Targeting the anxiousness caused by what some are calling “The Great Recession,” my pastor Joshua Harris recently preached a pair of messages at Covenant Life Church (Gaithersburg, MD). Entitled “The Good Recession,” Harris taught from Luke 12:13-34. Both messages addressed the proper Christian response to this season of economic uncertainty and targeted the themes of greed and covetousness (week 1) and worry (part 2).
In the opening message, Harris said:
“God is doing something. He is shaking the financial security of the entire world. That’s not easy, that’s not something we want. But could we be a people who believe that God can use even something that looks very bad, for our good? Could we be trained by this, and on the other side of it, know the ‘peaceful fruit of righteousness’ (Heb. 12:11, ESV)? That is my prayer for myself, my family, and for this spiritual family. We could mope our way, complain our way, worry our way, grow bitter, through all of this. Or we can humbly ask God to use an economic downturn for our spiritual renewal, for our spiritual upturn.”
What follows is an outline of the two messages, a handful of transcribed excerpts, and links to the audio recordings. The messages are worth your time.
OUTLINES (with audio linkage):
- This recession can be good if we allow it to open our eyes to folly of greed and covetousness.
- This recession can be good if it helps reset our definition of ‘need.’
- This recession can be good if it makes us more aware of our helplessness and God’s faithful provision.
- This recession can be good if it helps us see that only King Jesus and His kingdom are worth living for.
- This recession can be good if it encourages us to lay up treasure in heaven.
Sovereign God and Baffled Economists
“There is a broad spectrum of experience represented in our church. Some of you have been relatively untouched by this downturn. Others of you are really struggling to stay afloat, and maybe you have been struggling for a longer time than this story has dominated the headlines. I think it’s safe to say that we have all been touched by the unease that hangs over the economy right now. If we are not struggling financially personally, we know someone who is. If we have not lost our job, we know someone who has lost a job. If our company isn’t struggling to stay afloat, we know another company that is in that situation. And I think what compounds the temptation to worry is the uncertainty. Nobody really knows what is going to happen in the days to come. Even the brightest economists and people who would be considered experts are really just guessing when it comes to what will take place and the fix. The question I want us to consider is how should Christians who believe in a sovereign God think and live during a time like this? How should people who call Jesus Lord and Savior view an economic downturn that some have dubbed ‘The Great Recession’?”
“I want to speak in particular to parents: Dads and moms who are here, I know you love your kids. I know you care about their future, and want the best for them. But is it possible for us to think something is the best for our kids, and we are just discipling them in covetousness? Could God use this season of recession to teach our children things that will guard their souls for the rest of their lives? I pray so. … When it comes to our own hearts, I think we should pray: Lord use this recession to teach me that you are my only hope. Lord, use this recession to open my eyes to the dangers of covetousness and greed. Lord, use this recession to teach me that my life does not consist in the abundance of my possessions.”
Sober Hearts or Bigger Barns?
“This recession will not necessarily make you a more spiritual and godly person. God can use this recession for our spiritual good if we let it awaken us to the folly of greed and covetousness. There is a very big IF in this statement and I want you to be aware of this. This recession will not necessarily do you or me any spiritual good. In fact if we don’t guard our hearts it might be an opportunity for us to grow more greedy and more obsessed with money and financial security if we are constantly checking the markets and make the lesson of this downturn that we need bigger barns. That is not the lesson God wants to teach us in this. If we begin to hoard our possessions and harden our hearts and our first thought when it comes to seeing someone in need, and giving, is that we cannot give, we are not going to grow in the ways I believe God would have us grow.”
“When you think about the last year of your life, when you think about the areas you are trying to grow in and sins you are working on, is greed at the top of this list. I’ll speak for the pastors, we don’t get a lot of phone calls of people saying ‘I’m greedy! Please, I need counseling.’ It just doesn’t happen that much. I’ll be honest with you: Our schedule is not booked up with people who are awake at night aware of how greedy and covetous they are. Now, if you’ve ever been in that place—God bless you—that is a good thing. But doesn’t that make you a little suspicious of us, that we live in the richest country in the world and have more stuff in our families than a lot of people in history had in their entire lives? We spend a lot of our time at the malls, like they are temples, we are always aware of the new stuff that we ‘need’—and we are not greedy at all? Isn’t that a little suspicious. Doesn’t that make you say, ‘Hmm. Wait a second here. Is this right?’ Or could it be that we are just blind? Could it be that we have been lulled to sleep by a culture that is built on the lie that your life consists in the abundance of your possessions?”
Sumo-Sized Wants and Salad-Sized Needs
“I read about Japanese sumo wrestlers, touching base with my heritage a little bit. If you are familiar with sumo wrestlers, they gain hundreds of pounds. These men are huge. And they do this by eating tons of food and literally train their bodies not to feel full. They literally stretch their stomachs, massaging their intestines to make room for food. Isn’t that gross? And they do this to reset their definition of a normal meal so they can gain hundreds of pounds. In a similar way, our definition of need, when it comes to possessions, is completely out of proportion. We’re like those sumo wresters that have redefined their needs so that we can take in more and more. Our definition of need has been super-sized by our culture of consumption. So we think that we need not only to eat, but to eat food that we love, and preferably to eat out. We think that we not only need to be clothed, but to wear the latest fashion and have five of everything. We think we need more than just a roof over our heads. We want a bigger house, with a big yard. And the list could go on and on. We think we need multiple cars, four-wheel drive vehicles to drive on paved roads. We need all these things. Right?! …And I’ll be honest with you, when I read Jesus’ promise to provide for my needs by feeding me like a raven and clothing me like a flower, my heart doesn’t leap for joy…I feel like a sumo wrestler who has been given a salad for dinner…You see my heart and my values need to be adjusted by God’s Word. My definition of need needs to come into line with Jesus’s definition…One of the spiritual benefits, potentially, if we seize it, we can gain during an economic recession is that as we tighten our budgets as we change our lifestyle, we can actually begin getting a clearer picture of what we actually need…Seize this as an opportunity to have your need-o-meter reset.”