Don't "Expect a Miracle"

Amid the many lessons people are drawing from the financial crisis we’re all enduring, one lesson emerges as particularly poignant: Don’t expect God to  save you from bad financial decisions. He might, but he well might not, and he clearly hasn’t done so in many, many cases.

Christianity Today magazine has featured poignant stories of pastors losing their homes and churches losing their buildings in the American subprime mortgage fiasco, pastors and churches particularly prone to “expect a miracle,” as charismatic leader Oral Roberts has proclaimed for decades.

No, God has made an orderly world both in terms of physics and in terms of economics. Yes, sin gums up the works and exceptions do occur at least for a time, but certain truths remain in both spheres: You don’t get something for nothing, and what goes (artificially) up must come down. (For some helpful historical perspective on the primary cultural cause of the mortgage disaster, see here.)

In my own circle of acquaintance, people who practice a red-hot charismatic faith and who depend on God to help them no matter what they do have lost their jobs (again) and are on the verge of bankruptcy (again), while those of a cooler inclination–Presbyterians, say–are not insulated from the economic shocks (one is a middle-aged manager who lost his job after 20 years of service) but are financially poised to weather this storm nonetheless. Why? Because the former act like little kids while the latter act like adults.

I don’t mean to blame every victim here, of course. Lots of sensible people did what they were supposed to do and have been hammered by other people’s greed, gullibility, or incompetence. I myself have tried to be careful with my pension and it’s dropped pretty far nonetheless.

All I mean to say is that one of the lessons we should learn from this crisis is that God expects us to pay attention to the wealth of wisdom literature–in both Scripture and in the world–and not to rely on him to do for us what he expects us to do for ourselves as maturing children of his. It’s wonderful to see a childlike faith in a child, and we need that childlike faith to enter the Kingdom of God, as Jesus said. But once we’re in the Kingdom, we’re supposed to grow up into adults who are competent to “reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:6).

Surely we can begin by paying off our credit cards, saving regularly, investing carefully, borrowing prudently, spending thriftily–and not just counting on Daddy to keep giving us our allowance no matter what.