Moral Earthquakes and Secret Faults: Little is Much - Part 16

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.  Psalm 23:5

John 6:1-14

In the final analysis, almost every issue seems to be reduced to a question of dollars and cents these days. Whether it is a question of welfare programs or disaster relief, popular entertainment or foreign policy, environmental standards or teen pregnancy rates, educational outcomes or industrial effectiveness—success or failure is invariably measured in financial terms. We want to know what the bottom line is. We want to know how much it is going to cost us. We want to know what kind of return we can expect.

Following each of the earthquakes that have struck California over the past two decades, estimations of impact have invariably been couched in economic terms. It is almost as if the homes, businesses, and even lives lost in such catastrophes can be quantified chiefly as fiscal concerns.

Even moral earthquakes are often analyzed in material terms—revenues lost, alimonies paid, estates divided, and portfolios dissolved. It seems that in our culture today we have accepted as both truth and truism the infamous campaign slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

The Bible confirms the fact that money matters are important, albeit in a manner entirely different than what our materialistic minds might naturally suppose. Money matters are important from a biblical perspective simply because, according to the Bible, everything in heaven and on earth—every discipline, every issue, and every calling—must come under the authority of the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Many a moral earthquake has been caused by a failure to recognize this fact, and many a recovery from moral disaster has been effected by a righteous appropriation of this fact.

Supply and demand

If ever there is a subject with wide-ranging dogmatic differences of opinion, it is the economy. Should we balance the budget? Should we stimulate the economy by lowering interest rates? Do we limit supply so prices can remain stable during times of excess?

My undergraduate degree was a Bachelor of Business Administration. During my studies I took a course in elementary economics. In that course, we learned the basic formula of economic function—the law of supply and demand. This law is the entire basis of a free market system. This is what should regulate the prices of all products in the market place. The question is: How does it work?

Very simply stated it is this: when demand exceeds supply, prices go up; when supply exceeds demand, prices go down. Let’s say I have a grocery store and I have a bunch of apples in the store. All of a sudden I see about a hundred people lined up outside wanting apples. So what do I do? Before I open the store for the day, I take down that sign that says, “Apples $1,” and I put one up that says, “Apples $2.” When the people come in, even though the price has been raised, they buy all of the apples anyway. When demand exceeds supply, prices go up.

On the other hand, when supply exceeds demand, prices go down. Here I am at my grocery store with one hundred apples. My store is filled with people, but no one is purchasing apples. In a day or two all the apples are going to rot, and they won’t be good for anything. So what do I do? The supply is greater than the demand. Knowing this theory of economics, I go over to the sign that says, “Apples $1,” and I replace it with a sign that says, “Apples 25¢.” When people pass by, they see it and they buy my apples. Then I can get rid of all my apples. This is the basic law of supply and demand.

How does this theory apply to us? Discussing basic economic principles in the midst of a study on moral earthquakes may not seem logically related; however, we need to understand how differently God provides for our needs, as opposed to our own ability to supply our needs. For the most part, we are limited to our own financial resources to provide for our needs and our desires. God is only limited by His holy nature. Another problem we have is that we have limited resources. God is not limited by earthly things; He is in control of all of nature. We also have to battle our sinful nature when deciding what our needs are and how to allocate our resources. God knows what we need, and He desires what is best for us.

While some Christians are apologetic about mentioning money—especially when it comes to tithing—I’m not a bit apologetic about it because Jesus spoke so often about it. Thirty-eight parables of our Lord are recorded, and one-third of them deal with our relationship to material possessions. Why? Christ says, “Where your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be also.” One out of every six verses in the three Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—discuss the proper and righteous use of material goods. Consider for instance:

  • Mark 10:25: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God!"
  • Matthew 12:35: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.”
  • Luke 19:26: “For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

Money talks

Jesus says in effect, “Your money talks.” What does money say about our commitment to Christ? I’ve often said if I were commissioned to write someone’s biography and could have only one thing to use as a reference for that biography, I wouldn’t want his family tree nor his prayer journal. I would want his checkbook.

Let’s look at the checkbook. It will show us where our heart is. It will show us what things in our lives are most important to us. That’s why our wills are so important. A will is called a “last will and testament.” It’s a testimonial. After we’re gone from this earth, it’s a testimonial to everybody that’s left of what we thought was really important in life.

Our checkbooks may even be an early-warning system for moral earthquakes. Our sinful nature always struggles against wisely allocating our resources; it always clamors for more. We always desire beyond our financial means. We covet. What we desire is immaterial; the important factor is that our desire demonstrates our flawed nature, coveting whatever delights the eye. This problem is made worse by our lifestyles. Most Americans live lives of plenty—all our basic needs are met. Anything beyond those needs is a luxury. We may consider many items necessary that are really luxuries: a television, a microwave, a computer, and even a car. We don’t need these things to survive. Yet our sinful desires make us unsatisfied with what we have. The newer, bigger, and better, always exists. Therefore, we desire. Demand exceeds supply; but the Bible clearly states, “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance”(Ps. 16:6). We will continue to desire until God intervenes.

Demand and supply

One day our Lord Jesus laid out His economic plan, not in the halls of Congress but on a grassy hillside of a mountain in Galilee. What we see in this remarkable plan ought to startle us all—materialistic as we are. The fact is, without Christ, demand always exceeds supply—and the perpetual cry is: “Not enough!” But with Christ, supply always exceeds demand—and the cry becomes, “More than enough!”

Thus, the prophet Isaiah says: “Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance” (Isa. 55:1–3). When we go to Christ for our needs, we receive satisfying goods in abundance.

If Christ is not factored into the equation of our lives, we will inevitably face deprivation and want. Demand will always exceed supply. For those who try to fill the void of life with money, their cry is, “Not enough!” If we ask them, “How much is enough?” their answer will be, “Just a little more.” Why is this? Because when we try to fill the void where Christ belongs with money, we never have enough, and we always think just a little more is enough. Look at our American culture. Look at the number of people declaring bankruptcy because they always wanted more than they could afford. While we seek to feel fulfilled and chase after the America dream, we think that money and things are the means to that end.

That’s always the way it is with life. We try to fill the void where Christ belongs with pleasure or with sex, and someone asks us, “How much is enough?” The reply is, “Just a little more.”

Now what does this have to do with you and with me? More specifically, what does this have to do with moral earthquakes? Take a look at the story of the feeding of the five thousand, and the relevance becomes obvious.

The demand in that situation was a hungry crowd of five thousand. They came to hear Christ’s teachings, and paid no attention to their sustenance needs. The supply was five barley loaves and two small fish—hardly a meal for more than four people. There was definitely a problem with supply and demand.

Three things brought about this problem. First of all, there was no sense of planning. Second, there was no sense of purpose, and, third, there was no sense of potential.

Planning, purpose and potential

Literally thousands of people were out on the Galilean hillside and had not made any preparation for the day. They traveled to the hillside without making any arrangements for their dinner. They didn’t think ahead. They had a demand for something of which there was no apparent supply — food, a basic need. Yet, the problem turned into an opportunity for Jesus to work a miracle.

Secondly, there was no sense of purpose. Philip and Andrew, the disciples who brought the problem to the attention of Jesus, had no sense of purpose. They had no idea that they were about to be used that day to the glory of God. When Jesus asked Philip where he was going to buy bread for all these people, he was testing Philip to see what he had in mind as his purpose. The narrative account in the Gospel of John says that Jesus already knew what He was going to do. Christ was testing Philip, calling him to examine himself, saying, “Look at what you are, where you are, and what you are doing. Has it dawned on you that there might be a purpose in your predicament? Has it dawned on you that a demand in your life that’s exceeding supply might be there for a reason and a purpose?”

The reason why so many were hungry and without food can be found in the Old Testament principle that states, “The Lord your God led you all the way…in the wilderness, to humble you and to test you, to know what was in your heart” (Deut. 8:2). Christ was tempted in the wilderness, yet He knew the purpose of His needs. Jesus asked that question of Philip and that’s why He left this story for all posterity—that we might be confronted with the question, too. What is the purpose of our needs?

Philip had a cash register for a mind. When Jesus asked him what they were going to do, Philip’s first reply was that eight months’ salary—more than 200 denarii—would not buy enough bread for everyone to have a little piece. His first thought was not the glory of God or the power of Jesus Christ. His first thought was, “How much is it going to cost?” He was not thinking of the miracles of God. Rather, he thought of the situation in earthly terms.

What was Jesus hoping he’d say? “Lord, I don’t know, I don’t know what we’re going to do, but it’s no problem for You. We’ve seen You turn water into wine; we know You can do anything when we factor You into the equation of life.” Philip had been with Christ and seen the miracles He had performed. What was His purpose? Could it be that in the times of our greatest need, the Lord is saying to us, “Trust in Me. I will provide.”

Finally, there was no sense of potential. Look at the boy for a moment: “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fishes.” That boy left home that morning with a little sack lunch of fish sandwiches. He left home that morning with the potential to feed thousands of people, and he didn’t even know it. It’s not the size of our lunch that matters, what really matters is who possesses it—whether Jesus has it or not—because little is much when God is in it.

The great provider

The above story demonstrates God’s law of supply and demand. Without Christ, demand always exceeds supply, and the cry is, “Not enough!” All those people on the Galilean hillside who had not prepared created great demand; they needed something to eat. They were hungry, but there was not enough supply. So, what happened? Christ took the loaves and fishes and multiplied them. When we factor Jesus Christ into the equation of our lives, supply always exceeds demand. The cry changes from “Not enough!” to “More than enough!” Certainly that was true in this case. Christ fed the five thousand and twelve baskets full remained.

The real bottom line

What would we do if we ever found ourselves in a situation similar to Philip’s? What if a young couple struggling to get out of school debts, and living off two incomes, suddenly discovers that the wife is pregnant? What if a natural disaster destroys your home, and it isn’t covered by insurance? What if the company you work for suddenly lays you off? Most of us would find ourselves tabulating costs and estimating expenses. Yet in each of those situations, we might end up still not having our basic needs met.

During such stressful times, secret faults can become agitated. Satan zeros in on us. The pressure to withstand sin increases dramatically. Satan tempts us with sinful ways to recoup our losses. We are tempted during a time of weakness, much like Christ in the desert, and our solution to this time of tempting is the same as Christ’s in the wilderness—God’s power.

Instead of giving into temptation, we must remember the incredible power of God. We should not be like the disciples, doubting the possibilities even after Christ clearly demonstrated His power before them. We must have faith in the promises of God to meet our needs and to do what is best for us. Paul tells us that since God’s love did not even withhold His Son from us, He will not withhold anything else good from us, especially in our time of need. We must move closer to God, depending on Him more. Such faith and dedication will serve us regardless of our future, and we must realize the need to be prepared. We have responsibilities to God and our families which should prompt us to think about the future and not be left as startled as Philip.

We must be ready to answer questions similar to those asked of Philip. We need to ask ourselves about a plan, a purpose, and a potential for our own lives. Many times these essential questions are left unanswered, virtually ignored. We are so busy keeping up with all the other drivers on the highway, we don’t realize we should be planning where we are going. Not just a specific plan for a specific event, like Philip needed, we need an overall plan, a vision. This vision is necessary for serving Christ through our ministry. We have a responsibility as good stewards of all that he has given us to give some thought to plans, purposes, and potentials as we serve the Lord with our lives.

However, as much as we may plan, at some point we must depend upon the power and the will of God. Just as there was a reason that Philip could not handle the situation he was in, we may find ourselves in a situation beyond our control. During such moments, God’s ever-present power becomes explicitly known to us. Just as with the fish and the bread, no other resource but God using His power could produce the needed results.

We must remember that we are limited by our resources and corrupted by our sin nature, even if we are good stewards. God’s infinite power is not limited by supply and demand. Although we must attend to our responsibilities, ultimately all rests in Him. We must place our hope and faith in His unrivaled power, mercy, and love.

When all seems hopeless, He is our hope. When there seems to be no way out, He is our way of escape. When we have little, He is our abundance. When we are devastated by a moral earthquake, He is our rescuer and restorer.

He is our All in All. That is not just good theology—it is also good economics.

Moral soundings

  • Are you a bottom-line person—to the point that you’ve worked God out of the equation?
  • What does your checkbook reflect about what is important in your life?
  • How much do you trust and seek the Lord to meet the needs in your life?
  • Do you have a purpose or a plan about how to allocate your resources?
  • What are your weak areas that Satan attacks during times of pressure?
ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

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