During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.
The Fix is in – or is it?
Governments around the world have been stepping into the COVID-19 pandemic with emergency measures. Restaurants, schools, worship services, travel, sports, entertainment, tourism and businesses have been shut down in one of the largest ever worldwide economic shutdowns.
Businesses and families are reeling from the impact. Now governments are stepping up to fund the collapsing global economy with huge injections of cash. The G20 leaders have committed to spend $7,000,000,000,000.00 ($7 trillion) on their economies.
The US government, for example, is providing a whopping $2.2 trillion for its families, businesses, and hospitals! Canada’s government is supplying $75 billion to our economy, with an allowance of up to $107 billion. This includes a guaranteed income of $2,000.00 per month for the next four months to every Canadian who lost a job due to lay-off, social isolation, or helping a sick family member.
In a recent article, Gwynne Dyer referred to Economist Milton Friedman who called this “helicopter money.” A government can reboot the economy by flying over its penniless consumers and throwing out free money. [Gwynne Dyer, “Don’t scare anyone just yet, but universal basic income is coming,” London Free Press, March 27, 2020]
This way we can avoid another great depression and soon the economy can go back to roaring. In just a few months life will be back to normal again. We can continue pursuing our dreams of cash and happiness. One man responded: “Who needs God when you’ve got the government?!”
Now, I respect the government’s responsibility to give special help to its citizens in crisis. I do not think it was wrong for Pharaoh to take special measures to protect Egypt in the 7 years of famine. I believe Joseph acted properly when he helped Pharaoh prepare and provide for Egypt’s citizens in hard times.
But as Christians, we should all be concerned about this helicopter money fix.
First, where does this money come from? It comes from the taxpayer, eventually. It’s borrowed. It’s added to our skyrocketing national debts which are now, before the stimulus, $785 billion in Canada, plus $2.28 trillion in consumer debt (mortgages included). The USA carries a national debt of $23 trillion plus personal consumer debt of $14 trillion. Eventually, we will have to pay whether through taxes or spending cuts or inflation or all of the above. But more likely we can’t pay.
Second, it exposes a moral issue: we are living way beyond our means. Very few of us have personal savings to pay our bills for 1 month, let alone 4 months ahead. The average Canadian worker saves $850 per year for every $50,000 earned, yet carries a standing balance of $4,500 in credit card debt. When a crisis comes we think somebody else should pay if we can’t. And the government is all too happy to function as our deliverer.
Are we willing to learn from this our responsibility to set aside 10% – 20% of our income to save for a rainy day and do our part in preparing for a crisis? He who gathers in summer is wise…and he who gathers little by little will make it grow (says Proverbs 10:5 and 13:11)
If we don’t do due diligence in saving we fall prey increasingly to a socialist mindset of expecting big government to sponsor us from womb to tomb. By taking on such huge national debt we allow our government to control our future wealth.
Thirdly, my biggest concern is the fundamental belief in our secular culture; that we can fix this problem – and all problems – with money. If we can get the economy up and running again all is well. Life can continue as before. Things can go back to normal. We can all be happy again.
Is this really what we want? Don’t we hear God calling us to stop putting our trust in the economy, in the government, and in our own strength? By bringing the whole world, even its superpowers, to its knees with a virus, God is calling for a deeper fix than money. He is looking for humility, for repentance, for spiritual revival and a return to God.
He doesn’t want us to waste this crisis by taking our fallen gods and putting them back up on the wall again. He is calling us to fall down before Jesus, to plead His mercy, and to seek forgiveness for our rebellion and arrogance.
Then God will send true renewal to our lives and land. He will raise us up again in new life to devote our lives to loving God above all and our neighbour as ourselves.
In times like these we may need an injection of cash in responsible amounts to stabilize the economy. But, far more, we need to turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and new life. He is the true fix our whole world needs.