Coping with financial stress

We live at a time when many people are worried about their financial situation.

Here in the UK the lockdown has been going on for almost a month and for most of us that has meant being unable to work. For some people it has meant no income at all.

Currently there is no certainty over when we will be able to return to work. For some of us there may not be jobs to go back to.

On the subject of financial worry, Jesus had the following to say:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25–34)

Many Christians will be familiar with these words. But have they taken on more meaning to us in recent weeks?

When life is comfortable, it’s easy to read passages like that and nod in agreement with what Jesus says. ‘Of course God will provide for us,’ a Christian might think, ‘How could anyone doubt it?’

Is it still so easy now?

Do you believe that what Jesus said was true?

Jesus was not a rich man. Until the age of around 30 he worked as a village carpenter who would have been the family breadwinner after Joseph died, and would never have had much money. When he left the family home to become a full-time religious teacher, he had no personal income at all and until his death he relied on the generosity of those whom he taught to provide him with what he needed.

The early Christian leader Paul wrote about his own experiences this way:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11–13)

Paul made tents for a living, a trade that he was able to take from place to place as he preached the Christian message around the Roman Empire. In some cities he received financial support from the local church, while in others he refused to do so, either because the people there had very little or because he wanted to avoid wealthy patrons putting pressure on him to change his teaching to suit their interests.

Both Jesus and Paul knew what it was like to make do with very little and to live with financial uncertainty. Both of them offered insight from their own experience of trusting God to provide.

Now is our opportunity to truly take their words to heart and trust God the way they did.

There is a saying in the Old Testament that puts it this way:

“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8–9)

At this time there will be many of us worried about not having enough and trying to put our trust in God to provide.

Before the lockdown started how many of us remembered to thank God on a daily basis that we had enough?

And how many of us were asking God not to give us too much?

If there is one positive thing to take from a time of crisis like this, it is that we remember our need for God far more than we did when our lives were relatively comfortable and we thought we were in control.

May we all trust God to continually provide us with what us need, no more and no less, until this time of crisis is over.

And when it is over, may we continually remember what we learned going through it.

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