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The Bible's answer to economic turmoil

Opening thought to the wealth of the kingdom of heaven within.

From the March 2013 issue of The Christian Science Journal

As the United States and the rest of the world struggle to revive the faltering economy, I have been pondering many inspiring lessons from two Bible accounts. The first one is the experience of Nehemiah recorded in the Old Testament (see Nehemiah, chapters 1—13). Serving in an official position as cupbearer to the king, Nehemiah learns of the distress of his countrymen in Jerusalem, who have been left vulnerable because of the ruin of their city and its surrounding walls. When the king notices his sadness and asks him the cause, Nehemiah tells of his concern for his people and asks permission to go to Jerusalem so he can help with the rebuilding. The king not only grants his request but gives Nehemiah everything he needs to get the job done. 

While most of us don’t hold positions of great power in government or business, there is something we can do to support the efforts of those who do as they work to put the pieces of our economy back together in a way that will be beneficial to all. With the kind of selfless dedication expressed by Nehemiah, we can, through turning to God in prayer, contribute to the revival of our economy. 

The first thing Nehemiah did after returning to Jerusalem was to fast and pray. The spiritual sense of fasting suggests that he turned from the evidence before his material senses, which reported destruction and loss, and prayerfully turned in thought to what his spiritual sense was communicating to him of God as the permanent and stable substance of all that really is. This approach enabled him to succeed in his mission. 

If we just take in what the media are reporting about current economic conditions, we might fall into the trap of fearing for our own financial security, condemning the actions or policies of others, or looking for material causes such as unwise spending or dishonesty—all of which reinforce the belief that matter is a power apart from God, which can harm us. This leaves us in the realm of mortality, where there is no real solution.

As we silence the suggestions of mortal sense crying that the economy has crashed, that our savings are dwindling, or that we are helpless victims of the greed, mistakes, and corruption of others, we can begin to hear God’s messages of peace and progress. 

Another Bible account, Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament that have come to be known as the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew, chapters 5—7), has been a guiding light to me in overcoming fear in regard to the economy. This sermon guides us to base our thinking on the solid rock of spiritual reality instead of the shifting sands of materiality. Delivered to spiritual seekers yearning for a more satisfying sense of existence, it tells us about our relationship to a loving God, who is Spirit and who cares for each one of us as His spiritual creation without limitation or partiality.

These teachings emphasize the importance of how we think. Jesus knew all true thoughts come from God and are good, and he shows us that when our thoughts reflect what God knows about His creation as whole and undiminishing, we can experience fearless dominion and freedom. Fearful, material, anxious thoughts, on the other hand, proceed from the carnal mind, which is always limited and is the foundation of all problems and adverse conditions. 

In the first part of the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, Jesus shows that the desire and ability to be happy, or to experience the kingdom of heaven, rests on a spiritual basis. What will ultimately bless us and bring us happiness is different from the allurements of the world. Wealth, social status, job titles, educational accomplishments, material possessions, sensual pleasures—all mortal measurements of happiness and success—will not usher us into the kingdom. Jesus indicates that our entrance into the realm of harmony and happiness proceeds from understanding our true spiritual identity, expressed through such moral and spiritual qualities as receptivity, humility, gratitude, and purity. 

What will ultimately bless us and bring us happiness is different from the allurements of the world.

Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). The New English Bible translates this beatitude this way: “How blest are those who know their need of God; the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” When we’re conscious in some degree of the inability of materiality to satisfy, and of our need for a more spiritual view, our thought is opened to the kingdom of heaven within—the spiritual joy, dominion, and goodness that truly satisfy human longings. Then the ways of the world begin to lose their appeal, and the things of Spirit become more tangible and useful to us. But we’ll continue to feel unsatisfied and unfulfilled until we turn to the one divine Mind for spiritual solutions to our problems.

In another passage, Jesus advises us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matthew 6:20). This shows us how to live a life of complete trust in God, free from distracting worry. In Jesus’ day, wealth was partly in fabrics—rugs, garments, hangings—that could be eaten by vermin. Today, we hear reports about recession, unemployment, a fluctuating housing market, and a volatile stock market, eating away at the value of our financial resources. Our true dominion over such cares is our God-given ability to understand and utilize His spiritual ideas to meet our human needs. These spiritual ideas constitute true substance, and with them we can master the ups and downs of the human economy. 

Jesus’ teaching about our spiritual treasures is mainly about being single-minded. Where do we look for our supply? In Spirit or in matter? In God or in mammon? Mammon is a word used in the New Testament for money or wealth. It can also refer to material success, pride of possession, or subtle pride of mind. Jesus is telling us we can’t go in two directions at the same time. What do we trust as our true treasure? 

Jesus’ sense of economy as spiritual rather than material enabled him to find necessary tax money in a fish’s mouth and to feed thousands with what appeared to be just a few fish and loaves of bread. His understanding of true supply produced results that were both immediate and practical. He knew that in the kingdom of heaven, where we truly dwell, there is neither deficiency nor excess—no loss, no shortages, no recession or inflation, no random forces at work to diminish our good or deprive us of it. 

Jesus talked about the “fowls of the air,” who neither sow nor reap. They have no wages or investments to offset inflation, but their needs are fully supplied by the Father (see Matthew 6:26). Jesus’ teaching on economy isn’t a disparagement of the need for wise use of our resources or thoughtful planning for the future, but he is warning about an obsession with reliance on material things. He knew the best investment his followers can make is to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), and then all we need will be provided. The depth and security of our spiritual resources—our God-given ability to understand and demonstrate the harmony, completeness, and ever-presence of good—can’t be limited. 

The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, looks to this unlimited source when she writes, “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. vii). I like to alternate the emphasis of the last few words of that sentence. Today is big with blessings. We don’t have to wait until a future time to experience God’s blessings, nor are they only behind us; they are here and now and always. Today is big with blessings. We can begin right where we are to acknowledge those blessings with gratitude for the present evidence we see of God’s goodness. Today is big with blessings. God’s blessings are infinite and unlimited, and big enough to make a difference. Today is big with blessings. Nothing else can come into our day but His blessings. 

We don’t have to worry about tomorrow. All we have is today. And today, we have all. We can rest in that assurance. Every today we will ever have is complete, fully sustained by God, divine Love, who shows us how to use what we have in the right way. Our supply proceeds from divine Principle, which is Love and is always pouring out to us an abundance of good that will never recede or be withdrawn from us. And that is true whether we’re searching for ways to finance a college education, just starting out in our careers, in the midst of establishing a home or raising a family, or retired from our jobs.

I had to gain a deeper understanding of spiritual economy when my husband began talking about retiring from his teaching career a few years ago. Suggestions of being plunged into limitation at some future date began to assault my thought. Had we saved enough? Would our investments remain secure the rest of our earthly days? I clearly needed to repent—to turn my thoughts away from reliance on matter and material conditions, such as savings, investments, and retirement accounts, toward a humbler trust in Spirit’s ever-presence as the sustaining force in my life. 

My very patient husband put retirement off so I could pray until I felt a clearer and securer sense of God’s plan for us. As I prayed, I acknowledged that through all the years of our marriage, we had had evidence of divine ideas meeting our human need at every turn. Now I needed to prayerfully reinforce my understanding that our financial security had less to do with money than it did with understanding the continuity of good.

The breakthrough came in a very natural and surprising way. My husband and I had looked forward to taking a trip someday when he retired, and one day in February a brochure came in the mail advertising this trip. It was scheduled for September, after the start of the next school year. The timing was perfect for my husband to put in for retirement for the coming June. We took that trip and have never regretted it. Both our lives continue to be filled with useful and interesting activities, and we feel the abundance of divine ideas meeting our needs each day. 

This is God’s promise to each one of us throughout eternity: “God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (II Corinthians 9:8).

Judith Bell is a Christian Science practitioner in Ooltewah, Tennessee.

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