Messiah News

Responding to the COVID-19 Economy: Thoughts on stewardship and generosity by Doug Ruecker

A number of things have revealed themselves during the COVID-19 crisis.One is a seemingly friendlier disposition of people. Have you noticed, while walking the neighborhood or the infrequent visit to the grocery store, how people are so much more courteous and friendly? A smile, a warm hello, while keeping a comfortable distance, goes a long ways in making the day a little brighter.

Another acute awareness is the dependency of so many people on a vibrant local economy. Driving by local strip malls or main street shops and restaurants, one sees nothing but vacant parking lots and darkened storefronts. Then you think of not only the shop owners, but also the many people they employ. Cannot open the store. Cannot do business. Cannot pay the workers. It ripples up the supply chain.

In the meantime, there are many in our society who thus far, financially speaking, have been unaffected by the shutdown. The retirees who have a pension and/or social security; the many people who are able to work from home; and those still traveling to their job and perhaps even working overtime.

The Check is in the Mail
Soon, most Americans will be receiving their Corona Check from the recently passed CARES Act by the U.S. government. $1200 per adult for those earning less than $75,000 per year and $2400 for couples earning less than $150,000. For people earning above these amounts, the payments will phase down and completely phase out above $99,000 and $198,000 respectively. So what should you do with your Corona Check? It depends on your situation, but how you use it might reveal something about your character.

An Opportunity to be Generous
The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis.'One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity. - John F. Kennedy

So how do we respond to the economics of the day? React with fear and trepidation, or seek opportunity to share and be generous?Even though one should not tell others how to spend their money, I offer my opinion as to how one might approach this crisis opportunity. Besides, the Corona Checks are not personal money; it is society's money. How might we use it to reveal our Christian principle of 'Love your neighbor?'

First, to those in our communities who are hardest hit by the economic shutdown. Lost your job, furloughed, or seen a decrease in your business? Then use your CARES relief check and buy those essentials your family needs. This time, it is your community's turn to help take care of you.

For those who, as mentioned earlier, have not seen a decrease in monthly income, I would have you consider the following actions:

  • Start by tithing a minimum of 10% of your Corona Check to Messiah or another favorite charity. You received a gift – therefore respond by making a gift.
  • Support local businesses that are still open. Many are struggling to stay open and keep their staff paid.
  • Avoid shopping online at the big online outlets if you can find similar products online locally. It is okay if you have to spend a little more to love your neighbor.
  • Set aside most of your Corona Check for supporting the local community when shops, bars, and restaurants reopen. In addition, when you do visit the reopened shops – buy more and tip big.
  • Perhaps convert the check to cash – thus insuring to use it locally. By paying cash, you will also save the local merchant the charges they would incur if you used a credit card.
  • Calculate how much money you are saving now by not driving, going out for meals, coffee, and entertainment. Add those savings to your tithe and your support for the neighborhood businesses.
  • If you have children at home and they receive a check (could be up to $500 per child) – take the opportunity to teach about Christian Stewardship and help them understand how giving/spending their money helps their neighbor. Generosity is a learned behavior.

Furthermore, to those fortunate enough not to be receiving a Corona Check because their income exceeds the limits of the CARES Act. Do your part as well – set aside $1200, $2400, or more and take the same above actions.

The Opportunity to turn away from ourselves and toward the neighbor
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." - Galatians 5:13-14 NIV

What we will learn and remember about this crisis? My hope is that somehow we as a society will remember a time when the well-being of our neighbor was just as important as our own personal well-being. A time when we turned from "It's all about me;" to "We're in this thing together." In addition, I hope we will remember the lesson of the face mask:

I wear it not to keep me healthy, but to keep you healthy.

As we enter the season of Easter – be comforted that fear, sickness, and death are not the final word. Rejoice in the Hope of Easter. Life conquers death. Live in this Good News!

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