I have been thinking how some words have a double meaning. For example, when the word “funk” is attached before the phrase “music of the ’70s,” it’s something good. However, when “funk” is attached to the end of the word “economic,” it’s bad.
The world has been stuck in an economic funk for more than a year now, and it sometimes seems like it will never end. The reality is that there is always something to be fearful about. Just in this decade we’ve had Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, a devastating tsunami and the credit crisis which we are currently mired in.
OK, I better stop before I get depressed. Actually, our resilience despite these events gives me hope that we will have the fortitude to make it through this current predicament.
After Sept. 11, we learned lessons about how vulnerable we were; about how porous our security was and about how hatred can lead to unnecessary death. We also learned beautiful lessons about how to reach out and support one another; how we can be moved by the stories of people we have never met and about how brave and selfless some people are. It is during tough times that true character shines.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place something is going to get squeezed out of you. Difficulties don’t really make the person, they reveal the person.
During these tough economic times, our financial resources may dictate that we eat out less, go to fewer movies, buy fewer clothes, keep the car another year or two and so on. However, even as we do all these things, we can still be generous.
When money gets tight, I find the first thing to go in someone’s budget is often their giving. I believe this is a mistake.
I’m reminded of Proverbs 3:9, which says, “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything your land produces.”
In the Old Testament, farmers were commanded to give from the first fruits of their crops. Because the farmers were never sure how the rest of the season would pan out, to give a portion of the first crop was a leap of faith and proved their dependence on God.
Most of us are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Let’s put this verse in its proper context. One hundred years prior to this promise, the Israelites were overtaken by Assyria, and now Babylon was banging on the door.
In verse 10, God says “The truth is that you will be in Babylon for 70 years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised and I will bring you home again.”
God knows the plans He has for us in spite of all the things that are going on around us. His generosity makes me want to be generous. When I’m generous it causes me to rely on God more than I normally would which is actually a good thing.
It’s important to remember that while financial generosity is important, it’s not our only resource when giving generously.
We can be generous with:
1. Our compassion. When we know a friend or neighbor is hurting, we can offer a listening ear, help with chores or a comforting note.
2. Our hospitality. Almost daily, we learn of those who need food and shelter that we could easily provide. Have others over for dinner. It’s a blessing to them, and you will enjoy spending time with others.
3. Our stuff. Now is a great time to go through your stuff to see what can be shared with others.
4. Our faith. Our current crisis may represent the greatest opportunity we have ever had to share our faith with others. Many people now realize that their playbook isn’t working. Now, they think it might be a good time to try something different. When you find your security in money, it will disappoint you. Now, more people are realizing that than ever before.
Life in the sea
I am reminded of the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea in Palestine.
The Sea of Galilee is fresh and fruitful. However the Dead Sea cannot sustain life. It is bitter and barren. Why? They are alike in almost every way but one. The Sea of Galilee both gives and takes. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, has no outlet, so it only takes.
We have a choice, we can either be like the Sea of Galilee which has a continual flow of give and take and can support other life or we can be like the Dead Sea and continue to harbor what we have, but never sustain others. We may say all the right things and have the God-language down. We may sound very compassionate and very holy. But our true self is displayed not by our words or even our intentions. Our true self is displayed by our actions.
Wouldn’t it be great if the downturn of 2008 would result in hundreds of thousands, even millions of people coming to know Christ? We can be a part of this if we chose to live generously even in these tough economic times.
Steve Scalici is a Certified Financial PlannerTM with Treasure Coast Financial. Steve can be heard daily on 88.1 WAY-FM weekdays at 8:35 am; 12:35 pm; and 4:35 pm. You can contact Steve at [email protected]