14 February 2018

Bleak outlook

The economic forecast going into 2018 is not good. The future is looking bleak. Economic growth has slowed down. Despite the prolonged pain, austerity has failed to dig us out of crippling debt. Jobs are uncertain. The cost of housing (rent or purchase) is way beyond the average Joe and Jane. And who knows what the effect of Brexit will be?

Money, money, money
The temptation is to work harder, to do anything we can to make a bit more money, and try to save or invest as much as we can to have some security in the future. Maybe, as a last desperate resort, we might play the Lotto and put our hopes in the hands of Lady Luck.

What's clear is that our sense of security is almost entirely based on money.

The trouble with money is that it can be like a drug. It makes you feel better off and more secure than you are. When we have money we feel like everything's OK, and that the more we have, and the more we can store away in savings, pensions, house ownership etc, then the better off we'll be.

Dangerous illusion
But the very wise words of Jesus Christ show us that this is a dangerous illusion. That, in fact, if we base our security on money, the outlook is even more bleak than the British economy! He tells the story of a man, who in the world's eyes was wise. Year on year he was doing well, but instead of putting his wealth to good use, he just stored it up. The story concludes, "But God said to the rich man, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich towards God." (Luke 12:20).

Jesus' point is that even the richest people among us have no true or lasting security. It's an illusion. In fact, it may be that because we have devoted so much of our time and energy to gain financial security in this world, we have neglected God, in whom is the only true security.

If we neglect God and his work it makes us poor towards God. We may have riches in this world, but we have nothing in the bank when it comes to God and the world to come. It's a bad miscalculation on our part, whereby at death, we stand to suffer terrible loss: of everything we earned and possessed in this world all of which we leave behind, and little or nothing invested in the future. Prosperity now may provide some sense of temporary security, but it is no assurance of prosperity in the eternal future.

Lasting security
Prosperity in the eternal future depends on being rich towards God; which involves devoting what time, energy, abilities, money and possessions God has given us to serve him and the growth of the kingdom of his Son Jesus Christ - both deeply in our own lives, and widely in the world.

The outlook for the British economy is bleak, and it means for many of us that life now will be poor. But instead of seeking to gain financial security in this world, which at best is 'here today gone tomorrow', we should seek to be rich towards God. Anyone can do that. And that is the key to true and lasting security.

Simon Smallwood
Pastor at St George’s