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Scott’s Column: The Great Recession- 10 Years

Cassie Williams
September 20 2018

The Great Recession: 10 Years

This month has marked the tenth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the subsequent events in our national economy that came to be called the Great Recession.  The news reminded me that I had preached on the financial crisis as it began ten years ago, so I looked back at that sermon. At the time I was still pastoring in Oklahoma City, and we were in the midst of a series based on the Book of Exodus.  Here’s how my September 28, 2008 sermon on the Ten Commandments entitled “God Restores, We Witness” began:

As I’ve watched the financial news the last two weeks, like everyone else I have been surprised by how many titans of the financial industry have collapsed. Like everyone else, I have been caught up in the speculation about the future of our economy. The national debt has doubled. And now the political leadership debates a $700 billion bailout package. We listen to the news and think about 1929 all over again.

But this week I read something which excited my imagination, filled me with courage, and renewed my hope. Oddly enough it was in Time magazine. In this week’s Time Andy Serwer and Allan Sloan wrote an article about the nation’s current financial crisis, entitled “The Price of Greed.” They went into detail about all the problems and how we had gotten to this point. Then, they concluded the article this way:

Coping in this new world will require adjustments by millions of Americans. We all will have to start living within our means – or preferably below them. If you don’t overborrow or overspend, you’re far less vulnerable to whatever problems the financial system may have.

Why that conclusion excited me is because it told me something I already knew. Something I had learned from the Christian story. We Christians already knew this simple, economic wisdom. And it was this prior knowledge which renewed me hope.

We Christians live counter-culturally, spending our money differently than society tempts us to, because scripture invites us to share a portion of our property and income investing in hope and the kingdom of God. The Christian practice of tithing helps us to set priorities and make choices. As such we are less vulnerable to the winds of the economic system. We have committed part of ourselves to opting out of the economic system, because we realize that no matter how good it may be, every economic system exploits and oppresses. We aren’t separatists, trying to completely escape the economic system. But with the priorities we set, the choices we make, and the commitments we observe, we witness for hope and the reign of God.

This week, then, we have a vivid reminder that the laws of God exist for our own salvation. These aren’t arbitrary rules. Rather, they are invitations into a relationship which will draw us closer to each other and closer to God.

Serwer and Sloan were a little naïve.  Greed didn’t end. Americans didn’t radically alter their spending and saving habits in the long term.  A new era of developing moral character did not emerge.

And I was naïve.  The recession did end up affecting all of us, even those of us who obeyed the economics of scripture.  So this sermon is one of those I remember with a little sheepishness.

Yet, my bold statement was not wrong theologically.  The practice of Christian stewardship is one way we stand against injustice and invest in a better world.  It is one way we witness for the kingdom of God.