Instead, this crisis is the consequence of violating certain principals that govern the creation, accumulation and perpetuation of wealth. Like the law of gravity, God has woven into the fabric of life specific laws that govern wealth. Violate them, and sudden economic disaster is imminent.
Hopefully, we’re learning who Not to call during this crisis. Ever wonder what happened to all the financial professionals, economists, forecasters, bankers and brokers? Many top “experts” have instructed individuals to remove their money from investments and put it under their pillows—as if “hoarding” is a viable solution for any financial problem.
And let’s be honest, turning to the government for financial wisdom is like another sequel to “Dumb and Dumber.” When words like “stimulus” and “bailout” are used in any proposed economic strategy, the long-term impact is not promising. These two strategies are in direct opposition to each other. It’s like a sinking sailboat trying to catch a good headwind, when there are obvious holes needing to be patched. Wall Street and the government have left Americans short on answers and long on questions. Many families are asking,: How long is this crisis going to last? How do I prepare myself for an uncertain future? Those of the faith are wondering: Is there a difference for faithful believers in Christ?
I must remind you that Jesus warned us that “…. the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike” (Matt. 5:45). However, God always gives believers an advantage in every circumstance, including finances.
Sadly, believers have been ill-equipped for financial success. For the most part, we have “trusted the experts” at the neglect of personal fiscal responsibility and proper financial education.
We live in a time when economics is not part of Church teaching or curriculum. Finance has been over-spiritualized and limited to giving and receiving. This is true even at the Seminary level. Students graduate from Bible College having learned nothing about budgets, markets, cash flow, economics, interests rates, balance sheets, or banking. The subject of acquiring, creating and managing wealth is largely ignored. For the most part we have been “catching up” rather then, like the Jews, “setting the pace.”
THE CRUCIAL ROLE OF FINANCE IN EDUCATION“The church must teach or die,” is an old adage that reminds us that the Christian faith may always be only one generation away from extinction. In its ministry of education, a congregation is able to fulfill its scriptural commission to teach people in this generation the understandings, traditions, faith, and lifestyles of the Christian community (Matthew 28:19-20).
The destruction or success of a nation can be found in its educational system. Today, there is a silent war being waged over the minds of the emerging generation, and it’s never been more important for local churches to teach people the biblical worldview and lifestyle.
The study of the accumulation and distribution of wealth plays a vital role in the quality and direction of education. How important is education to national security and survival? A recent news article reported “Billions Spent by Saudi Royal Family to Spread Islam to Every Corner of the Earth.”
The March 1, 2002 edition of the Saudi government English weekly Ain Al-Yaqeen extensively detailed the Saudi royal family’s efforts to spread Wahabi (Islam) throughout the world. Recently, Harvard and Georgetown Universities each received $20 million from a member of the Saudi Royal Family, Prince Alwaleed bin Tala, the richest man in the Muslim world. What’s the Prince’s motive? To establish strong seats in prominent American universities to help advance an Islamic Agenda through education. It is no coincidence that Islam is the fastest growing religion on college campuses.
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The implementation of strong Christian education can only be accomplished through biblically based curricula and church-governed schools. Most importantly, strategies of wealth creation and distribution must be developed to assist Christian schools to survive and thrive. Financial education remains at the core of Kingdom enterprise in the world. As Solomon states, “money answereth all things” (Ecclesiastes. 10:19).
JEWS, EDUCATION & FINANCEAs a church begins to shift from economic experts, leaders might ask, “Where do we turn to for guidance, and what model can we follow?” The answer may not be far from our Judeo-Christian roots.
For centuries the Jewish people have provided the world with an example of God’s faithfulness and provision. You cannot be a serious student of the Bible without acknowledging the relationship between God and His beloved people – the Jews. The biblical principals given to the Jews continue to be applicable to the believer today. Scripture after scripture demonstrates the validity of applying the wisdom given by God to Israel. God provided Israel with patterns, principles and strategies to elevate their power and influence amongst diverse nations.
What makes Jewish history so amazing is that the Jewish people didn’t always experience success, prosperity and wealth. They’ve been dismantled as a nation, pillaged and robbed by the world, persecuted, killed, and trampled underfoot throughout Europe. They’ve suffered poverty and shame. They were a people without a country for more than three thousand years. Yet, wherever they sojourned they prospered and flourished. The Jews possess promises from God for success, influence, wealth, and riches.
It’s amazing that in every situation and climate, the Jews flourished. They started businesses, erected factories, and pioneered capitalism in foreign lands. They started in the ghettoes, yet rose to the upper class in each nation. Sadly, once the Jews helped these nations prosper, they were asked to leave, and many times forced out.
Was this a coincidence? Were the Jews merely lucky when it came to prosperity? I believe not. In every nation where Jews resided they rose to positions of influence and power within the judicial systems, executive offices and legislative branches of governments. Though they were in the minority, they outmatched the majority due to their intelligence, innovation, industry and spirituality.
Today, Christians are facing panic and fear, wondering if they will survive this unstable time, while at the same time Jews are praising God for the opportunity to thrive during this economic crisis, as they have done in previous periods. What is it that causes Jews to flourish in troubled economies? Could it be they know how to utilize biblical strategies to prepare for every circumstance?
THE BIBLICAL PATTERN OF CYCLESI want to unfold the most important pattern in the Bible concerning success, productivity, and increase. It is so fundamental God interwove this pattern into every aspect of Jewish life. It has shaped the Jewish perspective on finance since the creation of the Torah. Jews throughout the world have used it to succeed in all economic endeavors, no matter what the financial climate. This pattern is a central component of their financial education.
First, consider that the majority of the Bible is written by Jews and uses manners and customs supported by Jewish thought. Jesus himself was a Rabbi, and the Apostle Paul—a former Pharisee—instructs believers, let the mind of Christ be in you (Phil. 2:5). What kind of mind was in Christ? Definitely, it is a mind shaped and influenced by Jewish manners, customs and theology. Without an in-depth understanding of this viewpoint, much is lost or, worse, misinterpreted.
Jewish thinking differs from Western thought. The Western (Gentile) mindset is based upon linear progression. It begins at one point in time and progresses in a straight line towards the future. Very little value is placed on the past or future. The major emphasis of this type of thinking is on the “Now.”
In comparison, the Jewish mindset is cyclical in nature. Time is continually repeating itself. The patterns of cycles are woven throughout the entirety of Jewish life. There are cycles of the Sabbaths, cycles of feast days, cycles of festivals, cycles of New Moons, cycles of new years, cycles of Jubilee and cycles of Torah reading. This is the basis of the cornerstone Jewish teaching from birth to death, “The Cycle of Life.”
We find cycles embedded within creation — making it a pattern for life itself. Perhaps the best- known verse that speaks of cycles is found in Genesis 8:22, While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
This scripture informs us that while the earth remains in the form in which it was created it will experience seedtime and harvest. More important, this cycle will not cease! To fail to understand this pattern is to encounter continual difficulty. Agriculture in the Bible is a reference to economic productivity. The Jews understand this verse to instruct that everything in life has cycles, including markets, economies, people, relationships, and political environments are going to change.
Yes, life is lived in cycles. Throughout history, one thing has remained constant, and that is change. You cannot alter the seasons or their timing – you must adjust to them. Congress and Wall Street are attempting to stop a natural cycle of retraction from taking place. This bailout will prove to be the most costly mistake in U.S. history. The most our government can salvage is delaying the inevitable. The bailout is based on linear thinking which is willing to sacrifice our future security and prosperity on maintaining our current lifestyles.
People get into trouble because they live and operate on the assumption that their current economic situation will never change. Individuals and organizations that will survive economic downturns are those that realize everything is subject to change. Those that will experience sustainable success are those that respond to the changing market. They become flexible and adapt their businesses, product lines or employment to the current trend.
We see this within the fast-food market. It was once labeled the catalyst for obesity in America, but has now added calorie-friendly menus featuring everything from salad bars to healthy desserts. Those that will experience compounded success are those that anticipate the change and position themselves ahead of the curve.
This is exactly were the Jews have been educated to be. Being able to anticipate the market provides a tremendous advantage. Clothing stores buy winter jackets at wholesale in the hot summer; and below-cost bathing suits in the cold winter to resell at a premium to consumers who need it now. This is an opportune time to buy undervalued stocks, underpriced real estate, or to change vocations or employment to future industries such as green, energy and education.
Today, while economists and so-called government experts are baffled, confounded and confused by the global economic crisis, many Jews are harvesting an economic windfall. They expect cycles of expansion and cycles of contraction. They know well the story of Joseph and how he advised Pharaoh to store up grain for seven years in a time of plenty so that they would have provision in a time of lack. The key difference is they are not surprised by the current economic crisis. They have been prepared because they were taught to anticipate this circumstance long before the signs became apparent. This type of financial education is needed in the church. With millions of Americans faced with economic trouble, the Church must be a light with answers.
There is an old marketing strategy that states, “Find a need and fill it. Where there is no need, create one.” There is a tremendous need for education and empowerment classes to be made available at local churches on “Biblical Economics, Wealth Creation and Distribution.” These types of ministries will not only attract believers, but will provide an evangelistic opportunity to gather non-believers from the local community. Churches providing these services will experience dramatic growth. Great things can be accomplished for the Kingdom through this type of cross-pollination. If the Church plays no role in this area, it is likely to experience the decline of yet another sphere of influence as it moves deeper into the 21st century.
All comments and opinions are solely those of the writer and are not in any way comments or opinions of Jonas Clark Communications or its affiliates.
John Louis Muratori is a recognized authority in organizational management and strategic planning, advising numerous agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Mental Health. John is the author of several books including the recent national best seller, Rich Church Poor Church. He can be reached at www.johnmuratori.com