Community of Tampa | St. Pete | Florida

Credit Crisis

“No one finds security by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved.” -Prov. 12:3

I am reading a book called Boomerang by Michael Lewis, he is the financial journalist who wrote the Big Short and Moneyball. A common theme that comes up in his books are that the security of financial systems are based on trust, and that when some betray that trust out of greed, selfishness and pride, it leads to insecurity and suffering for all. That’s what happened in the American financial crisis, the Greek one, the Icelandic and Irish one. All of these crises were “credit” crises, where people abused the trust put in them to carefully lend or spend money. And it is worth noting today in this church that the word credit is a word that is part of our language of faith.  Every week we recite the creed, which is the same word as credit, from the latin credere, to believe in. The world’s current, ongoing economic crisis is a lot about a ‘crisis of faith’ of misplaced faith between lenders and debtors. This of course mirrors and worsens a larger crisis of faith in the US and around the world, between people and most major institutions of our lives; banks, governments, police, churches, etc.  The disconcerting part is that Lewis thinks that this crisis in faith is far from over.

Well, the importance and appropriateness of speaking about all this in church is because every financial crisis is at heart a crisis in faith, and this church is where we learn about and grow stronger in our faith.  We repeat our creed so often, every week saying Havatamk, that we have forgotten the power of what we are saying. The power of “We believe in One God,” is that we resolutely reject putting our belief in anything else in this world. God is our refuge and strength, and God’s sustaining power is not tied to any market, government or class.  And when we look at all of today’s assigned readings, their common thread is also that our security can be found in God’s promises alone.  His promise to protect the righteous and to repay the sinner. His promise that if we our first and foremost secure in God and his righteousness, we will never be insecure in this world unto the next.  “No one finds security by wickedness,” says Proverbs, “but the root of the righteous will never be moved.”

It is crucial that we put our full trust and faith in God, but yet it is so hard for us to do so. Our Holy Scriptures and our Lord have harsh things to say about money.  Mammon is the Greek word for love of money, a love which Jesus condemns in his famous words that “no slave can serve two masters … you cannot serve God and mammon.” But as with all things of this world, money is not evil in itself, it is simply an evil master. It doesn’t care how you come by it, and at what price to the important things in life; that’s why the deadly sins of pride, envy, gluttony, greed, lust feature so heavily in all the crises of faith going on today, with banks, with congress and between countries.  These are the sins which still may take down Greece, Italy and Spain, and which may leave the United States diminished and divided.

Our church, our creed, offers a different relationship between finance, faith and the faithful. Unlike mammon, which possesses us to do whatever it takes for more, manna is the image for wealth as free gift from God. As you know, manna is from the book of Exodus where God’s people are wandering in the desert.  With nothing around and with no provisions, God provides bread from the heavens.  What was God’s instruction for using this gift? Don’t gather too much or too little of the manna; just enough to meet your needs. Don’t save and sell the manna, it spoils by the next day. Don’t gather manna on the Lord’s day, trust that the Lord will provide.  Where mammon is driven by human anxiety, control and excess, manna is reliance on God’s abundance and provision for all; and the realization that everything in our lives is pure gift.

So then, let us not put our credit in the stock market, in Germany or in the US, or even in ourselves.  This world is in a credit crisis, and to greater or lesser extent, it always will be.  That’s because there is only one secure bet in this world, the only one there could be; that the God who created and sustains all his creatures, will continue to provide for all those who put full faith in Him; now and always and unto the ages of ages; amen.

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