When I was in my twenties, fresh out of college, the economy was in shambles. Unemployment was high, and jobs were scarce. The only job I could find was working for the Department of Treasury examining Savings and Loans.
The Texas oil-based economy was slammed by low prices. I remember seeing foreclosure notices covering the inside walls of the county courthouse. People were mailing the keys to their homes back to the banks. Home construction jobs disappeared, and the economy just seemed to stop.
I remember my neighbor, who was a home builder, losing his business. He spent that summer mowing every yard on our street.
I would come home from work and Bill was out there cutting everyone’s yard. It was interesting because no one asked him to do the work, he just did it. He made every yard look amazing. I think he just needed time to heal. There are a thousand stories of people doing things like that during the 1980’s.
While I was working my job and witnessing all the bad news lived out around me, a thought occurred: On the back of the dollar bill is printed,
“In God We Trust.”
I thought, darn right! For too long we had put our trust in the economy, our skills, and the golden days to come. We had trusted in so many things, and they all let us down.
The booming economy just a few years before made us feel indestructible with nothing but blue skies and money to burn.
Then it ended. I heard people say, “Just let there be one more boom cycle and I promise to save this time.” It made me laugh.
The solution in many people’s eyes was just more money.
What a short-sighted view. Because I knew that one day, even money would not have the ability to save them.
So, when I read Psalm 49, I see a short-sighted view.
I wonder if we have learned anything in hard times? Was the only lesson learned that we should save more money? Is that the advice we leave to our children when we share what hard times are like?
Have you ever received straight forward great advice?
Psalm 49 is advice in the form of a warning: Do not place your faith in material wealth.
We will all die and no amount wealth can prevent death. It was written by sons of a man who had placed his faith in his wealth. The father placed all his meaning in life in wealth, but his sons saw the folly of his life. They pointed to him and said, “Be warned!” Wealth will not save you. To place your faith in wealth is idolatry. Such practical advice they give from what they learned as they watched and learned from their father.
So, what did I learn in those difficult years in the 1980s?
Money and wealth can help solve problems, but they are just tools in life. As the economy recovered, jobs returned. But the one who is the provider, the source of salvation, is God.
The provider of all things is God, and by knowing Jesus Christ, I am truly already rich and want for nothing.
Rev. Patrick Evans is Senior Pastor of Hardy Memorial United Methodist Church in Texarkana, Texas. Pat and the rest of his congregation would love to have you come worship with him next time you are in the area.
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