31 October 2008

And Then There Is This...

There are times that I am embarrassed to be a follower of Christ. It is NOT that I am embarrassed of my LORD, but because of some of the people with whom I am on the journey.  And that's too bad, it saddens me. Before anyone picks up cudgels to bludgeon me, please read through to the end of the article to see what I have to say.

From the "As if we don't shoot ourselves in the foot enough" department comes this: a group of Christians gathering to pray for the economy in a public spectacle. Notice the focus-point for their time of prayer --a giant golden bull on Wall Street.

The response is not surprising. One blog was a bit sympathetic (and to the point), but most were less sympathetic and understanding.

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and told them that "...not many of you were wise by human standards," but I don't think that this is the kind of thing that he had in mind, any more than acting stupid for gospel insures that God will descend deus ex machina to answer our prayers.

I believe in the prayer, but I guess I don't get the point of this time of prayer. Yes, I know that they weren't worshiping this gilded statue, but the metaphor of the wall street icon shows the irony of this situation. What are they asking God to do? Restore our culture so we can continue to consume and spend mindlessly? The problem with the Israelites of the original story was that their stomachs were their god. What does this gathering tell people? Somehow it seems to point to all the evil and greed that got us into this mess to begin with (see this article).

I endorse praying for the economy, especially since the people on the lower rungs of society get hit the hardest. I loved the comment to an article that I found on a blog that said that "as Christians we should be giving MORE in a recession rather than less."  It is a matter of compassion and a realization that our source for wealth and giving is not linked to the vagaries of markets and such. Yet in financial turn-arounds like now we turn inward and clutch our wealth tightly to our chests to prevent it from slipping out of our grasp.

What is our agenda for praying for the economy? That I don't become poor? Or, that God will have room to work out his perfect will for our country?

I found this article that I think has a couple of valid points. An important question is:

Is it right to pray for the economy?

I think it is appropriate to pray for the economy. After all, God said to Jeremiah,
"Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare" (Jeremiah 29:7).
When the economy is strong, people are able to work and support their families, believers have greater opportunities for generosity, and many benefit from this common grace.
This fits in well with Paul's idea of living in peace with everyone and other sentiments in Romans 13, among other things.
We can pray for integrity and wisdom for government officials who are faced with the incredibly complex task of regulating investment securities and banks in a way that is transparent and serves all of the varied stakeholders. We can pray that those who are willing to work will be able to find gainful employment. We can pray that greed would be restrained at all levels, from the leaders on Wall Street to individual families tempted to live beyond their means. We can pray for ourselves that we will participate in the national economy that keeps in mind the time is short and the present form of this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).

In addition, Matthew shares a bit of wisdom from Jesus in his gospel about the best way to pray?
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matt 6:5-8).
I think this says that public spectacles may not necessarily be the best way to pray about an issue.

And then, what to pray about?
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life. Or single cubit to his height
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt. 6:25-34).
It seems that praying for the economy isn't about praying for our daily bread. It is about praying for Righteousness AND Justice. Righteousness is about our relationship with God; Justice is about our society's relationship with God.

And, this point:
"I guess as a Christian I can't help but think of the bigger picture beyond just my own nation. And sometimes I wonder if God orchestrates these things to show us things. Like if Ireland and America and other well to do countries don't change their ways with regards to consumption and waste would we not end up in a situation where the poor are suffering as a result, or that they will never have the opportunity to live like we do?"
Finally, a nice video by Max Lucado that's worth a look.

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