Roots of Recession: The Arrogance of Our Age

Dr. O.S. Hawkins President, Guidestone Financial Resources

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow [a]we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit,’ whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:13–17 NKJV).


Economic recession

recessionRecession. The very word sends chills up a business owner’s back. Ask any broker or banker to give you a one-sentence definition of this recurring dilemma of our western economy, and you will get answers such as these:

  • A recession is two consecutive down quarters in the gross domestic product.
  • A recession is an economic decline brought about by higher unemployment, declining consumer purchasing, tightening credit and an overall slump in the economy.

Still another answer would be along these lines:

  • A recession is a consistent decline in overall economic activity resulting in the loss of jobs. (This definition can be fine-tuned: a recession is when your neighbor is out of work, and a depression is when you are out of work.)
  • And according to Webster’s, a recession is a “period of reduced economic activity, a receding, a withdrawal.”

When economic recessions come, the blame game begins. People blame the president and his policies. Others blame Congress. Democrats blame Republicans, and Republicans blame Democrats. Some people blame unions. Others place the blame on major financial scandals or a Middle Eastern oil crisis. Ask a dozen people in Washington, D.C., what brings a recession, and you are likely to get a dozen different answers. Perhaps the apostle James got closest to the real answer.


Spiritual recession

In this section of verses, James was interested not in economic recessions, but in the spiritual recessions that plague many of our hearts and homes. Remember that a recession is a withdrawal, a period of recured activity, and this can happen in our spiritual lives. There is a sense in which our spiritual lives are like the stock market. We have periods when we are riding the crest of spiritual momentum, seemingly reaching new highs with the wind at our back. But if we are honest, we all have times of declining interest when life’s pressures and even Satan’s forces seem to hold us down spiritually. All of us know the meaning of a spiritual recession.

The roots of a spiritual recession are the same as the roots of any other kind of recession. According to James, the roots are threefold. Spiritual recession in your life and mine can result from foolish presumptions. Too often, too many of us presume that we’ll never have to deal with the consequences of our sin. Spiritual recession can also result from forgotten perspectives. That’s why James reminds us that our lives are like “a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” Spiritual recession can also occur because of forsaken priorities. In James’ words, “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

James began this passage by getting our attention: “Come now you who say….” Perhaps a better translation would be simply, “Now listen!” In Greek, the language of the New Testament, this second-person singular pronoun indicates that James was now speaking to you or me individually. He was not talking to the crowd or the congregation. He was talking to you and, in essence, saying, “Stop thinking these words are written for someone else. That is arrogance and presumption. These words are for you.” Once James had our attention, he revealed the taproot of recession: the arrogance of our age. But that’s not all. James also gave us some really good advice for life and living.


Taken from The James Code by O.S. Hawkins. Copyright © 2015 by Dr. O.S. Hawkins. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.

O.S. Hawkins has served pastorates, including the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, for more than 25 years. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, he has a BBA from Texas Christian University and his MDiv and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For almost a quarter of a century, he served as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, with assets under management of $20 billion, serving 250,000 pastors, church staff members, missionaries, doctors, university professors, and other workers in various Christian organizations with their investment, retirement and benefit service needs. He is the author of more than 50 books, and regularly speaks to business groups and churches all across the nation. All of the author’s royalties and proceeds from the entire Code series go to support Mission:Dignity. You can learn more about Mission:Dignity by visiting

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