It’s no secret that money is tight for many. People respond to financial difficulties differently. Some search for a way to earn more. Others frantically look to cut costs. A few simply throw their hands up in the air. The bottom line is that people everywhere are struggling to survive this recession. For many their goal is simple. They just want to earn enough to keep a roof over their head and put food on the table.
It’s interesting that financial experts manage to stay busy in any economy. Their services are in demand during good times and bad. People look to professionals on TV, radio and the internet for answers. Some want a-get-rich-quick scheme while others look for help in fending off creditors. There is wise counsel out there, but not all of it is helpful. Maybe you’ve heard of one or more of these familiar mantras.
“Spend less, earn more.” This simple pithy saying is beneficial as long as you’re not unemployed, underemployed or your wages have not been cut. There are some whose circumstances prohibit them from earning more. “Spend less, earn more” won’t help if you cannot make enough to pay the rent or mortgage and put food on the table. As a friend once asked me, “what’s 10% of 0?”
“It takes money to make money.” In other words, you have to have money to invest in something that will make you money. But, this is of no comfort to those who have nothing to invest! In fact, such a saying only adds fuel to the frustration that comes with having a lack of resources. The corollary to “it takes money to make money” is “you can’t make money if you don’t have it to begin with!”
“Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Oh, Bobby McFerrin, if this was only true! The song’s lingering popularity indicates that many people want to believe in the veracity of this mantra. But, experience teaches that this is wishful thinking. I have talked with many people whose “rent is late” and their landlord "might have to litigate.” These folks were worried and they definitely weren’t happy! In fact, people that can face dire financial circumstances with no worries are probably irresponsible.
Then there’s Jesus. He tells his disciples in Luke 12:22-31:
“ 22 Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 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! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? 27 "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 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, O you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
What’s the difference between what Jesus says and what Bobby McFerrin sings about in “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”? Both tell us not to worry when we’re confronted by tough financial circumstances. McFerrin’s song may put a smile on our face, but it possesses no true transcendent power to address legitimate anxiety. His well-intentioned song attempts to inspire people to choose optimism in the face of overwhelmingly difficult circumstances. Ironically, he’s asking them to “whistle past the graveyard.”
But, is Jesus’ counsel really any different? On Sunday morning, Christians will nod their heads and answer with a resounding yes. But when their boss hands them a pink slip on Friday, Jesus’ words seem sophomoric. Why? We live in the real world! At the end of the day, 99% of the world’s population is living hand-to-mouth or as we say in the U.S., paycheck-to-paycheck.
If we’re honest, the fear of not having enough to live on dictates the pace and purpose of our daily life. If we’re not worried about providing tonight’s dinner, we’re worried about next week’s grocery bill or next month’s oil bill. Frankly, this is THE fear that many struggle with their entire life. We want to believe God will take care of us and our loved ones, but we’re not totally sure He will come through for us when we really need Him.
If we look more closely at Jesus’ teaching in Luke 12:22-34, we will see a major difference between Him & Bobby McFerrin’s hit song. Jesus doesn’t tell us simply “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” He teaches His followers that faith is the proper response to fear.