Global Financial Crisis
“They cast their silver into the streets, and their gold is like an unclean thing; their silver and gold are
not able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD; they cannot satisfy their hunger or fill
their stomachs with it” (Ezekiel 7:19, scriptures from the RSV unless otherwise noted).
The pandemic lockdown combined with massive government relief programs has seriously weakened economies around the world. Russian sanctions resulting from the invasion of Ukraine have caused spikes in the price of energy. In Europe, natural gas has increased over 400 percent.
European governments are seeking alternative sources to Russia for fuel, and inflation is driving consumer prices up enough that protests are rampant across France, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic. Seeking to ease the civic unrest, governments have taken measures to alleviate the pain felt by consumers. In Portugal, the government announced a $2.4 billion relief package and in Germany, a $64.3 billion program was announced.
Economists attribute high spending and questionable energy policies as a major contributor to increased inflation around the world. Higher costs have impacted most industries, including transport, heating, cooling, and manufacturing. This has exacerbated already weak economies in several countries.
● In Sri Lanka, hyperinflation, a devalued currency and a huge sovereign (government borrowing) debt due to civil war already threatens its ability to repay lenders and continue needed infrastructure projects. Tourism, a mainstay of economic survival, has dried up since 2019 when terrorism and the pandemic shut down the country. A 2021 government ban of chemical fertilizers, which was later reversed, significantly reduced crop yield and devastated the tea industry. Subsequently, massive protests led to the resignation of President Rajapaksa in July.
● In Argentina, an annual inflation rate of over 70 percent — highest in three decades — and interest rates of over 69 percent has turned many consumers to bartering. Dwindling central bank reserves and looming debt repayment of $40 billion to the International Monetary Fund has sent shock waves through an already battered economy.
● In China, according to the Institute of International Finance (IIF), government, corporate, and consumer debt has increased to over 300 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as Beijing steps up support for a cooling economy. “China accumulated debt rapidly in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2007 and 2008, when authorities doled out a massive stimulus package that was largely funded through bank loans,” writes the IIF.
● Catastrophic monsoons left one-third of Pakistan under water, and washed away almost half of the nation’s cropland, according to BBC. Food prices soared, leaving staples beyond the reach of many.
● Bangladesh faces continued turmoil due to high fuel and food prices. The country owes over $90 billion in foreign debt, which has doubled over the past five years due to a huge infrastructure program.
● Thousands of farmers in the Netherlands, the EU’s largest emitter of nitrogen oxide and ammonia, in July protested proposed emissions reduction rules impacting the use of fertilizer and were joined by groups in Germany, Italy, Spain, and Poland. Dutch farmers argue they are being forced to either scale back production massively or shut down their operations completely.
Global debt from borrowing by governments, businesses and consumers surpassed $300 trillion in 2021, according to IIF, up from $226 trillion in 2020. Global Gross Domestic Product was $85 trillion in the same year, just 28 percent of total debt, serving as a scorecard of the difficult financial position the world is now in.
God’s Wrath Poured Out
Despite the dire events described here, there is hope for the future, but only through the establishment of God’s Kingdom. Before Jehovah can bring the good, He must bring down the current religious, political, social and financial systems of the world. The current global financial crisis is another precursor to the total destruction of our present systems. Note the words of Zephaniah: “For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all the heat of my anger; for in the fire of my jealous wrath all the earth shall be consumed” (Zephaniah 3:8).
Ezekiel, prophesying of the impending doom of Jerusalem, showed how wealth could not sustain them when destruction came. “They cast their silver into the streets, and their gold is like an unclean thing; their silver and gold are not able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD; they cannot satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it” (Ezekiel 7:19).
James prophesied a similar situation for the final days of Israel, and prophetically for the last days of the Gospel Age. “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days” (James 5:1-3).
It is not only the financial systems of this world that will experience failure at the end of the Gospel Age, but social systems as well. The Apostle Paul writes, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, unthankful, unholy” (2 Timothy 3:1, 2).
Keeping our Christian Perspective
The current turmoil in the world will eventually be replaced by a peaceable kingdom of righteousness which will bring a new way of life: “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord” (Zephaniah 3:9 ESV). “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the Lord; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs” (Psalm 12:5 ESV). As we view the world today, let us stand upon our watch tower and pray for the establishment of God’s kingdom.
What can we do to protect ourselves during this time? “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, I will never fail you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Material wealth is now promoted as the key to happiness. Leaders, businesses and governments all contribute to this atmosphere with promises of happiness, entitlements and “bailouts” from debt, which do nothing to promote prudence and discipline.
We can ensure peace of mind during these difficult times by putting God’s principles first in our lives. Consider these guidelines:
● Plant spiritually in good soil (Galatians 6:7, 8) — it takes time for a crop to grow. Be patient. Keep the heart focused spiritually for out of it are the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23)
● Live within our means (Proverbs 21:20) — a main cause of financial disaster is the inability to pay off debt.
● Maintain due diligence (Proverbs 27:23) — discipline is important in all aspects of life. Resist impulsivity and keep in control.
● Save for difficult times (Proverbs 6:6-11) — resources must be put aside for unexpected problems
● Invest time and resources wisely and consider spiritual opportunities first (Proverbs 21:5; Ecclesiastes 11:2) — avoid speculation and consider future needs.
The overriding principle in life is given by Jesus in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If our treasure is in heaven, our hearts will overflow with joy, peace and contentment!