The Gift of the Economic Downturn
Many churches, businesses, and families are in the final stages of completing budgets for 2010. The majority of those budgets, I'm guessing, have shrunk since last year.
Times are hard. Jobs have been cut, salaries slashed, state workers (in my state of Georgia) have been furloughed. The number of gifts beneath the Christmas tree has dwindled. Vacations now are nearer to home, if they're taken at all. Making the mortgage is now a challenge. Giving to charities has plummeted.
It's true that much of the news these days is bad, disheartening, un-hopeful. But the other day, as my own church hammered out its shrunken budget, I got a brief glimpse of the good news of the economic downturn.
The luxury of economically flush times is not having to know the value of things. If there's enough money-or enough credit-to purchase everything we want, then we tend to purchase everything we want, rarely thinking about the value of what we're buying.
When there's only so much money, when you have to choose between one necessary thing and another necessary thing, you begin to learn the value of those things. When faced with a choice among essentials, you have no choice but to consult your priorities and act on them.
At one point during that tough budget meeting last Thursday night, I looked around the table, at the worried expressions, at those faithful people trying as hard as they knew how to remain faithful to our mission, to God, and to all the people affected by the budget as they made hard decision after hard decision...as I looked at all those faces, those precious people, I knew that Christ was present among us. And I got a glimpse of one of the gifts of this economic downturn-the gift of knowing the value of things.
We might not have all the things we want or even need this year in our church community or in our family. But, oh! We have the church community, we have our family, we have the love of God, we have the gift of knowing better who we are because we are having to articulate our values. The times are hard, yes. But they are also full of good news.
Thanks be to God!