelled a little, I’ve long thought that it’s pretty darn crazy that our society normalises and positively encourages people to borrow five times their total salary in order to buy a hosue that they plainly will never be able to afford, whilst living off imaginary money loaned to them by the banks, and carrying on normal life. That is the norm, and surely that is pretty stupid? Someone reflected today that when they go to a shanty town and meet somebody with 20p in their pocket, that person is actually, in literal terms, richer than they are. They own 20p. My friend is in £1000 of debt. And yet we can carry on a comfortable life that way. Which is, I guess, nice for us, but weird.
So we are not encouraged to simply live within our means; to spend slightly less than we actually earn, and thereby get on quietly in life. We’re encouraged to live about ten times outside our means and hope that the banks who leant us an extortionate amount of money don’t go bust.
As somebody who lives (just about) within her means, this crisis has very little effect on me. Since I have about £40 of real money, this makes me (if you ignore my student loan debt) pretty well off amongst my peers…
The Pope was quoted in the Metro the other week as saying "this all demonstrates that the love of money is futile, and that the only thing that will last is the Word of God." And I thought, good for you, Pope. This is what Jesus said, a good 2000 years ago, and we obviously didn’t listen.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… You cannot serve both God and Money."
"So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6)
And I’ve got to say that in all honesty, when I’ve just trusted him to provide, I have never gone hungry. When I was on Year Team, there were two occasions when finances looked a little tight. On one of those (not having told anyone), I received an envelope of anonymous money through the post. On the other, I received a tax return I hadn’t sent off for and another anonymous envelope of cash. This year, a few months ago I finally got into about £500 of debt, mainly through paying for my counselling course and also lending some money to someone else who was broker than I. I got a bit stressed about it cos I don’t like being in debt, and prayed about it. That very week, I first got a £200 tax return through the post that I totally wasn’t expecting. That cheered me. Then the next day I read this verse in the morning: "You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.." (2 Cor 9:6-15) and felt God hit me with it. Wrote it down. That evening somebody slipped me a cheque with a note saying, God specifically told me to give you £300. I have to admit, me of little faith was totally floored.
That week I learnt that really, worrying about money when your Dad owns the entire universe is really futile. Yes, the love of money IS futile, Mr Pope. So, for those who believe in that God, please don’t panic about the "credit crunch" and the "current economic climate". Please continue to be generous. Please don’t cancel your charity donations – be bold. We prayed a crazy prayer for provision at Latin Link the other week, and have seen God do some very crazy providing in response, answering a prayer we privately thought was pretty impossible. It’s been amazing but probably not to share with the world. But that took some Christians being brave enough to continue being generous in the face of the world’s panicked budgeting.
You can give some money to Latin Link right now at www.latinlink.org/giving if you like :o) Someone once said to me "God is no man’s debtor".
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