Stock market plummets 1,175 points: 3 biblical responses

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1,175 points yesterday, its worst single-day points drop in history. Coming on the heels of Friday’s 666-point loss, the Dow’s gains for the year have now been erased.

Markets are lower in Europe and Asia this morning, indicating that the US stock market could be in for another tough day today. This may be a short-term correction, or it may be a sign of more declines to come. But the recent plunge may already be affecting our health as well as our wealth.

During the Great Recession, online searches for stomach ulcer symptoms and headaches increased by 228 percent and 193 percent. A second study reported that sharp stock market declines are highly correlated to immediate spikes in hospital admissions.

A third study found the stock market crash of 2008 to be associated with an increase in the rate of heart attacks. And data indicates that while suicide rates increased slowly between 1999 and 2007, the rate of increase more than quadrupled during the Great Recession.

Three biblical principles can help us manage our health and wealth in these days of financial volatility.

Trust God with your financial health

God cares about every dimension of your life, including your financial wellbeing. Crown Financial Ministries has identified 2,350 verses on finances and possessions in the Bible. Clearly, our Lord cares about our finances.

Jesus encouraged us: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:31-32). Our Lord healed the sick, raised the dead, cleansed the leprous, and fed the hungry. He was concerned with the physical health of those he served as well as their spiritual condition.

His Father feels the same way about you today. Any loving parent cares holistically about his or her children.

Of course, God calls us to partner with him in our material well-being. He created the garden of Eden to provide food for Adam and Eve but also called them to “work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). He commissioned Noah to build the ark that would save humanity (Genesis 6).

He used Joseph’s administrative acumen to provide for his family in Egypt (Genesis 45). He sent the judges and kings of Israel to defend their people from their enemies. He used the generosity of his people in Jerusalem to care for the needy (Acts 4:32-37).

As we work, God works. But we can know that God gives us the ability and opportunity to work: “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18).

At the same time, God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. And he cares for your needs so deeply that you can “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV).

Make money your servant, not your master

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus noted that “no one can serve to masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24a). Then he clarified: “You cannot serve God and money” (v. 24b).

Note that he called both God and money potential “masters.” One will serve the other. Which should be your master today?

Know this: “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). About 70 percent of people who win a lottery end up bankrupt. If you make money the key to contentment, you’ll never be content.

So be warned: “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10). When Timothy was serving as pastor in one of the wealthiest cities in the world, Paul counseled him: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Jesus was blunt: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

Use the temporal to serve the eternal

If money is to be your servant, to what end should it be employed?

King Solomon was worth around $100 billion in today’s financial terms. Yet he encouraged us to “honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce” (Proverbs 3:9). The temple he helped build outlived him by five centuries and led multitudes of people to God in worship and sacrifice.

Warren Buffett famously advised, “Only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for ten years.” The best investment you can make is that which glorifies God and serves people. Remember that your finances are loaned to you from their Owner (Psalm 24:1-2) and that you will give an accounting for their use (Matthew 25:14-30).

The stock markets may climb today, or they may decline. You may end the day wealthier or poorer than you are now. But nothing you own is really yours: “We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Timothy 6:7).

The real question is: Who owns you?