A Problem of Trust

By the time you read this, at least a week will have passed. I don’t know what the markets will do between now and then. Like the rest of you, I know that most of our investments have gone down quite a bit his year. I know that my pension fund has gone down several thousand dollars. I figure many of you are in a similar place – though perhaps more stressed about it since you’re closer to (or in) retirement.

Trust is what makes our economy work. We trust people to pay us for goods or services rendered. We trust our banks to manage our money wisely so that it’ll be there when we need it.

If you don’t remember back to your grade school days, I can remind you that banks don’t keep all our money right there in their vault. They loan it – put it to work – to earn more money. That’s a good thing. That’s how we buy things we can’t afford right now (or ever, under normal circumstances) like houses, cars, and sanctuary renovations. When people lose their trust in their bank, they go to withdraw their money. But when everyone (or a large subset thereof) does it at the same time, they discover that the bank can’t give them their money. Remember: It’s not just sitting there in their vault, it’s out working. That action following a failure of trust is called a bank run. That’s what’s has helped bring down some of the big banks that have fallen.

The mysterious thing is that sometimes our trust is only correct when we actually trust. If we all trust in our banks, for example, they are more likely to prove trustworthy. We are, in effect, trusting our neighbors, who, like us, may be in the process of paying off money – our money – loaned to them by our bank. I don’t class myself among the “positive thinking” crowd, but I do think that thinking positively about something, whether it be the economy, our church, the people around us, tends to produce better results than negative thinking. If our actions were only based on facts, it might not be that way. But in the real world our actions are based on our perception of facts and our attitudes toward those facts.

Sometimes we discover that our trust is misplaced. We’ve trusted the wrong thing. I see that today. We’ve trusted that real estate is a safe investment that will only and always go up in value. Oops. We’ve trusted that it’s safe to carry lots of mortgage and consumer debt. Oops. We’ve trusted that having lots of stuff will bring us joy and security. Oops.

My absolute, unconditional trust is in the Lord who defeated the powers of sin, death and hell in the life death and resurrection of Jesus. He won’t fail me. I have relative trust in the financial institutions of society. They usually seem to work, but sometimes break down. Run as they are by sinful people (for sinful people), we shouldn’t be surprised. So whether happy days are here again or the world is crashing down around me, my trust is in God. Where’s your trust?

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