The day President Trump said we must start focusing on the economy and reopening the country, Democrats once again went on the attack. They suggested that he only cares about money and not people. (“How many deaths are acceptable?” one reporter snidely asked.) Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.
As a pastor, I view every life as precious. But I understand, as the president does: The lives COVID-19 has taken is a tragedy, but we must strike a balance between COVID-19 (and it’s health/life costs) and the economy (and its health/life benefits) . New York’s Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo makes essentially the same argument as Trump, without being hit with the same hysteria.
The economy is important because it binds society together. It’s not just about finances, it’s about safety and security, as well as health and vitality. If Jesus doesn’t care about money (as some say) why did He talk about stewarding as much than any other topic beyond the Kingdom of God? Money is not the root of all evil; God uses it to accomplish His purposes. It’s the love of money that’s at the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
Why a Healthy Economy Is So Important
I’m a very optimistic person by nature, but we need to be honest about what’s going on. God’s Word tells of times when He allows dire situations in the lives of His people so that hearts would change or that we would be prepared for what He was about to do. Ponder this for a moment: Essential workers continue to be taxed and wearied. They are already feeling the weight and fear of prolonged stress.
Add to this the millions of Americans who are, and who will be, unemployed. An astonishing 3.3 million people filed for unemployment last week. The most in history.
If we fail to re-ignite the economy, the stress will become unbearable. Alcoholism and drug addiction will begin to wreak havoc on America unlike anything we have seen before. Families will implode as spousal and child abuse skyrocket. The suicide rate will reach disturbing new levels. Already calls to suicide hotlines are spiking. Already, a British teenager took her own life because she couldn’t handle the social isolation. Everything we took for granted will begin to vanish. Imagine limited cash, food, and transportation.
People are already anxious and stir-crazy, and we haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg. What happens when all hell breaks loose and the effects of COVID-19 begin to do a hundred times more damage because our infrastructure and our economy have collapsed? This is when mass hysteria and rioting could break out as a deep state of depression, fear, and anxiety set in. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” as well as angry (Proverbs 13:12).
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This is why the economy must be the focus again by Easter, even as we fight the virus. The stimulus package is just that—a short-term stimulant. If people are not allowed to go back to work, it will only prolong the inevitable. Yes, we may need to isolate a few hot spots. Yes, we may still need to great care around each other, wash our hands repeatedly, and bump forearms. But the vast majority of America needs to get back to work. Our church doors need to be reopened to be the voice of truth pointing people back to God.
Though still difficult to pinpoint exactly, the current U.S. mortality rate from coronavirus is perhaps a touch above 1% of those who get infected. British researcher Neil Ferguson, whose earlier nightmare projections sent shockwaves around the globe, has now dramatically revised downward his casualty predictions.
Given what we now know, what scenario would you rather have? Deal with COVID-19 with the economy and infrastructure in place, or experience everything and more mentioned above? Without infrastructure, people will simply be left to die. Again, I’m not trying to scare but to prepare.
Wake Up, America! The Solution is Simple, but Not Easy
All the information thus far surrounding the origin of COVID-19 is a little fishy. It supposedly developed in Wuhan where other diseases have originated. (China’s top laboratory for infectious diseases is located there, too, adding to the suspicion.) The chair of Harvard’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department just got arrested for secretly working for the Chinese.
China has long purchased companies in Italy and America and other spots worldwide and sent Chinese workers to these facilities. They are own ports of entry across globe. Last year, Trump forced a Chinese-controlled company to give up its stake in our second biggest container port, Long Beach.
America, wake up. The Trojan Horse is at the city gate, and our adversaries are taking advantage of the crisis. If we continue to cripple our economy, it will only serve to increase China’s power and influence.
Surrender to God
We cannot surrender to China. We cannot surrender to this COVID-19. But we must surrender to God.
The economy is important, and we must bring it back, but even more urgently we must bring ourselves back to God and His Word. Psalm 119:67 reminds us of an essential truth: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” Affliction via difficulties, challenges, and obstacles send us running back to God. In one fell swoop, COVID-19 has dethroned all our idols. We are finally realizing what is really important. In this sense, I am very encouraged since this is fertile ground for revival. Revival thrives in brokenness, repentance, humility, and passionate prayer.
In the book of Joel, great swarms of locusts had devoured the land. The people’s provisions had dried up and withered away (1:4-12). They were desperate and despondent as their hope vanished. But God didn’t give up on them. He told Joel to tell the people to consecrate a fast — this showed the magnitude of their sin and the need for desperation — and to come together to a sacred assembly. (Representing the incredible power of unity.) Then finally, they were to go into God’s house and cry out to Him (1:13-14; 2:12-17). The crying out via repentance became their all-consuming priority. It needs to be ours as well.
I am concerned that America is fearful but not repentant, anxious but not surrendered to God, worried but not worshipful, confused but not diligently seeking Him. What will it take to draw us back to God? Like the Israelites in Joel’s time, we must change course and cry out to Him in repentance with prayer and fasting. God heard His people then, and He will hear us now —once again pouring out His Spirit on a dry and thirsty land. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2:25-32).
Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Southern California and the creator of the WCF Radio Network. His program, Regaining Lost Ground, points us back to God and reminds us that although times change, truth does not. His books, blogs, and sermons can all be found at ShaneIdleman.com.