Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.
- Proverbs 3:5
For some candidates during this election cycle, the mantra has once again become, Its the economy, stupid!
For most investors, following months of declining portfolios, there is no defining slogan at all. Weve watched the markets tumble, rebound, and tumble again - and listened to advice more diverse than the numbers on the Big Board: Buy dont buy whatever you do, dont sell.
Did you ever wonder why folks are eager to part with their money when a deal looks good, and then blame someone else when the investment goes bad? A financial adviser describes a certain company, displays earnings statements, and explains how much profit we can expect to make. Then, though weve never met the owner of the company or anyone on the board, we hand over our check.
We trust our advisor, perhaps, on the basis of prior performance or because our desire for financial gain is greater than our anxiety over the unknown, and engage in a process which, as the past year has shown, is anything but secure.
Ever since the first 1,000-point drop in the Dow, a Bible verse I memorized as a child has been running through my head: Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord, our God (Psalm 20:7).
I liked the sound of the words at the time, though I wondered why anyone would trust the old workhorses we had on our farm and I had no idea what a chariot was. Chariots and horses, Ive since learned, represented great wealth when David penned the 20th Psalm. If the shepherd-boy and future king of Israel were writing his thoughts today, he might substitute cars and investment portfolios for the chariots and horses of three millennia ago. The point he makes, however, the folly of placing our faith in material rather than spiritual things, is the same whatever the circumstance or period of time.
But isnt it funny that, for most of us, its easier to trust the material - bank balances and earnings statements we can see - than put our lives and livelihoods in the hands of an abstract being like, the Lord our God? Even if our spiritual portfolio has been dependable in the past, we still wonder if the God weve trusted before will come through for us again. Just as we trade a failing investment for something more promising, when adversity comes it's equally tempting to search for a new place to invest our spiritual collateral.
Historically speaking, new philosophies and belief systems spring up like mushrooms after a spring rain when troubled times appear, and, if were not careful, we could be just as burned by a poor spiritual investment as we are by a financial one. These new, untried systems may not be designed to understand God better after all, but to make God over into a more believable image - again, something we can see.
Take the bumper sticker I saw the other day, for instance. I suspect In Goddess We Trust was created by a feminist who resents the all-male, Heavenly Father idea of God. Somehow the image of a Heavenly Mother doesnt expand my idea of God as much as it reveals an angry attempt to limit God to a gender, an opinion, or something like us, perhaps, so we can understand her better. On the contrary, if we make God smaller, and take away His (?) omnipotence, Hell (?) be no more capable of righting markets and mending lives than we are.
Several years ago, during an especially trying time for our family, I was in a constant state of panic because I didnt know where the resources would come from to meet our financial needs. My faith was in short supply, too, as I recognized later, because I tried to limit God to the numbers I saw on the income and expense statements. But I had a friend whose faith was strong enough for both of us: Remember, no one is your source, but God.
In God we trust, she reminded me - not the coins and bills on which these words are stamped, not the 20th century version of chariots and horses, and not the numbers on Wall Street at the end of the day.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, David said, but As for me and my house, the patriarch Joshua chimed in, we will (trust) the Lord (Joshua 24:15, paraphrased).
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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