Why do economies fail? It is an interesting question that economists, government officials, and particularly investors would love to answer. Yet, like most questions dealing with human endeavors, the answer will escape them as they are unwilling to look at the real answer, and instead favor the continuous searching for an answer that absolves them of any guilt. I say that as it should be obvious that we are all guilty before God, and we all need to face up to that. However, that is impossible to acknowledge, if one never acknowledges that God exists, or that the word of God has any bearing on them.
What does an economy have to do with man’s acknowledgement of God? Everything. Economic activity is one of the most basic endeavors of man, and the LORD God addresses it in His word. In James, the admonition is express that we should never assume that tomorrow is secure, and that we are guaranteed increase when we trade for profit.
Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. (James 4:13-14)
Here the rebuke is aimed at those who call themselves the children of God, and yet are focused on making money, instead of service to God. The fact is, none of us even have an inkling of what will happen in the next hour, let alone tomorrow. We know what we would like to have happen. We expect that certain events will happen, but we really do not know. Since this is the case, we are warned to be prepared to depart this world at a moment’s notice.
Yes, I know – the charge of “fear-mongering” cannot be far away. However, I would remind anyone that on the morning of September 11th, 2001, there were a considerable number of individuals in the World Trade Center who would not live past 10:00 AM. You know, none of them knew that at 8:30 AM that morning. Instead, they had plans for lunch with friends and co-workers, dinner with the family, trades to be made, deals to be completed, etc. The vast majority of them did not even consider that the LORD God would require their souls that very morning.
So what does this have to do with economies failing? Everything. It is the disregard for the LORD God and what He requires of us that causes economies to fail. You see, if we all regarded the LORD God and His word, we would never do anything that would bring His judgement down upon us. Moreover, because we regarded His word, He would bless us in our endeavors, and we would have in abundance. After all, don’t think the promises He gave Israel were only restricted to Israel. No, the LORD would bless any nation that sought to follow His word.
Instead, what happens can only be described as blind human nature let run loose — unchecked. Self-interest to the maximum. All in the name of making money and growing an economy. After all, the justification is given: It will make all our lives better. Not.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with money. Money is simply a medium of exchange, and can be any token we assign a value to for the purposes of effecting trade. It is more convenient than bartering, transportable over long distances, and convertible in other economic value systems. Nothing wrong with that. No, the problem is the love of money. Scripture puts it succinctly:
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (I Timothy 6:10)
Notice that it states that it is the “love of money,” and not money itself. We have another word for that: Greed.
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. (James 5:1-5)
Now, let’s think about this a minute. I used to work for a company that one year had a 24% increase in sales, and profits went up almost correspondingly. Yet, when it came time for the company to evaluate how much they were going to give their employees who enabled them to meet the demand for that increase in sales, they determined that the employees only deserved a 3% increase in pay. There is only one word for that: Greed.
Now, I know the money belongs to the company and they can do with it whatsoever they want. They can even burn it in barrels if they want. However, the LORD God requires something of the individuals running the company whether they realize it or not, and the above passage from James does make that clear.
You see, the only reason that anyone would be so greedy as to deprive their workers of a proper wage is because they are focused only on this world, and cannot even see beyond the moment. They do not acknowledge the LORD God and what he requires of them, and cannot understand that money will not buy eternity, nor alter the judgement to come. In short, they are fools of the first order.
But an economy doesn’t fail because of the rich. Rather, it is the out-working of the decision illustrated above where a company experienced a bountiful year, and kept back almost all of it from the people who enabled them to enjoy such a year. Why? Because it cut the purchasing power of the very people who drive an economy – the workers. Simply put, there are more lower and middle-class people than there ever will be rich people. If you deprive the lower and middle-class workers of purchasing power, what is left to drive an economy? The rich? Not hardly. There are simply not enough rich people to make an economy function properly.
But the primary reason for the failure of an economy is the judgement of God. When the individuals that run companies become so greedy that they rob their workers of wages, Almighty God hears about it. That is exactly what is stated in the passage from James, quoted above. It does not matter whether the worker is lost or saved, when they are not fairly compensated, God knows. Moreover, the very heart and attitude that drives the officers of a company to rob their employees, also drives them to cheat and steal elsewhere. One can only do that for so long, and God will bring judgement. When this attitude and behavior is prevalent across an economy, God brings down that economy and the nation in which it exists.
The most disheartening part of this judgement is the total lack of discernment on the part of those being judged who are the most responsible for bringing the LORD’s judgement down upon them. Instead of admitting that they lied, cheated and stole from their workers, customers and business associates, and that was utterly destructive, they justify their actions or seek to blame others for the failure. Sad for them as it indicates they are unable, or unwilling to face up to who they are and their need of a Savior. They are very much like the rich man the Lord Jesus spoke of:
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:16-21)
A failed economy is the LORD’s judgement, and a wonderful economy doesn’t do any good in Hell.