Not long ago, I overheard friends discussing the volatile economy and the declining stock market. The Dow Jones average had just dropped over 800 points in a single day. My friends were evaluating the impact that a bear market would have on their personal retirement plans. With significant portions of their capital invested in the market, they imagined their nest eggs would be drastically diminished, seriously impacting both the timing and quality of their retirement. But, as we often do, they reassured themselves that, eventually, the stock market would make its way back.

The question is, will it? Just because the market has recovered in the past, does that guarantee a bullish future? And when is “eventually”? How would your lifestyle and standard of living be impacted if “eventually” meant 20 or 30 years from now?

People worldwide are experiencing an ever-increasing sense of financial instability. In a recent Gallup poll, 47 percent of Americans said they “worry a great deal about energy cost, availability.”1 The economy causes 58 percent to “worry a great deal,” and 59 percent say they worry “a great deal” about inflation.2 Yes—when it comes to matters of financial well-being, people are worried!

Of course, worries about money are not unfounded. Some of the most trusted economists and well-respected voices in the ever-changing world of finance are expressing concern. Consider these recent headlines: “U.S. National Debt Surpasses $30 Trillion.”3 “U.S. Inflation Rate Accelerates to a 40-Year High of 7.5%.”4 “10 Reasons the Stock Market Could Crash in 2022.”5 Others warn that the strong upward trends of several market segments are forming a “superbubble” that could burst at any time.

don’t bank on earthly wealth

Given this financial uncertainty, it is reasonable to ask, “Is the current economic instability a sign of the end?” In a broad sense, the fracturing of societal norms indicates that Christ’s coming is near. More narrowly speaking, we cannot say that our precarious economy indicates that Jesus is coming back in a week, a month, or even a year. However, what we can say with certainty is that just before Jesus returns, the world’s economic systems will collapse, and financial chaos will ensue.

The Old Testament prophet Zephaniah presents this graphic picture: “ ‘Their wealth will be plundered, their houses demolished. Though they build houses, they will not live in them; though they plant vineyards, they will not drink the wine.’

“The great day of the LORD is near—near and coming quickly. . . .

“Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath” (Zephaniah 1:13–18).

Commenting on the end-time destruction of the religiopolitical alliance symbolized by Babylon, the eighteenth chapter of Revelation says, “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore—cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth” (verses 11, 12). “All your luxury and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered” (verse 14). “In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!” (verse 17).

Clearly, at some point prior to the coming of Jesus, the economy, as we now know it, will catastrophically fail. Ultimately, the wealth of this world—money, stocks, bonds, real estate, and every other asset—will become worthless. So is there any hope to be found in this doomsday scenario?

Fortunately, Jesus addressed these concerns. He highlighted the absolute necessity of reordering our priorities and suggested that our view of what constitutes true wealth has become short-sighted. He illustrates His point with a story:

“The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’

“But God said to him ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16–21).

why worry?

Clearly, establishing proper priorities is crucial. The Bible teaches industriousness, integrity, and responsible spending habits. And it certainly promotes investing and saving for future needs. But we should never allow our temporary possessions to overshadow our eternal fortunes. To help us avoid this pitfall, Jesus tells his disciples to stop obsessing about their well-being:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (verses 22–26).

You are valuable to God! He cares for you. Yes, He watches over the birds, too, providing for all of their needs. But Jesus died for you! So speaking of investments, whatever monetary concerns you may be facing, never forget how much God has invested in caring for you.

Jesus continued: “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!” (verses 27, 28).

It is difficult to find a more earnest or intense plea from Jesus. He wants us to surrender our money worries to Him and place our lives in His hands. He has more than what it takes to provide for our needs. The question is, will we trust Him more than we trust our temporal resources? What are the true desires of our hearts?

Did you know there is a direct connection between your heart’s desires and your worries? “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (verses 29–31).

When Jesus encourages us to seek God’s kingdom, He does not see it as a burden. No! Listen to what follows: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (verse 32; emphasis added). The instruction to seek God’s kingdom has nothing to do with earning it—He is giving it to you! Furthermore, He is pleased to give it! So why not accept His offer and redirect your attention from the worries of this world. Instead, make plans today to dwell with Him. Seek to be like Him and start living like a citizen of His kingdom.

Again, Jesus presents clear and practical instructions:

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (verses 33, 34).

If the rich man in Jesus’ parable, rather than building bigger barns, had sold his extra produce and given the proceeds to the poor, he would have converted his earthly worries into heavenly wealth “that will never fail.”

But how do we focus our attention on eternal values? We are conditioned to care for our own needs and pursue our own wealth. How can we push back and begin to change such ingrained financial habits?

spend time with God

Many are surprised to learn that the Bible presents an abundance of insight and instruction regarding fiscal security, work ethic, investing, and economic matters. In fact, there are over a thousand references to money in the Bible! The only topic addressed more often is love. Yes—God cares not only about your money but also your peace of mind. It may seem counterintuitive, but the first step in setting our financial house aright is to invest time in reading God’s Word.

Most of us spend a great deal of time earning a living. We are in constant pursuit of means. If, however, we want to turn our worries into heavenly wealth, nothing gives a greater ROI (return on investment) than setting aside time to read the Bible every day. We typically dedicate more than eight hours a day to making money. Wouldn’t it be wise to set aside one hour each day for pursuing heavenly treasure?

Even better, heed God’s call to spend one day a week with Him. That’s right, a whole twenty-four hours. When God created man in the beginning, He also created a day of rest. He designated six days to “labor and do all your work. . . . But he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:9–11). Sabbath is a perfect time to turn your attention away from earning money and focus it on learning from God’s Word. Resting on the Sabbath means ceasing from labor and ceasing from worry.

As the end draws near, remember that God is the great Provider, and He has promised you more than a surging bull market. He has promised you a grand inheritance—the kingdom of heaven! Expressing praise to God for His generosity will strengthen your faith and the faith of others around you. In turn, you will begin to experience what it means not to be anxious about anything. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

1. Jeffrey M. Jones, “Americans’ Energy Worries Surge,” Gallup.com, March 30, 2022, https://news.gallup.com/poll/391319/americans-energy-worries-surge.aspx.

2. Lydia Saad, “Inflation Dominates Americans’ Economic Concerns in March,” Gallup.com, March 29, 2022, https://news.gallup.com/poll/391220/inflation-dominates-americans-economic-concerns-march.aspx.

3. E. Napoletano, “U.S. National Debt Surpasses $30 Trillion: What This Means for You,” Forbes Advisor, updated February 16, 2022, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/personal-finance/u-s-national-debt-surpasses-30-trillion-what-this-means-for-you/.

4. Gwynn Guilford, “U.S. Inflation Rate Accelerates to a 40-Year High of 7.5%,” Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/us-inflation-consumer-price-index-january-2022-11644452274.

5. Sean Williams, “10 Reasons the Stock Market Could Crash in 2022,” Nasdaq, January 22, 2022, https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/10-reasons-the-stock-market-could-crash-in-2022.

Dan Ross is a pastor and associate editor at Pacific Press® Publishing Association in Nampa, Idaho.

Bulls, Bears, and the Bible

by Dan Ross
  
From the September 2022 Signs