Well, it’s been quite a week hasn’t it? How’s your bank holding up? Heard anything from your retirement fund managers? If nothing else, we now ought to have a much better understanding of what global interdependence means and a far more clear picture of the connection between Wall Street, Main Street and Washington. Anger, even outrage, may be an appropriate reaction, but smugness or self-righteousness are not. Wall Street greed has had a lot to do with the mess we are in, but to be honest we have to admit that that greed also infected everyone who shopped around for the highest returns without checking the risks and ethics of it, who ran up credit cards to their max and then got more cards, who borrowed heavily for unneeded toys they really couldn’t afford, who let themselves get talked into mortgage obligations on terms that seemed too good to be true, and on and on.
Of course there are serious and very unpleasant consequences to the well being of ordinary citizens, and we cannot wish them away, but it might be a good time for Christians to become more publicly adamant about promoting a new way of life in America, one that espouses a stronger sense of stewardship, holy stewardship, of the resources that have been made available to us, and that doesn’t mean just oil. As an aside, I’ve got a friend who takes excessive pride in her simple, inexpensive life style and thinks everyone should be like her. That’s ridiculous, but it is important to be good stewards of whatever resources one has, and that means the rich are still going to be rich, but they can be good stewards of their riches.
Our community has begun to take on the idea of environmental sustainability as a serious policy option, and environment means a lot more than trees and water. It means all things that we engage on a daily basis to provide the kind of life we live. The dominant conservative political ethic was suspicious of the liberal left-wingers who initiated the movement, but even they have started to understand that, if they are to be true conservatives, they have to think about what it means to conserve the best of what we have. Maybe your community is doing something similar. It certainly takes on more credence given the current news on the financial front.
So where in scripture might we turn to begin a new path? I might suggest Psalm 73. The problem, of course, is that by next week when things look better we can be tempted to look up to heaven and say “O, never mind.”
1 Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For they have no pain; their bodies are sound and sleek.
5 They are not in trouble as others are; they are not plagued like other people.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them like a garment.
7 Their eyes swell out with fatness; their hearts overflow with follies.
8 They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.
9 They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongues range over the earth.
10 Therefore the people turn and praise them, and find no fault in them.
11 And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most
12 Such are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.
13 All in vain I have kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all day long I have been plagued, and am punished every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will talk on in this way,” I would have been untrue to the circle of your children.
16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end.
18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes; on awaking you despise their phantoms.
21 When my soul was embittered,when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was stupid and ignorant; I was like a brute beast toward you.
23 Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me with honor.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 Indeed, those who are far from you will perish; you put an end to those who are false to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, to tell of all your works.