If you’re listening to the financiers, bankers, and politicians, we’re teetering on the brink. They’re saying what Barry McGuire sang in his inimitable voice: it’s the “Eve of Destruction.” Barry wanted everyone twisted in knots over war, racism, and nuclear holocaust. Today we’re invited to be in knots because mammon says our future is bleak. Christians, however, can be the one Barry is singing against, “And you tell me/ Over and over and over again, my friend/ Ah, you don’t believe/ We’re on the eve of destruction.” At least we don’t believe it they way the fearmongers want us to.
Consider these price comparisons for 1957 and 2008 and the percent of change.
Gallon of Milk 1.00 3.89 +389%
Loaf of Bread .19 1.00 +526%
New Auto 2,100 22,651 +1,078%
Gallon of Gas .24 3.59 +1,495%
New Home 20,000 230,000 +1150%
Avg. Income 4,594 61,500 +1,339%
Dow Jones 435.69 11,100 +2,548%
The last set of figures should stand out. They are out of whack with the rest of them. We would expect that milk and bread would not rise in price as fast as other things because technology makes it easier to produce these things. We would expect oil to increase much more because demand went way up while supply went down. The new home average price doesn’t reflect that the average home has doubled in size since then, so the true increase is probably half what is shown. The Dow Jones figures reflect the fact that world economies have boomed and more people are invested in the stock market, yet it does seem overinflated.
Now you will tell me that the buying power of the dollar has decreased 760% since 1957, and I will tell you the minimum wage in 1957 was 1.00 per hour. It is now 6.55; that’s a 655% increase. What you should notice is that relative wages and the cost of things tend to keep pace with each other. Also note that through easy credit, particularly through second mortgages, people have been doing worse than the song “Five O’clock World” says: we’ve not only “been living on money I ain’t made yet,” we’ve been living on money we’re not likely to be able to get out of our homes.
However, these neat facts aren’t the reason we aren’t afraid of this latest call that we’re on the eve of destruction. The fact is we’ve been here before. In fact, we Christians live here. The Day of our Lord’s return is now closer than when we first believed. The night is far spent the day is at hand (Romans 13:11, 12). Christians live with the certainty that this world is heading for destruction, but their citizenship isn’t in this world but in heaven (Philippians 3:20). This world is passing away as are all who are earthbound, i.e. bound to the earth. We are bound to the eternal Christ by Water that doesn’t dry up, by Words that echo into eternity, by Bread that doesn’t mold and Wine that doesn’t sour.
If you’re bound to the earth, money is king. Both Marx and Betty Friedan, one defending communism the other feminism, made sensible arguments for their causes from economics. If economic reality is the only reality, they’re right, but it’s not the only reality or the most important one. Christians confess this by what they do with money. They spend earthly mammon in service of a King and Kingdom who are not seen except under incredibly plain, apparently powerless Water, Words, Bread and Wine.
The sainted Martin Franzmann said that money can master not only the man who is intent upon living well but also the man desperately concerned about living at all. Keeping body and soul together in this life, however, is ultimately our Lord’s business not ours. For our part, we are to consider the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. Their stock market crashes every drought, every early winter, every thunderstorm. Yet the Lord feeds and clothes them.
O I’m sorely tempted to put all the cash I can in gold. I too watched it skyrocket. But consider this: “In all of history, no more than 126,000 tons of gold have been picked, plucked and mined from the earth – barely enough to construct a cube 58 feet on each side” (Reader’s Digest, September, 1994, page 58). All it would take is one big find, and gold would plummet like oil did in the late 80s. Then where would I be?
I’d be in the same place I am now. In the nail-pierced hands of the One who loved me and gave Himself for me, who redeemed me not with gold or silver (or with oil or stock shares for that matter) but with His holy precious Blood and His innocent suffering and death.
Therefore, let us take our stand where Habakkuk did on his eve of destruction when the Babylonians we’re approaching to destroy Jerusalem and take the Church into captivity. He writes in chapter 3, “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
After 70 years, the day of calamity did come on Babylon and the Church was rescued. The day of the world’s calamity may be tomorrow; whenever it is, it is our day of rescue too. So, even though the stock market crash, housing prices implode, and our financial system fails, yet we will rejoice in the Lord; we will be joyful in Christ our Savior. Habakkuk didn’t live to regret his stance. No, he died in it. He died well, so will we.