Economic Crisis & Spiritual Challenge

lumax-hit-by-economyOnce a month, a number of English-speaking priests/ministers/pastors based in Prague meet on a Tuesday morning to share news, pray for one another and end by having lunch together. We are generously hosted by the Roman Catholic Augustinian Community alongside St Tomáš Church in Mala Strana. We use their refectory which the American Pastor who organises our meetings always calls the ‘refractory’ in his emails!

imagesource courtesy of lumaxart

The denominational spread is wide ranging from Father William, RC priest from New York, via me, to Gareth, Welsh Pastor to the International Baptist Church, through to several ex-pat Americans who lead various independent free evangelical churches/fellowships.

Last Tuesday we were joined by Tomáš, the Chief Economic Strategist for one of the leading Czech banks and a friend of one of the American Pastors. He has been asked by the Czech Prime Minister to participate on a task force to deal with the current financial crisis and he wanted us to pray for him and the task force.

He spoke to us first for ten minutes, explaining the origins and seriousness of the crisis with great clarity. I gained more understanding from his short talk than I had from the scores of articles and news items I had previously read. And as someone with a deep personal faith, he also spoke about these economic and financial matters in spiritual terms, saying that hard-nosed bankers and the like, were now saying sorry, even talking of repentance from past mistakes!! Whilst expressing the seriousness of the crisis, he could also see it as a spiritual opportunity.

He used a helpful Old Testament analogy with the story of Joseph to explain some of the reasons why we had reached the current crisis. The seven years 2001-2008 had been good economically. But instead of putting money aside to help deal with a future economic downturn, just as Joseph stored wheat during the seven years of plenty, instead governments, banks and the like had still spent more than was coming in. To illustrate his point he cited the United States national debt which, instead of decreasing during those good economic times as it should have done, actually increased from 60% of GDP to 70% of GDP in that same period.

Tomáš saw two possible scenarios regarding the future. One was governments working together with stronger economies supporting weaker ones. He could see a risk of whole countries going bankrupt such as some of the Baltic States, Ireland or Greece. It would need action at an EU level to ensure this did not happen. He was encouraged by what he had seen so far with governments working together to try and prevent the collapse of banks by part nationalising them.

But the alternative was to move towards protectionism, trying to defend one’s own country’s position with little thought for others less fortunate. The comments by President Sarkozy, that Renault should close down their factories in Eastern Europe, rather than making French workers in France redundant, is a good example of such thinking. Of course, he did not like the suggested corollary of Toyota, whose biggest European car manufacturing plant happens to be in France, closing down that factory rather than shedding jobs in Japan!!

Tomáš expressed the view that trying to get the world economy going again by encouraging people to spend money they do not have, was not the way forward. He also felt that there was limit to the products that people actually needed to buy. He cited the creation of personal computers as something that had helped keep the world economy going but such inventions don’t occur each year!

Having listened and prayed with Tomáš, I came away with a clearer understanding of the gravity of the current economic crisis and a confirmation of my own conviction of the need to challenge Christians to have distinctive values. That greed, (which is what lies behind much of the present crisis) is not a Christian virtue. To remind them that true security is not found in wealth or material possessions. A biblical verse that has come to have great significance for me these past few years is Luke 12 v15, where Jesus says, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions”. Will this most serious economic crisis actually make people realise that deep truth?

2 comments to Economic Crisis & Spiritual Challenge

  • Ricky, I really enjoyed this post. My minister back home once told me that every generation has it’s spiritual blind spot. If 150 years ago it was slavery, he thought this generation’s spiritual blind spot was financial irresponsibility. I think it’s great that you are sharing your views on this in your new blog!

  • Ricky

    Karen – Thank you for your kind words & positive encouragement. I very much agree with the wise insights of your minister in the US. Not only is it financial irresponsibility but it is also realising that we don’t always need to have ‘more’, especially if we cannot afford to pay for it. We need to learn that ‘more’ is not always ‘better.’