Posts Tagged ‘economy’

What if We Believed Jesus? Part 2

January 17, 2016

“So my counsel is:  Don’t worry about things–food, drink, and clothes.  For you already have life and a body–and they are far more important than what to eat and wear.  Look at the birds!  They don’t worry about what to eat–they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food–for your heavenly Father feeds them.  And you are far more valuable to him than they are.  Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?”  Matthew 6: 25-27

If we really believed this, if we really trusted God to take care of our needs, how differently might we live?  The area where most people worry is  money and whether they will have enough to meet today’s bills and what might the future hold for them financially.  Obviously, money is another synonym for food, drink and clothes.  If we quit worrying, just do what we should and then go on and live, we might have more time, better health, and more fulfilling lives.  If we don’t constantly worry that we won’t have enough, we might be a whole lot more generous toward God’s work and the needs of others.  We might actually enjoy providing some pleasure for those who might not otherwise experience it, like taking some disadvantaged kids to a movie or kid’s museum or the like.  We might make more memories for our own family–spending money on travel to see them oftener, for instance.  We might quit hoarding, thinking there could be scarcity in our future.  Some people have developed hoarding into a fine art, but when you think about it–if we do have a national crisis with severe shortages, do we want to try to protect our stash with a gun?  Do we want to shoot starving people who want to steal from us?  Yet the doomsday hoarders have to ask themselves this question.

If we really trusted God to take care of us, would we spend all our time and money on vitamins, supplements, exercise programs, health scans, etc?  Or would we just do what God asks:  eat reasonably, exercise reasonably, and sleep reasonably?  All the worry about maybe getting cancer or cardiovascular disease, ignores the fact that most of us eat too much, exercise too little and have entirely too much stress in our lives.  Fat cells and stress are the toxic combination that cause all kinds of disease.  And some of the stress is because we worry entirely too much over money.

Another thing to believe Jesus about is that life is the most important gift–not things of any kind.  Jesus was the ultimate minimalist.  He traveled as an itinerant preacher, and likely had nothing but his coat–no home, no mode of transportation, no suitcase.  We would all have to go a very long way to be real minimalists.  Yet I have known people in ministry who go almost that far–don’t own homes or cars, use the library for reading and computer time, don’t have tv, maybe have a cell phone, but almost no material possessions except the bare necessities.   Without exception, these people are at least as happy as the ones who have every convenience and a lot of luxuries.

Seeking security in money requires chasing the promotions, climbing the career ladder, being competitive, and putting in more time than anyone else.  If we could work hard 8 hours a day, then leave the job at work, how much more time would we have for prayer, thought, relationships, exercise, and enjoyment of God’s creation?  How much less stress would we have?  How much more quality of life?  How much better health?

 

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Can a nation survive losing its young?

January 15, 2012

Its been said that one of the reasons Britain lost its greatness was the two generations it lost in war.  It simply couldn’t survive as an economic powerhouse with a significant loss of its younger population.  What would happen to a country that lost 15% of its population, especially if that population loss occurred solely among those younger than 40.  Could it survive the economic loss of energy, earning power, innovation, tax base, reproductive potential, and so on?  Its a good question to ask because the U.S. has now lost 15% of its population, solely the under 40 population.  Who knows what talent and what greatness was lost, and how even future generations will be affected.  We are an aging, topheavy economy, and the effect of that hasn’t been fully experienced yet.  The U.S. has aborted 50 million of its young.  No nation has ever even considered such a thing, and certainly hasn’t considered such a loss to be in its national interest.  This week we remember 39 years of Roe v Wade.  Something to pause and think about.

Prayer when the world seems a mess

March 25, 2011

Lord, thank you for reminding me that You care about the good of our world and about everyone in it.  You care when evil people misrepresent You.  You care when evil people deface the beautiful things You have created.  You care about war, violence, greed and abuse of people and the sacred.  You care about the lost, lonely, sick, misguided and silly people.  You care about everyone I love.  You care about the things that make me sad because they are wrong.  They make You sadder than I’ll ever know.  If I cry over sin in me and others, You wept first, and with more feeling.

Thank you for caring about it all and about me.  And thank you that You are still in control and working out all things for good for all who love You.

Prayer for the Nation

March 2, 2009

I came across something I think is very appropriate for this time in history.  Peter Marshall was chaplain of the U.S. Senate at the end of World War II.  It was a very difficult time for the economy, with many people out of work, a huge national debt, and the nation trying to rebuild the destruction in Europe.  This could have been written today.  I hope our president is a man of prayer although I don’t see an indication of it.  I hope he is praying for the wisdom and character he needs to lead this nation.  Surely, we need to pray for him and for the country.

Prayers for the Nation by Senate chaplain Peter Marshall  1947-1949

Our Father, when we long for life without trials and work, without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.  With stout hearts may we see in every calamity an opportunity and not give way to the pessimist that sees in every opportunity a calamity.

Lord, when we are wrong, make us willing to change.  And when we are right, make us easy to live with.

Let us not be frightened by the problems that confront us, but rather give thee thanks that thou hast matched us with this hour.  May we resolve, God helping us, to be part of the answer, and not part of the problem.

Save us from hotheads that would lead us to act foolishly, and from cold feet that would keep us from acting at all.

Help us, our Father, to show other nations an America to imitate–not the America of loud music, self-seeking indulgence, and love of money, but the America that loves fair play, honest dealing, straight talk, real freedom, and faith in God.  Make us to see that it cannot be done as long as we are content to be coupon clippers on the original investment made by our forefathers.  Give us faith in God and love for our fellow men, that we may have something to deposit on which the young people of today can draw interest tomorrow.

Help us, O Lord, when we want to do the right thing, but know not what it is.  But help us most when we know perfectly well what we ought to do, and do not want to do it.

Lord Jesus, thou who art the way, the truth and the life, hear us as we pray for the truth that shall make men free.  Teach us that liberty is not only to be loved, but also to be lived.  Liberty is too precious a thing to be buried in books.  It costs too much to be hoarded.  Make us to see that our liberty is not the right to do as we please, but the opportunity to please to do what is right.

Deliver us, we pray thee, from the tyranny of trifles.  Teach us how to listen to the prompting of thy Spirit, and thus save us from floundering in indecision that wastes time, subtracts from our peace, divides our efficiency, and multiplies our troubles.”

Another Kind of Politics

March 1, 2009

While America debates the economy and politics, and it seems to occupy front burner on everyone’s mind, another quieter form of politics goes on unnoticed.  Its the politics of personally making a difference, at often great cost to self and no cost to the recipient.

I met the most amazing couple the other day.  They started disaster relief work in the 1980s and continue to this day.  They have a nonprofit which exists for the sole purpose of providing relief in as many American disasters as possible.  They have traveled to tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, floods and ice storms.  Their assets include a warehouse, a “feeding unit” trailer, a laundry trailer and a chainsaw trailer.  They assist anytime they are called by one of the national disaster relief agencies (Red Cross, Salvation Army, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief), as long as they aren’t already gone on another disaster.  This couple has taken all sorts of disaster training, and are licensed as ham radio operators.  Oh yes, how do they fund their ministry?  They use some of their warehouse space to operate a thrift store.  This way they can help the poor in their community by selling needed items in good condition for pennies on the dollar, while their small profit funds their travel to disasters, and new equipment.  They bought their feeding, laundry and chain saw trailers with those profits as well as donations.

When they go to a disaster, they take sleeping bags and a crew to drive the vehicles.  They sleep in a host church, on the floor, in their sleeping bags.  They use the church bathrooms, but take showers in their shower/laundry trailer.  They set up their feeding unit, and sometimes in partnership with another feeding unit, are able to prepare up to 25,000 meals a day.  These are served in styrofoam containers,which they transport to feeding sites in temperature controlled “cambros” using trucks and other vehicles.  Often they are the sole “kitchen” for several emergency shelters.

They take a couple dozen people with them to assist in the work.  The team stays on site 7-10 days on average and works 15 hour days with no days off.  This involves sleeping on floors, using portable showers and eating the same meals they are putting in styrofoam containers.

What is the payoff?  Their very modest salary as ministry directors.  For the volunteers, nothing.  The volunteers pay to get themselves to and from the worksite, usually taking their own vehicles.  Why do they do it?  Simply put, they love Jesus, who told them “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.”  They hope some of the people they help will see the love of Jesus at work and want to know Jesus for themselves.  But they help everyone, without question and without any strings attached.

I learned they are just one of a network of such disaster relief nonprofits, mostly Christian, which cover the entire United States, and are the lifeblood of disaster relief.  I also learned that a lot of hotel and restaurant chains would do the same work for millions of dollars from FEMA –the same work that is today done at no cost to anyone but the nonprofits.

Spreading the Wealth Around

February 11, 2009

Lately it seems I’ve been hearing more and more about the idea of spreading the wealth.  More and more people are complaining that there is too great a disparity in this country between the top “quintile” (20%) and the bottom “quintile”.  I wondered if there is anything more to this argument than fairness, and the reflex reaction that it must somehow be wrong that the top 20% of people in this country control over half of the wealth.  I read and read.  While I haven’t yet reached a conclusion, I found out a whole lot of interesting things. 

There is an actual measurement called Gini, which is an indicator of the wealth disparity within a country.  If a country has a high Gini, the top quintile owns a larger share of the wealth than if the country has a low Gini.  The countries with the highest Gini’s in the world change every year, but usually are poor, third-world countries.  This would tend to favor the argument that a larger wealth disparity creates a poor country, or keeps it poor.

However, as I read and read about the various  countries on the Gini scale, I found out a lot of other interesting things.  Among the countries that have a very low Gini (meaning they are “good” and share their wealth more equitably), they are about equally divided among rich and poor countries.  The Scandinavian countries are quite wealthy, but other countries with similar Gini scores include Ethiopia and Pakistan.  Clearly some other things must be operating here.  Gini alone doesn’t create wealth.

Countries I would expect to have a low Gini score would be countries which have had communism for 2 or more generations.  I was surprised to find out their Gini scores were higher than ours (Russia and China).  Some of the old Soviet satellites had low Gini scores, but remain very poor, i.e., Slovakia.

In a country with a low Gini (remember, this is good and means more equitable sharing of the wealth), you may have a very high cost of living—or not.  You may have a very high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita—or not.  We have a higher GDP per capita compared to Sweden and Denmark, while their Gini score is lower than ours.  One thing you will likely have with a low Gini score is much higher taxes and a lot more government intervention into people’s personal finance i.e., the Scandinavian countries.  After all, the top quintile isn’t likely to give away its wealth to the lower quintiles voluntarily, so the government must coerce it to do so with its tax laws.  I wondered if the high tax rate on the wealthy and the sharing of the wealth would increase growth.  After all, sharing the wealth is supposed to put more consumer spending into the economy.  However, while some of the more equitable (low Gini) economies have higher growth rates than ours, most do not.  Denmark has a very low growth rate right now.  Interestingly enough, in those wealthier economies which have established a more equitable distribution of wealth, the birthrate has plummeted, and now the country is in deep trouble as it tries to provide social services for an aging population which isn’t producing as much wealth.

I wondered if there is a cut-off on how much you can tax the top quintile.  I looked at the top hundred wealthiest people in the world, and they are generally owners of big business.  People who want to spread the wealth around tend to see big business as the enemy, yet it truly is the goose that lays the golden egg in terms of producing wealth and jobs for the country.  We don’t want to kill our golden goose for spite.  Yet, if we take money from the “rich” that would have been used for more business creation and gave it to people who would buy more consumer goods, which is better for the country, for how long, and where is the tipping point?  Kind of important to know, I would think.

Two points in closing.  As the mom of adult kids, I can see the envy of an eighth grader toward her high school senior sibling, who through hard work and a couple of awards managed to amass several thousand dollars to be used toward college.  The eighth grader would love to have some of that money for a new laptop.  The eighth grader isn’t currently able to earn or save any such amount of money.  What would be the wisdom of taking some of the senior’s college money and giving it to the eighth grader to be fair?  I don’t know.  You answer that one.

The second thought is that the countries with the highest Gini, where the wealth is spread around pretty well, the standard of living remains high and the government provides a pretty wide and strong safety net, the suicide rates are among the highest in the world.  Spreading the wealth doesn’t answer that question either.