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A thought popped into my head a few days ago. I am not claiming it was from God, but it caught my attention and stimulated spiritual and biblical considerations. Like you, many ideas shoot through my brain. Most quickly die a natural death. Some are stored away for a time to come; some good, some evil, and some just neutral. The good and neutral may require further study. The evil ones must be dealt with and rejected. Some grab my attention because they are interesting. It is into this last category my recent thought fell.

As of today, we are living within the tsunami of the corona virus plague. I use the word plague because it is a biblical word, and it refers to a time of suffering and upheaval. All plagues, to be clear, are not diseases. The ten plagues that the Lord brought to Egypt included darkness, lice, frogs, and hail. The sending of enormous hailstones upon the earth is referred to as a plague in Revelation 16:21. Since the onslaught of the pandemic, not only have people died, much of the world has shut down economically. The stock market has tanked. Millions are out of work. I bring all this up because the thought that went through my head was something like, “I wonder if the fall of Babylon will be something like what is happening now?”

The fall of Babylon is mentioned four times in the Book of Revelation (chapters 14, 16 and 17), but the most detailed account is in Chapter 18. Here are two portions that specifically deal with the economics of that fall:

“And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls” (Revelation 18:11–13).1

“The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, ‘Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste’” (Revelation 18:15–17).

No reason is given for the demise of Babylon in any of the chapters in which it appears, but in its earliest appearance in Revelation, it occurs after the revealing of the beasts in Chapter 13. At this point—and let’s be clear that chronology in the Book of Revelation is like a winding staircase—plagues have already struck the earth. The point is that Babylon’s fall didn’t happen in a vacuum, and neither is the commercial cataclysm that we are experiencing today.

Those passages from Revelation 18 sound eerily familiar, but this current financial distress is not the fall we see there. The conditions don’t match. However, the interesting, arresting thought that day came trailing a galaxy of questions. Well, not a galaxy—more like a small solar system. Questions, such as, “How will you respond when everything falls apart economically in that day?” and “Do you presume to think that Christians, including you, are immune to this catastrophic event?” “What will you do when money fails?” “How much trust are you putting in riches?”

These are challenging questions, but the Bible provides the answers.

Scripture does not condemn riches, but it warns us about them. In the verse below, we see that riches are contrasted with righteousness. In the Old Testament, righteousness refers to loving God and neighbor, the two greatest commandments.

“Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 11:4). That “death” would be of the eternal kind. This verse offers a massive contrast between loving riches and loving the Lord and others.

In the light of this truth, consider Jesus’ admonition in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man spent his wealth on fine clothing and an abundance of food. He cared nothing about the poverty and suffering of Lazarus and did not let a coin fall from his hand to help him. He was concerned only about himself and was not rich toward God (Luke 12:21). That covetousness and lack of care had to do with the absence of his relationship with a just and loving God. Eventually, Lazarus died and went to “Abraham’s side,” and the rich man died and ended up in Hades (Luke 16:19-31).

As it was written, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”

Lord, today and in any economically difficult days to come, help us to love You and not temporary riches, which cannot save and will cause us to fall. As we trust, help us to care about others and not only ourselves.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

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