Looks like we are in for another wild ride on the Wall Street roller coaster today. The stock market has always run on fear and greed, and like a mirror, it reflects feelings more than facts. Keep in mind, as we learn in 1 Corinthians 14:33, “God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” That’s instructive because we think the opposite of confusion should be understanding, but we rarely get to see the whole picture. Peace comes from resting on God’s goodness and the things that will not pass away – faith, hope, and love.
Difficult times are the proving ground of value. Ben Franklin told us “time is money” and we believed him. That lie has left us with what Lewis Lapham describes as
the self-destroying swindle that the exchange rate between the worth of a thing is the price of a thing.
Nonsense. Ask a man on his deathbed how he wants to use his final moments, and he won’t ask to be shown his possessions or stock portfolio one last time. If he’s lucky enough to have loved ones in his life, all he will want is their presence because time is worship.
Like many people, I read John Steinbeck’s The Pearl in 7th grade English and like every single 7th grader on the planet, I was too young to fully appreciate it. It’s the story of a poor man who thinks his problems have been solved when he finds a valuable pearl. Now that you are sequestered at home, pick it up and read it again. At about 100 pages it can be read in a single sitting but please chew the words slowly because Steinbeck is both efficient and effective with equal power. A beautiful example is a passage below where the protagonist Kino begins to understand the dark implications of his new-found fortune:
“Every man suddenly became related to Kino’s pearl, and Kino’s pearl went into the dreams, the speculations, the schemes, the plans, the futures, the wishes, the needs, the lusts, the hungers, of everyone, and only one person stood in the way and that was Kino, so that he became curiously every man’s enemy. The news stirred up something infinitely black and evil in the town; the black distillate was like the scorpion, or like hunger in the smell of food, or like loneliness when love is withheld. The poison sacs of the town began to manufacture venom, and the town swelled and puffed with the pressure of it.”
I won’t spoil the story but essentially it’s a journey of the discovery of a man’s values. If you want to find out what a person is made of, just squeeze them. Pressure is a truth-teller.
William Butler Yeats
His chosen comrades thought at school
He must grow a famous man;
He thought the same and lived by rule,
All his twenties crammed with toil;
‘What then?’ sang Plato’s ghost. ‘What then?’
Everything he wrote was read,
After certain years he won
Sufficient money for his need,
Friends that have been friends indeed;
‘What then?’ sang Plato’s ghost. ‘ What then?
All his happier dreams came true –
A small old house, wife, daughter, son,
Grounds where plum and cabbage grew,
poets and Wits about him drew;
‘What then.?’ sang Plato’s ghost. ‘What then?’
The work is done,’ grown old he thought,
‘According to my boyish plan;
Let the fools rage, I swerved in naught,
Something to perfection brought’;
But louder sang that ghost, ‘What then?’
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Dig Deeper: Axiology
Axiology is the branch of philosophy that answers the question “what is value?” Value is understood to be worth and it centers on both ethics and aesthetics. Biblically we look to God for an understanding of value. In Matthew 10, Christ’s taught us that we are of great value to God and His detailed attention goes to the number of hairs on our head. He likewise said we should not worry over food and clothing because God will provide all of these in accordance with our great value to Him. John 3:16 says He loves us so much He sacrificed His own son for us. This is worth of a soul to God. In contrast, much of what the world holds in value is discounted by Scripture. The Bible counsels us not to store up treasure where moth and rust will destroy.
If morals are relative and ethics are situational, then value is empty, and life is meaningless. The world’s values are so misaligned with God’s, they often are not recognized as empty idols, but every misapplied attribute of worth is a form of idolatry. Only God is worthy of our adoration. As we place Him on the throne of our hearts, our perceptions begin to become aligned with reality. The Christian recognizes the profound privilege of engaging God and joining the redemptive work of Christ as His ambassador