The worst grade I received in college was in a beginning accounting class. I took it because a bunch of my fraternity brothers said it was an easy class. I forgot that they were all business majors. I, on the other hand, had been avoiding real math classes since my junior year in high school, when I could take computer programming instead of Calculus. In other words, I am no economic expert, but I can’t help but feel like all of the talk about bailouts and economic stimulus and billions of dollars of corporate aid are all treating the symptom instead of the disease.
All of this reminds me of someone getting liposuction to get more fit, when what is really needed is a change of eating habits (of which I know a lot about). You can do all the liposuction you want, but until there is a change of lifestyle, and sometimes this takes a radical transformation, the same problems are going to keep popping up.
All the economic fixes that I read about seem to be nothing more than sucking the fat out, without addressing the problem of how it got there in the first place. We need to stop sucking out the fat, or the same problems will just creep up years down the road. Instead, we have to go through a transformation of our culture. We have come to a place in our culture where buying stuff has been identified as the path toward happiness. We all want happiness, we all want joy – there is nothing wrong with that. I believe that God wants us to be happy. God wants us to have joy. The problem is where and how we pursue that happiness.
To many, happiness, freedom and joy come with the ability to buy stuff we want. If we have that plasma TV, that game system, and that MP3 player, then we will be happy. Once those things are acquired, and the happiness still hasn’t come, then we seek out other stuff to make us happy. Instead of finding freedom and joy, people get trapped into the slavery of consumerism and debt. Consumer debt in this country is staggering. The last figures I found claim that we have enough consumer debt (which does not include mortgages) to spread it around to over $5,000 per man, woman, and child.
What we need is transformation. We desperately need a transformation of a culture that is lost in a world of greed and accumulation. Our culture needs to stop idolizing the rich and the celebrity. We need to turn off “Deal or No Deal” and the E! channel. We need to ignore the advertisers. We need to realize that the only sure source of joy in the world is a relationship with God. Through Jesus Christ we are offered freedom – true freedom. We need to find freedom from the gods of accumulation and debt. Those gods offer nothing in return.
On the other hand, Jesus offers us life, and life abundant – not stuff abundant. I believe we are headed for some difficult times. We as a culture have a choice to make. Every great empire the world has ever known has crumbled because of one thing: economic turmoil. We are looking at the same type of collapse unless we have a cultural revolution. Those are our choices: collapse or transformation.
The change we need as a people will not come in the form of bailouts or economic stimulus packages or tax cuts. The change we need will come in the human heart, when we as a people decide stop working to acquire more stuff, and we work instead for the interests of all humankind.