Friday, July 18, 2008

Sinflation.

I'm not an economist by any means; I won't pretend that I have the business acumen or fiscal skills of a major league stockbroker.

All the same, something doesn't quite add up to me; it never has.

Politicians and powerful businessmen always contend that in times of severe inflation, it is incredibly unwise to give workers a pay rise that enables them to cope with rising costs. They argue that doing such a thing merely forces inflation to increase even more.

At the risk of sounding like a complete fool, I'd like to partially challenge this assertion. It's true that the cost of essential resources such as gas, oil and electricity is going up (latest estimates have it at about 60% by the end of the year), that I wont dispute.

However, merely allowing people to pay for natural price rises, doesn't really increase inflation... it just allows people to keep up with an existing inflation rate that won't go down until the cost of resources falls.

I think they are attacking the wrong part of the equation. You see what I think happens after the public's pay is increased, is that greedy executives decide that now people have more money... they can push them even harder in the hope of improving their profit margin.

Simply put, in a relatively stable economy, sky-rocketing inflation is largely caused by insatiable greed.

Greed is most definitely NOT good.

But perhaps for some, it could be said that greed is god.

Nobody is saying it is sinful to make a profit... but as human beings, we should seek to make our fortune with integrity, decency and goodwill to others.

Jesus once said:

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
Matthew 6:24

In fact, it is recorded twice in the gospels. What Jesus was expressing here, is that if we don't make ourselves accountable to God... we become accountable to lower things. You can't put God on a par with anything else in your life, it just doesn't work.

We live in a generation that has all of a sudden largely decided that it has "outgrown" God. That belief in God is nothing more than a quaint commodity... and as the love of God decreases, the love of money is increasing. The apostle Paul picks up where Jesus left off and continues the cautionary teaching:

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
1 Timothy 6:6-10

But love of money isn't the only problem.... because that usually only affects those who actually have it. There is also the worry of money. Bills rise and wages remain static... and the average man in the street is left wondering if he is going to make it through the year without being financially crushed. Well, Jesus had several things to say about that too:

"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? 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? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour 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? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:25-34

and:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

It's relatively easy to talk about turning all your troubles to Jesus, but I appreciate it's no easy thing at all when you are stacked with mounting bills.

And this is why the pendulum swings once more towards who have been blessed with material wealth.

In the Early Church, the believers followed a simple way of life. As the book of Acts records:

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42-47

Idealistic? Maybe by the world's standards...but as Christians we re not called to live by the worlds standards... and we should take hold of this idealism and live it. I and adhered to. firmly believe we should try ans embrace the same principles those early believers stood for

Several hundred years after the events recorded in the Bible, a man whose name I share, took three bags of gold and according to legend... discreetly dropped them into the house of a poor man, in order that his daughters could get married. That man came to be known as St. Nicholas, and we celebrate his kindness very year at the time of Christ's birth (whose nativity was the beginning of the greatest act of kindness ever).

Maybe those stories are a little old and archaic... the world's moved on Nick... remember?

OK, what about the 1990's? During the last recession, there was a village in Scotland which had a local economy that was largely dependent on the fishing industry. As economic gloom began to take hold, jobs were lost and the whole village began to collapse.

Then the church came along.

The local church began to use it's (admittedly not massive resources),to employ local men who found themselves out of work. Oh it was only small jobs at first... but somehow people found their bills payable and the village was saved... and pews were filled with people who had seen the kind of love the church can demonstrate... if only it were willing.

So the choices are simple:

Do we embrace or do we exploit?

Do we rescue or do we turn away?

Do we love our neighbour as ourselves or do we just love ourselves?

Do we worship God or goods?

One final sobering point on inflation... while we bemoan our current financial hardship and economic troubles, it is worth remembering and reflecting upon the fact that the people of Zimbabwe have had inflation of 2.2 million % compared to the UK's relatively meagre 3.8% and we don't live under the law of violent oppression either.

So while we feel the pinch, let's not lose perspective.

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