I have been reading a very interesting book called Janesville, which is about the GM plant closing in that Wisconsin town and how the town reacted. I find it an interesting read. One of the stories particularly struck me. The author was discussing a family’s need to find a new job, and they made the point that the family had no savings because they had always stretched their wages as far as they would go. I found myself, if only momentarily, saying how foolish of them? Especially working in that industry, didn’t they see this coming? I mean sheesh it wasn’t like GM was raking in the millions before the plant closure.I mean that relatively speaking, of course they were making profits, but it was pretty obvious things weren’t going well. Plus, isn’t it always good to live below your means anyway, whether you have a stable job or not? But then I had to stop myself.
Of course the answer is yes, it is always good to live below your means, and I suspect most of the GM workers sited in that book could have done a much better job at that. Doing a quick calculation, even the normal GMer made more than I do and with a lot of families having both parents working at GM clearly they should have been able to have a comfortable life with plenty left over for a rainy day that could last a long time. Yet it is not hard to see why they wouldn’t choose this path. We live in a culture that values materialism over all else. Credit is, even now, extremely easy to obtain. (I bet if I added up all of my credit limits on all of my credit cards that would probably equal over half of my yearly sallary and that’s not even counting a loan I could get at the bank with my credit score being what it is.) And I am convinced that some people, perhaps even most people, have no clue how credit cards actually work and, yes, you do have to pay them off at some point, usually at staggering interest rates. Mone is not the only topic this applies to: teenage pregnancy, drug use, and countless other sins could fall into this category.
What I am Not Saying
Before my conservative friends think I have lost my mind and my liberal friends think I am signing up to be a socialist (I love putting something in every post that makes everyone a little mad) I am not saying that wasting money, teenage pregnancy, drug use, etc. should be excused or that we should simply throw up our hands and resign ourselves to the fact that “people are going to do bad things anyway so we might as well not try” as seems to be the popular thing to do these days. I am also not saying that we need to always help those who are in a bad situation. Jesus said we must take care of the needy, but the bible also says Those who do not work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). It is a balance that can be hard to strike at times, but we must strike it. there comes a point where we must stop helping someone in hopes that they may hit rock bottom, but the Christian religion is all about redemption and if we see someone legitimately trying we should and must do everything in our power to help them. I think this is one of the major problems with government programs, they attempt to help everyone equally with little regard for effort, but that is a whole other article.
We Must Do Better
We must do our next generation better. It is time to really admit to ourselves that there are certain things that will keep you from getting ahead in life in general (drug use, teenage pregnancy, debt, etc.) and really teach our kids about the dangers of such things. This starts at home of course, but this should also be done in our schools and especially our churches. Sometimes I fear churches and Christians are afraid to talk about these things for fear that we are giving our kids ideas or normalizing behavior. I do think we need to be careful in how we discuss these issues, but we need to discuss them. I am part of our youth group at our church and this will be a main part of my focus, to show our teens which come from every walk of life, both stable family and broken home etc. that God’s word does actually apply to our lives today. There is a standard of right and wrong. And no, we won’t always be rewarded for doing the right thing, but we must do good anyway because someday we will stand before a holy God and have to give an account of our earthly deeds, and we all want to here Jesus say “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
In summary, my main point is that we must not act self righteously toward others, but we must be willing to speak the truth in love. We should help others when appropriate, and make sure that we show our children both my teaching and action when possible how to live a good life. This will be hard. It may mean changing some things about our culture or fighting against the culture. It may mean prying our kids away from their screens and actually interacting with them. But it is essential if we are to raise a generation of kids that is more economically prosperous then our generation has been.