We live in a day of economic crisis. Joblessness and poverty are rampant. People don’t have enough money to pay for the essentials: their homes, food, clothing, medical care (or insurance policies to cover health care). What is causing this ‘financial meltdown’?
There are a number of conflicting answers available. There are several ‘schools’ of economics, each one convinced that it has the ‘answer’ to the crisis. One hears about the ‘Austrian’ school, favored by financial conservatives and libertarians, also known as ‘free market capitalism’. Then again there is the ‘Keynesian school’ favored by those who are considered financial liberals – or some say it’s a form of socialism. There are no doubt a number of other economic theories claiming to have the answer to our troubles.
I believe the problem, though, is far more basic; it boils down to one’s essential worldview. What do you consider ‘real’, and ‘really important’: material things, or God who is the Creator and Sustainer of all things (and our fellow human beings in whom God’s “image” is seen)?
With that question in mind, I would like to refer to a couple of statements made by one of God’s Prophets and Messengers – Jesus the son of Mary – and a statement of one of his ‘apostles’ – Paul/Saul of Tarsus.
From Jesus, in Matthew 22 (New King James Version):
 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, testing him, and saying,  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
From Matthew 6:
 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!  No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. YOU CANNOT SERVE GOD AND MAMMON [money, material wealth]”.
From Paul, in 1 Timothy 6:
 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts [desires] which drown men in destruction and perdition [ruin or loss].  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  But you, O man of God, flee these things, and [instead] pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life…
God’s Prophets throughout history and in all cultures (whether they’re, for instance, Jewish, Buddhist, or Christian) have consistently pointed out that there are essentially only two choices for mankind: we can worship and serve God Who is the Creator of all things; or we can worship and serve the creation. God’s Prophets, Messengers, and servants of course call us to serve God the Creator, rather than the creation. There is only one ‘religion’ which has ever been enjoined by God and His Messengers: “devotion to and submission to God”. In the Arabic language, this is called “Islam”, and those who are devoted to – and submissive to – God are called Muslims. Noah, Abraham, Moses, Gautama Buddha, David, Isaiah, Jonah, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and Muhammad were all “Muslims” because they were all devoted to God alone. There were certainly differences among them in relatively minor outward matters of ritual and terminology; but their focus was God. Whether they were “Jewish Muslims”, “Buddhist Muslims”, or “Christian Muslims”, their “religion” was truly “Islam” – “devotion to God”.
Unfortunately, mankind and its societies in general have tended to be focused on the creation and the life of this world, rather than on the Creator and “eternal life”. The things we consider valuable are material possessions; and the three most important people are “me, myself, and I” ( 😦 ). The most important thing is that I prosper in material things; how my neighbor fares in this world is really none of my concern.
Since material possessions (“capital”) are considered valuable, these things are assigned monetary value. The value of people depends on how much “capital” they have (or the monetary equivalent of that “capital”). If I have a lot of this world’s goods, then I’m a valuable person. If I’m very poor in material “capital”, then I’m personally worthless. So the focus of my attention in work has to be on the acquisition of money rather than on serving God and my fellow human beings. My talents, skills, aptitudes, and intellectual capacity are ‘worthless’ if they don’t have great monetary value; it doesn’t matter how much enjoyment I personally may derive from them, or how such things might be used to help others or bring them enjoyment. It is the “great god Mammon” that must be served!
From the viewpoint of God’s Prophets, and those who are devoted to God, this means our ‘eyes’ are bad; and it’s just a natural consequence that our “whole body is full of darkness”. It is only the inevitable result of the “ways of God” that we are “drown[ing]… in destruction and perdition” and have “pierced [ourselves] through with many sorrows”. Because we have placed value on the wrong “things” – material possessions – we are finding fulfilled in ourselves what Paul wrote in Galatians 6:7 and 8: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption…
Therefore, I would invite people to turn back to the one “religion” which God has always enjoined upon mankind: devotion and service to God rather than the things He created. I challenge you to have a revolutionary change in attitude, whereby what we consider valuable is the “image of God” in human beings, rather than the worldly goods humans possess. The things we possess – including especially our personal inclinations, talents, skills, and intellectual capacity – should be considered our ‘tools’ which we use to honor God by serving our ‘neighbors’.
This brings me back to a point I made in a former blog article: “What Do We Consider Valuable?” It is high time we begin to consider the possibility of getting rid of the concept of “money” altogether. Instead of putting monetary value on my labor, the value of my labor should be in the service it provides to people who can benefit from my contribution. We should provide our contributions ‘freely’ to society. Others will benefit from what I provide, and I will benefit from what others provide. Doctors would provide their services willingly and freely to all; those with mechanical skills would do the same; farmers would do likewise, etc. Think about it a bit. Imagine what the world would be like if no one charged for the contributions he makes to society, and no one had to pay for the benefits he receives. Poverty would disappear, because everything would be freely available to all. Because all employment related to financial matters would no longer exist (banks, the Internal Revenue Service, Tax Accountants, Loan Agencies, Financial Planners and Advisers, etc.) there would be a lot more people available in the ‘workforce’ for those jobs which would still exist. Instead of needing to work at least a 40 hour week, each person could work a whole lot less without suffering from financial loss – and have a whole lot more time for family and other pursuits – because there would be so many more people available to work those jobs. People who have to work at jobs they hate because the things they like to do aren’t monetarily valuable (they don’t provide enough income to get by), would no longer have to do so. They could do the things they enjoy, and contribute to the enjoyment and benefit of others, without the financial worries. I spent 30 years as an over-the-road truck driver; but in that 30 years I worked for a number of different trucking companies, trying to find one that would relieve the financial pressure. I wound up leaving companies that I really liked because they “just didn’t pay enough”. If my only concerns had been to do something I enjoy while also contributing to the well being of society and thereby honoring God, I wouldn’t have been jumping from one company to another. (I do acknowledge that the last company I worked for – the final 10 years before I was declared disabled – did provide a comfortable income in addition to being a company for which I enjoyed working).
Until we can arrive at the universal change in outlook necessary to be able to implement a moneyless society, those of us who seek to love God, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves, should seek to focus on laboring in service to God and our neighbor rather than for the purpose of acquiring money and material capital; and trust in the One who is our Sustainer to make sure we have the material things we need. While we will realize that in the present world situation money really is necessary to purchase the material things we need, we should still not let it be the focus of our attention; let the Sovereign and Sustainer of the world “worry” about it (and we may be sure He is not “worried” 😀 )!