If proof were ever needed that the old adage ‘money makes the world go round’ is true, it was globally vindicated over the last seven days. With the collapse of U.S. lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the collapse of major US bank Lehman Brothers,the worlds financial institutions reeled in a sea of economic uncertainty as banks teetered on the brink of collapse and governments convened to avert national meltdown. Here in Ireland our government has taken the unprecedented step of basically going guarantor for our banks to the tune of €400 billion , apparently we are advised if they had not done so it would have been curtains for Ireland Inc. as we know it. I’m not going to pretend that I really understand what’s going on (my Leaving Cert results in Economics whisper for themselves!), I have no insight or cutting edge enlightenment to offer in the present situation, except for this: we now know our priorities as a nation!
Our Dail met to debate the economic crises and continued in session up to 2 a.m. ! I’m not sure how other parliamentary democracies operate but I can assure you this level of activity for our elected T.D.s is unheard of. And why this sudden flurry ? It appears the various Irish banking institutions got in touch with the government and demanded action to save their backs as bank price shares plummeted on the Stock Exchange. And dutifully our representatives filed into the Dail chamber to put together this early Christmas box for our beleaguered bankers. It seems our economy once beholden to greedy builders and property speculators during our Celtic Tiger boom, is now playing generous uncle to the greedy, huge profit-making banks! Squeezed between these two extremes of success and succour are the muted cries of ordinary men and women who are facing escalating utility costs and job losses on a scale we haven’t known in almost a decade, as well as those locked into mortgage deals on devaluing properties as lent by those same bank tycoons who we are now compelled into bailing out! Bob Dylan observed in a gentler age 'money doesn’t talk, it swears' and of late the air has been blue with the rantings of moneys high-priests and guardians.
Jesus said quite a bit on the subject of money and the effect it has on our psyche. Once when the disciples were broke He actually created the necessary coin with which they could pay their taxes (1), and another time He defined the two spheres of influence in our world when questioned about paying taxes He said, ‘Give to Caesar the things that are Caesars and to God those things that are Gods’ (2). Again He alerted us to these contesting loyalties when he emphatically stated that one cannot serve God and mammon (money) (3). The events of the last few weeks show clearly the path this world has decided to take, and we are all expected to march lemming-like along on this grand parade!. Sadly many of us do not have a choice having become embroiled in loans and ‘easy’ credit schemes, we may have woken up too late to the subtle entanglements that riches (real or borrowed) have placed over our ability to love God and seek his Kingdom. Like the rich young ruler shall we go away sorrowful with the Masters words ringing in our ears…’Go sell everything you have and give it to the poor, then come, follow me’ (4).
These are tough days with hard choices for everyone, but the most important choices will not be concerned with our budgets or pension schemes as at the very heart of our being this question hovers, “This day choose whom you will serve ?” (5) As Joshua uttered this challenge to the ancient Israelites, today the same Spirit causes us to stop and consider the path we are going to walk. Back then the prophet of God was able to answer for himself, “as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Each one of us need to consider our response, whether our future is to be entrusted to the vagaries of stocks and bonds or to the certain hope that is found alone in the Lord Jesus. The cry of the early believers was “silver and gold we have none” (6) as they operated in a material world but according to spiritual laws and verities. The power of original Christianity was not wielded by a sword or realised by wealth or status, but it operated by faith in the Risen Christ and was sustained by their conviction that God through His Spirit continued with them to guide and provide. Perhaps today as the safety-nets are being pulled away in the ‘real’ world, it is time we turned around and faced up to the claims of that Nazarene who walked on this earth two thousand years ago, and took his words to heart that this world does not offer peace or lasting happiness. Yes the worlds economies are slipping and sliding but this could in a way unexpected, become a global blessing as the terra firma of fiscal policies are rocked and ploughed under. I will leave the last word on this to Jesus as he reality- checks all we hold dear and precious, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (7)