Friday, August 28, 2009

Responding to the crisis

The credit crisis provides both spiritual opportunity and practical challenges. Danny Hunt calls it the GSC – the Great Spiritual Crisis. Economic downturns (famine) are as old as history. There is much biblical data to guide the church in difficult economic times. We need to adopt biblical principles and be practical in our approach.

In biblical times famine was a rough equivalent to our modern day recession and depression. Obviously it referred to a widespread shortage of food whereas our modern day crisis is broader in scope, affecting mortgages, family budgets (and therefore food) businesses and the like.

Biblical Principles
1. We should always be responsive to the needs of the poor. You are poor if you are maxed out on credit cards, unable to pay the mortgage and have insufficient income to pay these debts. The needs of the poor are increasing both quantitatively and qualitatively. The Old Testament provides many examples of respecting the needs of the poor, such as by the principle of gleaning where poor people were able to reap the leftover harvest in a field, as in the book of Ruth. Generosity to the poor is a consistent biblical theme.

2. Churches should work together. Those in plenty should help those churches in need. The response to famine in Judea is described in Acts, is that of generous mutual aid according to ability across the churches – brothers helping brothers in need.

During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30)

Paul noted the generosity of the Macedonian churches towards the church in Jerusalem:

And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. (2 Cor 8:1-4)

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Cor 8:13-15)

The Macedonian churches supported the church in Jerusalem in their time of economic crisis.

3. Those believers in plenty should help believers in need. In the early church, those in the congregation with “fields and houses” laid them before the apostles to meet economic need.

There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts 4:34-35)

4. Learning to be content. The antidote to affluenza is to learn the secret of being content with what we have and what we do not have. The apostle Paul declares “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Phil 4:12)