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I know more about cooking than finance. And, trust me, when it’s my turn to don the apron, you don’t want to go anywhere near my dinner table without proper health insurance.

So I asked an economist who speaks laypeople’s English to explain the current world economic crisis to me. This is what he said.

Think of money (and the capital it represents) as the lifeblood of the world economy. When it flows it feeds the whole body, bringing economic health throughout much of it. So you take your $100 bill to the bank and the banker lends it to a roofer who takes it to the store and plunks it down to buy a ladder that will help him earn a living. The store owner takes that same $100 bill and gives it to the ladder-making company so it can keep people working making more ladders, and so on. So as long as it’s in circulation, that $100 helps lots of folks create wealth to make a living.

But suppose you tuck that $100 bill in your mattress. It just sits there. It doesn’t help anybody do anything. If most of us do that, then the lifeblood stops flowing and the world economy starts dying.

What makes money/wealth circulate instead of freezing up? Trust. As long as we trust that the system will allow us to profit by handing that money to the next guy, we will gladly part with that $100 bill. But when we lack confidence, we just hang on to it.

So how do we get the money out of Uncle Harv’s mattress and flowing again? Well, governments try to kick-start the economy by injecting tons of money to build enough trust to get money circulating again. It’s like applying a jolt of electricity to a uselessly fibrillating heart.

Actually, that’s not a bad analogy for what Christmas is all about.

After the Fall, the love between God, neighbor, and creation that was meant to keep circulating began to fail. Spouses blamed each other and even God (Gen. 3). Brothers were too filled with envy to get along (Gen. 4). Tribalism, greed, and pride (Gen. 4 and 6) stopped love dead in its tracks—like blood clots.

When love stops circulating, the world dies.

What makes love circulate in the first place? God’s blessed assurance that we are one human family who together steward our Father’s good earth.

Scripture reveals how much the world needed a kick-start to get love flowing again. World governments, institutions, and banks are not up to that task. They’re not in the business of spreading love around. So they can’t save this dying planet.

But that’s precisely the business that God is in: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Through that one incredibly costly blood transfusion, God got our lifeblood pumping again.

Whatever your investment portfolio or bank account looks like this Christmas, be sure to keep God’s love circulating through your family, household, church, and community. Circulate it back to God as well, through giving to those in desperate need worldwide.

Have a lovely Christmas and a love-filled 2009! 

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