In a recent Monitor article on the economy, one analyst, Scott Brown, described the markets as "unsettled in part because the government appears to be stumbling from one financial crisis to another." He added, "We need some kind of financial stability for a long-lasting recovery" ("Why US keeps backstopping flattened AIG," March 3).
When the wealth of an individual or a company can rise or fall on the decisions of one's own or another government, or through the investment fears and choices of others, a person can feel very vulnerable. Wealth invested in stock markets can seem to vanish in a few days or weeks, and be regained in a few days or weeks as well.
But is the market value of a stock the basis of true wealth?
People who have watched a major portion of their retirement portfolio disappear over the past few months may be angry at those who caused the financial mess – the bankers, Wall Street, unwise home buyers, or even the government. What's wrong with this focus of thought? It places worth in a fragile place, which is eventually bound to fail. Blaming others for our losses may seem justified. But it increases our vulnerability and locks our thoughts onto material resources and outside forces as the determinants of well-being – and so we will continue to be afraid and suffer.
Remembering what constitutes wealth and where it comes from provides a better perspective. Those blaming their misfortune on others are afflicted with the conventional perception that money, which seems in short supply at present, is the basis of true wealth. Such a focus can be compared to someone standing beside one of the great rivers of the world and complaining that those upstream are taking too many buckets of water out of the river.
Ideas, not money, are the source of wealth, and good ideas are abundant. From a spiritually attuned perspective, God, the infinite Mind that governs the universe, is the source of all good and useful ideas. The flow of Mind's ideas to each of us is like a great river; it is unlimited. This loving Mind does not hold back. As the writer of one psalm described it: "How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand" (139:17, 18, New International Version).
Fearing the future and doubting the usefulness of divine inspiration deafen us to Mind's ideas, and we seek guidance of limited value. While some might say God is deaf to our pleas for help, Christ Jesus, who knew God so well, taught, "If any of you were asked by his son for bread would you give him a stone, or if he asks for a fish would you give him a snake? If you then, for all your evil, quite naturally give good things to your children, how much more likely is it that your Heavenly Father will give good things to those who ask him?" (Matt. 7:9–11, J.B. Phillips).
The creation of wealth is needed now more than ever. How is that done? If you examine any enterprise, from the successful shop around the corner to a major corporation, you'll find that wealth is created by putting good ideas to use. All the ideas we, our neighbors, and the nations struggling with the economic downturn need, are flowing continuously from divine Mind. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, described it this way: "God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896," p. 307). The phrase "in turn" is key in this passage. What one does with the ideas God provides determines whether those ideas meet individual needs. Mind imparts all the wisdom, creativity, insight, courage, and love to use those ideas well.
The stock markets are not casinos for gambling – for betting on the up and down of the market. They are vehicles for investing in companies with good ideas in order to help them put those ideas to use. And we can invest in the good ideas Mind is imparting to direct us. Investing in companies with good ideas and sound management – some call it value investing – and trusting divine Mind as the endless source of all we need will help restore confidence in our future and our economy.