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Grumpy Young Men? (Part 2)

01. September 2010

Suggesting some solutions

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A Good King is Hard to Find

28. October 2009

A Good King is Hard to Find

There’s a problem with our leaders, and there’s a problem wth us

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No Country for Hairy Men

11. August 2009

No Country for Hairy Men

One of the latest fashion trends has no shortage of irony. But should anyone mind?

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Twittering Ourselves to Death?

02. June 2009

Twittering Ourselves to Death?

What is Twitter, and why should we evaluate it?

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The View from the Pit of Plan A

09. March 2009

Wisdom from James on the current financial crisis

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The View from the Pit of Plan A

09. March 2009

Wisdom from James on the current financial crisisAnyone with a pulse realizes that the world is facing its most significant financial crisis since the Great Depression. Trillions of dollars of investment capital have evaporated, major financial institutions have collapsed, government leaders are scrambling in a feverish attempt to address these issues and people are panicking.

Most likely everyone reading these words has been impacted in some way by these unnerving and unprecedented events. The question many people are asking is: How did this happen? The answer to that question is obviously complex in many ways. A variety of financial factors contributed to this crisis including subprime loans, a housing bubble, hedge funds and runaway consumer spending. But, in another sense, the answer to this question is amazingly simple and it can be found in the Epistle of James:

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (Jas. 4:13-17).

In this portion of his epistle, James is replying to a group of self-confident business men who are planning their financial future. One can almost imagine these businessmen gathered around a map of the Mediterranean world as they plot their profit making schemes and put their business plan in motion. We can imagine one of them pointing his finger to the map and saying, “Tomorrow we will go to this city, establish our operations for a year and we’ll make a fortune!” The entire attitude of these men is arrogant and godless. They believe only in the certainty of their own success and their self-sufficiency. They display an utter lack of humility and their plans are entirely devoid of any mention of God. They choose pride over providence.

Our present financial crisis arose from a similar choice. We could easily substitute 21st Century investment bankers, bank executives or mortgage brokers for James’ ancient businessmen.

They too were confident of their ability to carry on business and make money. They too chose pride over providence. The substitutions, however, do not end there. We could also substitute ourselves for James’ ancient businessmen. Like them, too many of us imbibed of the cordial of self-confident capitalism. We embraced by faith the orthodoxies of the modern investing world. We became devotees of “financial planning” and “retirement planning.” We believed that we could endlessly shovel money into our retirement plans, buy stocks and make money. We thought our retirements were guaranteed. We slowly, but surely, began to trust in pride over providence.

My point is not that planning for our financial futures is a denial of providence per se. The Bible does not prohibit us from making plans about our future, even our financial future. In fact, the Bible actually encourages us to make plans. Think of how Joseph is commended for his wisdom in storing up grain for the years of famine that would be experienced in Israel (Genesis 41:48-49). The Bible never condemns us for engaging in wise planning, but it does condemn us when we engage in planning which is presumptuous and prideful. The present financial crisis is a stark reminder of this eternal truth. That’s how God’s Word speaks to your world.

—Anthony Selvaggio

Anthony Selvaggio is theologian in residence of the Rochester, N.Y., RPC., and is a Witness contributing editor. This new column will appear several times each year.

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Augustinian Antithesis

01. November 2007

Augustinian Antithesis

Only one kingdom can captivate our hearts

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