ChurchETHOS

Main Street Solutions for the Economy

Posted in christian thought, environment, politics, social justice by Nathan Creitz on October 10, 2008

wall-st-bullWall Street and our politicians think they have the answers to our economic woes, but maybe the answers should come from Main Street instead. Apart from being forced to give Wall Street one trillion dollars there are several things that “Main Street” can do voluntarily to keep the economy from going under.

Don’t make drastic changes!

With the panic that is setting the pace for our government (“We have to do something NOW!”) and for Wall Street (“Sell, sell, sell!”) it’s hard to remain calm these days. However, I’m convinced that greed is what is causing our politicians and business leaders to act drastically. I’m also convinced that the average American has some basic common sense. I have a retirement account and it’s scary to watch my stocks go lower and lower in value, but I know it will make a comeback. There’s no reason to cash them out now before they go lower (they may go even lower before the go higher). I also am not going to drastically change my banking practices. There is no reason to cash out your savings account or hold back half of your paycheck and put the cash under the mattress. The banks will be just fine if we don’t make any hysterical changes in our accounts.

Live Within Your Means!

The problems we are currently facing in our economy are a result of greed. It has become TOO easy for people who make $30,000 a year to live like they make $75,000 a year. People who can afford a mortgage on a $150,000 home are taking out mortgages on a $400,000 home. People who can afford to rent an apartment for $650 a month are renting an apartment for $1500 a month. Graduates freshly out of college think they need to immediately have a 5 bedroom house, fully furnished, with two cars in the garage. As if all of these things will make them acceptable to their friends. Let’s be clear, the mortgage crisis is the fault of the homeowners who bit off more than they can chew AND the banks who knew it was an unhealthy risk AND the politicians who forced the banks to loan a certain amount of “bad” mortgages. It’s true, if people start living within their means, there probably won’t be as many purchases and there may be some jobs lost but our economy needs to re-stabilize.

Go Green!

Wall Street and politicians need to know that we will not be a country of excess anymore. We don’t want millions of cars polluting our air. We don’t want 5,000 square foot homes that must be heated and cooled and cleaned and lit. We don’t want to buy food from South America when we can buy local. We don’t want a lifestyle that destroys our environment. For too long we’ve known we don’t NEED all the wasteful things that we spend our money on, but now we are telling the world that we don’t WANT those things either. It’s time to demand transportation that doesn’t harm the environment, homes that are practical but comfortable, and food and clothing that is simple and affordable. Those are some of our basic needs. It’s ridiculous that we are at a point where we can’t even distinguish between needs, wants, and ridiculously excess. Going green makes our environment cleaner, saves money, and encourages responsibility and Godly stewardship of His creation.

Give It Away!

Finally, a way regular Americans can strengthen our economy is to give. I’m not talking about giving to get. I’m talking about giving sacrificially and with no strings attached. John Wesley was a great preacher who became very successful and began to make a lot of money but he lived a very simple life. He lived almost all his life on 30 pounds a year. One year he made as much as 1400 pounds (making him one of the wealthiest men in England at the time) but he gave all of it away except 30 pounds. Wesley’s philosophy was “Gain all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.” He wasn’t against making money, but he believed the more money a person gained, the more money a person could give. He said, “In the hands of (God’s) children [money] is food for the hungry. Drink for the thirsty. [Clothing] for the naked. It gives to the traveler and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of a husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless. We may be a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain. It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame: yea, a lifter up from the gates of death!”

Conclusion

Our politicians tax excessively. Business leaders are getting millions of dollars in bonuses. Everywhere we turn, money is the goal. The average American pays about one third of their income to taxes. The government spends some of that money on necessary things: defense, education, etc. However, they are also using our money to support things I wouldn’t be caught dead spending my money on. Then there are those things that I find unnecessary. The government thinks it is their job to give to the poor and needy, leaving less money in my pocket to give away to people in need. As John Wesley said, “I cannot help leaving my books behind me whenever God call me hence, but in every other respect, my hands will be my executors.” Wesley gave as much as 98% of his income away. Today that would be impossible because so much of our money is tied up in taxes and rising costs of living. The more greed in our economy, the more things cost and the less we can give to those who have a real need. I thank God that I have an apartment I can afford and the clothes and food that I need. I wish that more people could begin living within their means and giving away the rest.

Gain all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.

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6 Responses

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  1. David said, on October 12, 2008 at 5.34 am

    Hi Nathan,

    I really appreciated your fresh and unique perspective here.

    One thing I struggled with is that as a Christian, you see defense as necessary government spending.

    In my opinion, Jesus was resolutely opposed to violence in all its forms. The billions and billions of dollars spent on ‘defense’ destroying other countries could easily eradicate world poverty.

    David

  2. Creitz said, on October 12, 2008 at 7.07 am

    Thanks for your comments David. Let me first reply by saying there are lots of defense dollars being spent in ways that I wouldn’t spend them as a Christian. I don’t agree with everything our government does. I am charged to pray for them, however. As far as the constitution is concerned, defense is the primary reason for the existence of the national government.

    As far as what we should believe as Christians about the matter is different. I’m not happy with every war we’ve waged. However, there are times when war is justified. On a local level, police officers fight wars in our communities every day. On a national level there are people who are intent on destroying our country. The decision to enter World War 2 and help bring down Hitler was justified. In the Bible, God appointed judges over his own people and they had to fight to secure their own borders at times.

    We are called to love our enemies but we are also called to love the defenseless, the orphan, the widow, the poor, etc. Sometimes it is necessary to judge evil and bring correction and order to our society. Correction should be done in a loving way whether it is from a father, a judge, or a president.

  3. austin said, on October 12, 2008 at 9.07 pm

    nathan!! i enjoyed a good read and LOVE the section on giving your money away. this is a deeply personal issue of course, but i hate that we as a country aren’t the best givers. we have an opertunity as the richest country in history to “be a blessing” to those in desperate need, and i’m afraid we are lacking.

    as far as the war conversaton and the economics of defense… i would love to see us be more creative agents of peace. and i think as we bring “correction and order” to society i think we should think LONG AND HARD about ways to do this without bombs, guns, and terror. bringing peace and correction and order by bullets at times breads more chaos, retalliation, and discontent.

    anyway, enough of my two cents. i miss ya man.

  4. Scrape said, on October 13, 2008 at 4.24 am

    Nathan,

    I arrived here via your Twitter comment regarding Christians at war. Here are some thoughts, not necessarily in order.

    (1) Certainly, if much of the defense budget was spent on eradicating poverty, we could have an impact. On the other hand, this assumes everyone does it. However, at least part of why poverty exists is because men seek power over each other. Part of the check on that power is nations that are able to defend themselves as well as other nations. This doesn’t justify -all- war, but certainly some.

    (2) I’m not sure we could say that Jesus is resolutely opposed to violence in all its forms. The Old Testament wars of conquest of Canaan by Israel happened as much at the behest of the Son and the Spirit as the Father. That Jesus has taught us that conquest in the age of the church is by spiritual warfare, doesn’t change the fact that He fully intends to execute violent judgment on unbelievers when He consummates His Kingdom in the New Heavens and New Earth.

    (3) Arguably, Christ doesn’t address the worldly political spectrum very much in His worldly ministry, because His kingdom transcends the earthly kingdoms. Inasmuch as the kings of the earth punish evil and promote good, even the worst of them serve’s at God’s behest. “Turning the other cheek” addresses insult, and in no way eliminates the ability to defend self, or more importantly, others.

    (4) Had either Jesus or the New Testament authors intended to address Christian participation in war (which is merely an extension of politics by other means, as Clausewitz says), they let plenty of opportunities slide by. (eg John the Baptist addressing soldiers, the Centurion, etc). Of course, I’ve already said I don’t think this was the focus of Jesus or the NT authors, which is why looking at the New Testament literarily (is that a word?) seems kind of ambivalent on this point.

    (5) Finally, given said apparent ambivalence, I would argue that it’s all the more critical that Christians be involved in the military: (a) As ambassadors/evangelists of Christ to other people in the military, and (b) as people who hopefully can provide moral correction/ instruction/ example in an area of society that is, admittedly, open to abuse.

    In his freely available course on Pastoral and Social Ethics, available at itunes.rts.edu in MP3 format, Dr. John Frame of Reformed Theological Seminary, provides a good analysis of war and punishment (eg death penalty) in his lectures on the sixth commandment.

    In Christ,
    Rob

  5. Creitz said, on October 13, 2008 at 8.19 am

    Hey Austin,

    Great to hear from you. I agree there needs to be more money spent on keeping the peace rather than making peace. Are you in Guam? Wow!

  6. Creitz said, on October 13, 2008 at 8.21 am

    Thanks for the comment Rob. I think we largely agree on the issues you raise. I should maybe write a post about this because the entire discussion in the comments section has turned into a discussion about “just war”. All of that based on one sentence from my actual post. That’s kind of funny to me…That said, great comments.


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