Jack Tapper of ABC News interviewed Rick Warren for Easter Sunday. Here are some excerpts:
TAPPER: The economy has been a very difficult thing for a lot of your parishioners, a lot people throughout the country. How do you counsel parishioners who come to you, congregants who come to you, struggling to make ends meet?
WARREN: Well, we definitely have seen our benevolence going up this last year. We fed about 70,000 different people through Saddleback Church in our food bank. Just here in Orange County. I have 11 percent of my people out of work right now. So we’re doing everything from job training to helping people learn how to do interviews, to trying to talk about how to create secondary incomes. We do all kinds of practical things. We offer out of our church PEACE center immigration services, legal services, job training, counseling, financial counseling…
WARREN: But regardless of all the problems that we see out there, I think they all have at their root a spiritual cause. And we have overspent… We have not been a responsible — we’ve bought things we didn’t need with money we didn’t have to impress people we didn’t even like. And now we’re paying the piper. And you cannot ignore the principles of finance that are in God’s word, and they are in the Book of Proverbs. It’s quite clear, they’re principles of business, principles of economics that are actually in the Bible.
WARREN: And when you ignore these things, then we’re going to get deeper and deeper into debt, and then we can’t blame God for that… The biggest problem for all of our economic problems is our inability to delay gratification. I want it and I want it now, and I’m going to buy it even if I can’t afford it. And not only have people done that, the government’s done it.
Please read the whole thing.
Warren’s point about the inability to delay gratification needs to be expanded upon. Warren sees this as primarily a financial issue. However, it is really an issue that affects every area of a person’s life.
There is a word for delaying gratification, or for denying gratification altogether in favor of someone else’s needs: Virtue.
The basic problem with America today is that it lacks virtue. People are obsessed with obtaining immediate gratification for themselves, and have made this the highest priority in their lives. The way they handle their finances is one of many symptoms of this. Obesity, addiction, and sexual promiscuity–things rampant in America today–are also symptoms.
For example, exercise and healthy eating are classic cases of things which may not bring any immediate gratification, but in the long-term reap great rewards in fitness and health. On the other hand, addictive drugs and sexual promiscuity bring great immediate satisfaction, but in the long-term leave a destructive swath behind them.
At the same time, putting others first may not give one any kind of gratification either now or in the future. However, that is not even a valid consideration, as putting others first is in essence a manifestation of love, and love does not seek its own.
The American church desperately needs to revisit Galatians 5: 19-25:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all manifestations of virtue. They are all manifestations of delaying gratification or even denying gratification altogether. As pointed out above, financial problems are only a symptom of the problem–people lack forbearance, faithfulness, and self-control, and so they run up debt that they cannot repay. We need to start dealing with the root.
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