MAY COLUMN: Spiritual commodities on the rise

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Yesterday the “to-do list” was full. The gasoline tank in the car needed filling, two prescriptions had to be picked up at the drugstore, paper towels and tissues were purchased at a discount store, and several items were secured at the weekly grocery trip. An email was read regarding the status of a retirement fund. One word was scribbled over the top of each item on the to-do list. INFLATION.

The annual rate of inflation for the United States for the 12-month period ending with April 2022 was 8.26%, down a fraction from the previous 12-month 8.5%. The inflation rate plays an important role in understanding the health of an economy. Most economists see inflation at its highest level since 1982, with very little letup in sight.

To at least help us keep perspective, The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article telling us that the world’s 50 richest people — names like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — have lost a combined $563 billion this year alone. Most of those losses were not actual George Washington dollar bills, they were financial speculations. The dollar amounts are guesstimates of their projected net worth.

For another comparison, this week the country of Turkey announced its annual inflation rate has jumped to a 24-year high of 73.5%. Fueled by the war in Ukraine, rising energy prices and a tumbling lira, the result was better than what most economists were forecasting. Most had feared the number would touch 76.55%.

The rising prices of items at stores can be a minor irritation. The retirement funds pose a more urgent issue because drawing from those funds looms just around the corner. Since the heavenly retirement also is around the corner, curiosity ponders questions about spiritual inflation. Is heaven concerned with the price of spiritual commodities? Are there shortages we need to be concerned about? Over the next few weeks, we will spend some time talking about some spiritual things to consider.

Today let’s look at a couple of important truths. The Bible gives us warnings about money, wealth and riches. We are told that riches are often deceitful, seductive and addictive. Just as the wealth of billionaires is speculation, ultimately everything that provides financial value on Earth will disappear. This is why Jesus warns to lay up treasures in heaven, treasures that are secure.

The idea is not to be careless and unconcerned about money. We are encouraged to be good stewards. The issue is really a matter of faith. Are you placing faith in the stability of the riches? If wealth sits at the top of your priority list, you are in for a rude awakening.

Another factor contributing to inflation is the supply and demand of products. If everyone needs a hammer and I have the only hammer available to sell, I can charge whatever price the market will bear. If Elon Musk is in my market, the price might be pretty spectacular. What did Peter, Paul and Mary sing? “Oh, if I had a hammer!”

The supply chain disruptions and our tendency to “stock up” on items has left us with several shortages that continue to spiral inflation. Since COVID-19, certain consumer goods have become scarce. Of course at-home COVID tests have been in demand, as was hand sanitizer and toilet paper, but the list of products touched seems endless.

Gasoline stations closed earlier because tanks had emptied. Many medicines can no longer be found on shelves. Consumer electronics, automobiles, and almost anything that required a computer chip were not to be found. Certain foods — like garlic, Girl Scout Cookies, baby formula, and certain cuts of meats — saw supplies dwindle and prices soar. Lithium, used for so many batteries, could not be found.

The answer for many is hoarding. “The Washington Post” recently ran an article warning, “Hoarding is a serious disorder — and it’s only getting worse in the U.S.” Psychologists point to perfectionism and difficulty making decisions and planning ahead as contributing factors to hoarding. One wonders if the root is the desire to control — I want my product NOW!

if riches should be stored in heaven, what riches do I need to treasure in that way? What commodities does heaven provide for my shopping cart? The spiritual “cost” of two things seems to be skyrocketing. Here is what heaven is doing to combat inflation.

First, the cost of sin seems to be heading through the roof. As the security of money fades, relationships are strained, spending money is scarce, and solutions are often illegal and costly. Over the three-day Memorial Day weekend, the Gun Violence Archive said it recorded at least 14 mass shootings — shootings in which four or more victims are wounded or killed — over the holiday. The report said 9 were killed and more than 60 injured.

Paul tells the Romans, “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20-21 NIV). Sin is out of control and God’s grace can run at the same record-breaking speed.

Second, it costs so much more for me to maintain my standard of living. Things that used to be considered luxuries now seem to be necessities. If life is measured by the things accumulated or purchased, inflation plays havoc to its value.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV). Inflation works as a thief, robbing us of the value of things. The aftermath of its crimes can leave us destroyed. Our spiritual lives have riches beyond counting. That’s where my treasure lies.