The human exodus from Syria is of an enormous scale. More than a million refugees are expected to arrive at the borders of European nations. Millions more have fled to other Middle Eastern countries. It is a human disaster that will carry a price in many ways. Not only are there huge costs in providing food, shelter and relocation, but there will also be deep societal impacts that will manifest themselves over the long term whether in Europe or elsewhere.
Angela Merkel, long-time chancellor of Germany, famously said back in 2010 that “This [multicultural] approach has failed, utterly failed.” This was a reflection on the influx of Muslim “gastarbeiter” (guest workers who were mostly Turks), who had been encouraged to immigrate to Germany in the 1960s and 1970s. It was at a time of great labor shortages in Germany. These worker communities, by and large, never fully integrated into German society. As a result, there have been challenges.
However, only five years later, despite “failed multiculturalism,” Ms. Merkel plays the “good for economy card.” Greater schisms in German society are likely to occur in the future. But, as most economists will agree, more immigrants can mean greater economic growth. However, what of the longer-term soft costs?
A similar disposition is shown by the new Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau. The message he brought to his first G20 meeting was that there is an “economic case for taking in large numbers of Syrians.” This statement just happened to coincide with the latest outbreak of terrorist attacks in Paris, France. Trudeau’s intentions are good. But, why would one need the incentives of economics to justify helping someone?
Most certainly, humanitarian aid is required. Fellow human beings are suffering. However, our focus here is more narrow. We want to highlight the “economic emphasis because it is one of the signs of the times. Economics and commerce could be considered the gods of the age. They are popularly considered by policymakers to matter most. But also in another critical way: The concepts of “right and wrong” no longer belong to the domain of morality or any sacred scriptures. What is right and wrong are concepts now mostly defined by money and markets.
Consider the theme of an upcoming conference titled Pride and Prejudice: The Business and Economic Case for LGBT Diversity and Inclusion. Our focus here is upon the persuasion tactics. A full-size advertisement for this conference in the Economist Magazine, displaying this slogan in large type across the top of the page, read as follows: “Discrimination is Expensive.” The advertisement went on to explain: “The purchasing power of the LGBT community worldwide amounts to $3 trillion annually. 2.8 billion people live in countries that criminalize gay people. The estimated annual cost of homophobia to India’s economy is $30.9 billion.”
We wonder how such “monetary” costs and benefits could have been estimated with such authority. Nevertheless, the tactic of the argument is clear: Notions of morality and integrity are unnecessarily “expensive.” The god of commerce will be appeased and the world’s economies stand to benefit. It goes without saying that the persecution of any person is not acceptable for whatever reason.
What is “right” today is determined by “economics” … more accurately said, superficial economics. An intellectually-honest evaluation of the longer-term costs in terms of economics and societal health clearly argues for disastrous outcomes for mankind. The long-term costs are not considered as there is a deliberate blindness.
No Real Value of Truth?
To this point, we have yet to make an appeal to the views —“rights and wrong”— expressed by the Bible. That there should be blindness is not a surprise to the Bible reader. “The god of this world has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They can’t see the light of the good news of Christ’s glory” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Such a perspective, of course, must be ridiculed by the world if it is indeed blinded; however, the ultimate outcomes are determined by God. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7).
We see that we live in an age with more statistics and knowledge than ever before, but less truth. People seem to know the price of everything, but the value of little. Instead, wisdom — past, present and future — today tends to be found in the belly of some financial model or economic theory.
Just what is the real value of truth and wisdom? This is what Job had to say:“But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? Man does not comprehend its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living. The deep says, ‘It is not in me’; the sea says, ‘It is not with me. It cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighed in silver’” (Job 28:12).
Job is effectively saying that wisdom is priceless … that it is unquantifiable. It cannot be captured in a number. Therefore, we should not look for wisdom nor truth in numbers and prices.
We live in a dangerous world where prices abound without values; and costs are only measured in prices. In such a world the price becomes the value and values are separated from real costs. What that means is that the common denominator of what is right becomes the price.
A world ruled by price? That’s what happens in a world that is quickly globalizing and financializing. Price then increasingly becomes the world’s judiciary. It alone determines what is right and good. That’s a concept that ideally suits the juggernaut of globalization.
To recall, globalization reduced to its very essence is nothing more than this: A process leading to a world system in which all human actions are governed through the incentives of wealth and prosperity. And if wealth and prosperity are the worthy objectives, then whatever increases wealth will tend to be approved and considered good and right.
Of course, it’s a satanic concept that prices and wealth can be used as a measure of truth. This thinking is most obvious in the world’s money industries — investment management and brokerage or any business dependent upon trends in market prices. To financial professionals, price is effectively truth. As one financial service said, “The moment of truth is when the best price is yours.1”
Allow me to use the illustration of a portfolio manager to explain how price has become truth. If a portfolio manager buys an investment for whatever reason and the stock price then goes down in price, he has been judged to be wrong. The inverse applies as well. If a portfolio strategist reduces his investment in the stock market on the belief that stock prices are too high, it will be left to the future direction of the stock market to determine whether he was correct.
In the competitive wrangle to squeeze wealth out of financial markets, the market is never wrong. Only investors can be wrong. Though a stock market may be in the midst of a huge mania that will someday end up in a sorry bust doesn’t matter. The price is the truth, and it is hoped that the truth will be in a permanent upward trend.
Christians Not Immune From the Deceptions of Numbers
This subtle shift of thinking about truth hasn’t just affected financial professionals. It extends to our whole society, including Christians.
I can think of a number of prominent Christian investment managers who assume this posture. Their opinions about what drives markets and trends, no matter how ill-founded and baseless, are arrogantly assumed to be right simply because “the market” in retrospect has judged them as correct. That’s perverse thinking. Markets represent the judgment and vanities of the world. Markets, prices, money, gold … whatever, do not contain truth. They are all denominated in a currency of man’s making.
We must not let prices — the new spectator sport of our world — determine our values. Our values — Biblical standards and eternal objectives — must determine our conduct. That imperative, of course, demands that we continue to be good stewards, work diligently and manage our resources faithfully. However, that is not the same as staking our hope and faith in the values of earthly wealth. Nor does it mean that the correctness of our living can be judged by how much wealth we accumulate, how much we earn, or how successfully our portfolios outperform the world’s financial markets. Yet, this monetary measuring rod — like the idolatrous Asherah poles2worshipped during the times of the Old Testament prophets — is standing on many of the high places in the church today.
For us Christians caught during the times of the great Endtime Money Snare, living apart from the rule of numbers and markets will carry a cost. The measuring stick of price should not be allowed to be the arbiter of truth and what is right in our lives. And undoubtedly, for most of us, that will mean we may not accumulate as much wealth here on earth as the secular world thinks that we should.
Actually, we have great reason for joy. In one sense, living to God’s standard during the present upswing of the great Endtime Money Snare is hardly costly at all. We have the greatest money manager of all at our service. He promised that he would reward us 100 fold3 for every one of our sacrifices, with payment in an eternal currency that will never rust or corrode.
With an eternal guarantee like that, there’s absolutely no need to invest by the numbers.
1. Advertisement for INSTINET, Barron’s August 2, 1999.
2, Quoting Compton’s Expert Commentary: Asherah poles became a regular feature of Judah’s landscape for hundreds of years. They were dedicated to a mother-goddess and often erected alongside altars on the high places devoted to God. They came to represent Judah’s slide into idolatry.
3.”I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Matthew 10:29)