Fallow Ground: The G20 and a Humble Plan Submitted for Worldwide Economic Recovery


breaking-up-fallow-groundThe fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but is swept away through injustice (Proverbs 13:23 ESV).
My Aunt Eva’s lessons in economics from years gone by are still fresh in my mind today. She didn’t have a degree in that subject. She didn’t even have a high school diploma. She had to care for her father and her siblings when her mother grew ill. But through that experience, and through her love and study of the Bible, she knew economics. Today as I am reading about the woes of the world’s economy I am thinking of her lessons to me.

 One day I watched Inez as she walked towards our little house in the woods. This woman was the picture of poverty: hair mangled, face downcast, and looking much older than my Aunt Eva, who was 30 years her senior. Inez was, to put it simply: haggard and worn. And she came to our home, as it seems she always did, with her hands out. She had stopped being embarrassed about her position or her plight. “Miss Eva,” she would say, “Vernon ain’t had no work, and he’s out huntin’. You know deer season started yesterday. You know Vernon. He was there at the break of dawn with them dogs of his.”

And I thought, “Yeah and he loves those Blue Tic hounds more than he loves you and that bunch of kids of his.” But Aunt Eva never said a word. She just nodded to let Inez know that she was listening. “Well, Miss Eva, me and the kids ain’t got no more money for groceries. Could you help us until Vernon gets his unemployment check? I filed for him as soon as he got the layoff from the gravel pit. I think it should be coming any time soon in the mail, if they ever get it straight, you know how they are down there at the government office.” Aunt Eva nodded again. And Aunt Eva did not lecture the poor woman. I wanted to say, as I grew older and watched this happen again and again, that “if your husband would care more for you and the children than deer hunting, then you wouldn’t have to come begging to a widow woman trying to raise an orphan boy!” 

But Aunt Eva would not allow that. She told me once, “Mike, it is not that woman’s fault that she has no food for her and the children. It is not her fault that her children are running around half clothed and never get to go to school. It is her husband’s sin that is creating her poverty. Let us pray for Vernon to come to Christ. If the Lord gets hold of that man, then blessings will come to Inez and the children. But until then we will help the family and pray for Junior. It is not her fault. It is his.” And so she would give the woman an abundance of eggs and flour and money. It was not the woman’s fault. Her poverty was the result of the injustice of a selfish and lazy husband.

What I didn’t know then is that my Aunt Eva was simply reflecting what the Scriptures teach:

The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but is swept away through injustice.

As world markets teeter on the brink of economic disaster, and leaders have gathered at the G20 in London, the world is coming, poor and haggard-like, and even Western nations so blessed in years past, with outstretched hands and pleading for help. The leaders of our nation, the fathers of our communities, the captains of our industries would do well to remember this simple but basic principle of life: God has provided an earth that will yield an abundance, enough to feed the world many times over. God has provided mankind with creativity, the desire to be free (one of the attributes that makes us the very image of God), and a world of opportunities for bringing about blessing. But the “fallow ground is swept away through injustice.” The horrid sight of African people starving, while God has provided a great continent filled with natural resources is proof of the veracity of God’s Word concerning His provision and how foolish leaders can squander those provisions. 

But let us look at ourselves to see the sight. The Western nations, gathered in London, are becoming a picture of much food “swept away” through foolishness. The fallow ground of the West is the amazing, light-filled treasury of Biblical wisdom, which allows for that creative force in mankind to flourish. The result has been, for almost two thousand years, a rich vein of blessing not only for the West, but also for the world. The economic systems of the West, like the fallow ground of Proverbs 13, produced rich, verdant fields of unprecedented wealth and consequent philanthropy, produced the largest middle and upper middle class in the history of the world, and produced magnificent achievements in art, music and literature. But injustice will take its toll. And that is happening in our day. The golden grain is rotting in the silos. The fields are turning to deserts. People have lost their retirements. And some have lost all hope.

“No, Mike,” I can hear my Aunt Eva saying, “It is not the poor woman’s fault. It is her husband’s fault. He is not doing what is right. And he is not doing what is right because he is not walking with the Lord.”

We are in a dangerous situation. C.S. Lewis said that is far more dangerous to be post Christian than pre Christian. In one instance, the people have not heard, and “the times of ignorance God has overlooked” (Acts 17:30). But to have had that light and to have rejected the light is another matter. There can only now be a return to God in repentance and a plea for the presence of Christ in our lives, who once brought wisdom and good ground. When and if that happens, the gracious Lord who sent His Son Jesus Christ to redeem us from our souls’ poverty will certainly receive us. He always has. And then, as we worship Him with the first fruits, the poor will be blessed, and the nations will thrive again. Many nations will know the joy of Christ and His Word for the first time.

We all read how anarchists angrily stormed the Bank of England. Perhaps no one noticed, but inscribed in the stone at the very top of that venerable old building, that symbol of the wealth of one of the greatest empires the world has ever known, are these words from Psalm 24:1:

 The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

What a sight: hoodlums storming the Bank of England while God’s Word, forgotten, yet still accessible to those who would look up, extends a constant invitation to blessings that have swept away from our hands.

The fallow ground, plowed earth ready to receive the seeds which produce a harvest, will return to our economy when we recover that truth from the Bible and embedded in a favorite hymn: “This is My Father’s World.” Then, when we do look up to recover that truth, the markets will recover, not for a week, but for a generation. Then shall the poor woman’s husband come home from his selfish and foolish pleasures. He shall work and bring the fruit of his labors home that his wife may multiply those gifts for the good of her household. Then shall the poverty stricken peoples of the Third World be fed, not by a United Nations hand out, but by the ground, the markets, the creativity in their souls set free, and good government which allows for free enterprise to flourish for a lifetime.

Jesus said, “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). How we need to pray that the truth of Jesus Christ would open the hearts of our leaders today. 

We would do well to study the economics of faith in God’s Word, truths which an uneducated widow woman once taught to a little orphan boy, truths which are so simple and yet so profound, truths which will transform our souls and restore the ground.


Copyright ©2009 Michael A. Milton

About Michael A. Milton, Ph.D.

Michael A. Milton, Ph.D., MPA (University of Wales; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), is an American Presbyterian pastor, theologian, and author.
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