Insights from the story of Joseph
In this episode we talk about financial crisis and how our faith and our spirituality can help us prepare for and survive such crisis.
As we go through our lives most of us encounter financial ups and downs, sometimes very serious ones. This is true for both individuals and for societies. And in the interconnected world of today, the global economy as a whole can move through a series of economic expansions and contractions, sometimes leading to improved well being, sometimes to hardship.
We will discuss the Biblical story of Joseph and the Pharaoh and how this story might provide us with some important insights into how we can weather these storms.
As we will see in the story, Egypt faced seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of agricultural depression that could have led to a great famine. Joseph prevented the famine by storing food in storehouses during the good years so that it would be available during the bad years.
Unfortunately the human tendency is to do exactly the opposite of what Joseph did. While Joseph aggressively stored grain during the good times, we humans have a tendency to do the opposite – to behave as though the good times will last forever, in many cases making commitments and taking on debt that will be difficult to repay in the hard times.
This does not mean we should not make commitments or take on debt, but rather that we should resist the tendency to overdo it.
We need to recognize that neither the good times nor the bad times last forever. Our cycle might not actually be seven years up and seven years down, but the wheel does turn. In the good times, we need to behave prudently so that we will be ready, and in the bad times we need to have the courage and persistence to get through the hard times and to anticipate the better times.
Our faith can certainly help by helping us develop a longer term perspective, develop the character and courage it takes to stay grounded during both parts of the cycle, and behave wisely.
Our churches can play an important role. This does not mean that a church should give us economic advice, any more than it should take political positions. But it can help us develop the foundation necessary for us to act with wisdom.