Friday, January 9, 2009

God's a Financial Planner, Too.


If you're looking for a Campbell-related post, sorry to disappoint, but this isn't one. The first three days of the semester haven't sparked any controversy to my knowledge, but some light reading has catalyzed my thought processes.

The Bible is full of men and women who risk humiliation, ostracization and death in order to fulfill God's purpose for them, which is usually revealed through a special revelation. The Old Testament, or Tor'ah in the Jewish faith, is especially rich with such accounts.

The Book of Haggai ended up towards the end of the Old Testament, the first half of the Bible which details God's work on earth before the arrival of Jesus. (The New Testament, the second half, recounts Jesus' life and the beginning of the Christian church.)

Haggai is a pretty weird name. It's not on the top ten baby names, and it sounds like the word "hag" or the phrase "hey guy." Haggai doesn't, however, have the strangest name in the Bible.

Haggai was actually an ancient prophet whose purpose was to convince the Israelites, the people Moses led out of Egypt, to rebuild the holy temple after the Babylonions destroyed it.

The events of the Old Testament took place thousands of years ago, so what do they have to do with anything in the 21st century? Well, that's the funny thing about the Bible. Its lessons have no expiration date.

Everyone is aware of the increasing unemployment rates and recent bank and auto bailouts. Two and a half million Americans brought home pink slips in the last year (click here for source). Quite frankly, Americans aren't used to being the ones bleeding on the side of the road with no help. The country has been a superpower for several generations, so people are accustomed to a relatively comfortable lifestyle-- namely, employed and eating three times a day in some sort of abode.

The story of Job would be a good one to comfort the financially distraught, but I recently read through Haggai (it's only a couple pages) and found this passage to be appropriate:

Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it."

Okay, heeding such advice would have been more helpful back before the government started wiping business' tears and changing their diapers. However, hindsight being 20/20, we can hopefully learn from our screw ups and better the future.

In the passage God is warning the Israelites to be grateful for what they have and preserve their blessings instead of squandering them away. I think it speaks to irresponsible spending and irresponsible loaning, both of which are coming back to nip the U.S. (and other countries) in the "butt-tox," as Forrest Gump would refer to one's hind quarters.

Yeah, yeah, we're a capitalist country so we need to spend in order to stay afloat, but don't buy five pairs of shoes when you only need rain boots. Don't blow your paycheck on a new iPod when your savings account is skimpy and the utility bill is on the table. That's God's message to the Israelites.

God is telling the Israelites that they have more than enough to live comfortable lives, but they take their success for granted and lose it in the long term.

The lesson? Be grateful for what you have and appreciate its value for the future.

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