U. S. stock prices fell sharply during the past months. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and the S&P 500 indices both fell 5.2 percent, while the NASDAQ fell 5.1 percent for the week—the worst weekly stock performance in two years. At one point the S&P 500 was 12 percent lower than its all-time high (10 percent is considered to be a correction). Market volatility, as measured by the VIX index, jumped to as high as 50, compared to less than 14 at the end of January. The 10-year Treasury saw yields increase to 2.85 percent — just below a 4-year high. Crude oil prices saw the largest weekly decline in two years.
The stock market rout began on Friday, Feb. 2, with the release of the January employment report. The report showed a surprisingly large 200,000 increase in nonfarm employment for the month, and average hourly worker earnings increase 2.9 percent in a year. Markets were concerned about inflation, from wage increases and higher interest rates. A combination of high frequency trading, exotic financial instruments based on market volatility, technical sell signals and fear caused last week's stock market weakness and volatility.
There is increased evidence that the old economic paradigm is shifting to a new paradigm. Economic winners and losers will be different. Many old assumptions, and their related strategies, will no longer apply. New opportunities, and dangers, will present themselves. Wise decision-makers will take note of the changes and plan accordingly. A few of the paradigm shifts are noted below.
Old Economic Paradigm
- Easy money policy of Central Banks
- Concern about deflation
- Lower wages
- Low (or even negative) interest rates
- Bonds not a viable investment alternative
- Large-cap stocks
- Stagnate economy
- Wall Street
- Financial assets
- Best business practices
New Economic Paradigm
- Normalized monetary policy
- Concern about inflation
- Higher wages
- Return of interest rates to more normal levels
- Bonds will be considered part of portfolios
- Small-cap stocks
- Vibrant economy
- Main Street
- Physical assets
- Creativity and entrepreneurship
Changing economic, social and technological paradigms should change the way that believers act, and the way we interact with the world. No worldly paradigm shift should cause our message, faith, love or giving to change. However, techniques should be adapted to current paradigms to increase our effectiveness (fruitfulness). Some examples of the world's paradigms and a biblical response follow.
1. Authenticity. The world is crying for authenticity. People are bombarded with too much information and disinformation. Most find it difficult to separate truth from half-truths and lies. The biblical response is to be authentic. Actions include living a holy and Christ-honoring life, keeping our word, modeling love (not manipulation) and teaching the entire gospel. Authenticity comes from a personal prayer life and consecration.
"Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22).
2. Anxiety. The world is filled with anxious individuals. Twenty-four seven access to world-wide news and information has given today's generations knowledge about wars, crime, corruption, terrorism, pandemics, natural disasters and a host of other things to worry about. The biblical response is to do all in our power to encourage everyone to have a relationship with Jesus.
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with gratitude, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will protect your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7). .
3. Busyness. Nearly everyone is extremely busy. Multi-tasking is becoming normal. Efficiency is emphasized. Family, work and leisure activities are blurred as people check their phones constantly. Unfortunately, far less time is spent prioritizing. Are the most important things accomplished? Many of the most important things never get done and consequences are experienced. The biblical response is to value time—ours and others'. As disciples, we should always teach others to value time.
"So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts to wisdom" (Ps. 90:12).
4. Happiness. Money does not bring happiness. Lusts of varied types have never brought happiness. Position doesn't bring happiness. The world has become increasingly disillusioned as various methods of achieving happiness have failed. Possibly, the world is confusing happiness with fulfillment or significance, but many are still seeking happiness in many unhealthy ways. The biblical response is Jesus. We are promised that if we accept and obey Him, our joy will be full.
"As the Father loved Me, I also loved you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, even as I have kept My Father's commandments and remain in His love. I have spoken these things to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15:9-11).
"And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 13:52).
5. Personalization. Technology has allowed consumers to personalize everything. They can get just about anything, customized to their liking, almost instantly. Many believers today have personalized their religion to the point that it bears little resemblance to Scripture—often finding teachers who agree with their warped concepts. The biblical response is to preach the word, do the work of an evangelist and fulfill our ministry.
"For the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine, but they will gather to themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, having itching ears" (2 Tim. 4:3).
"Preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience and teaching" (2 Tim. 4:2).
But be self-controlled in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, and prove your ministry" (2 Tim. 4:5).
Regardless of any worldly paradigm shifts, we are promised victory. Greater is He that is in us. All things work together for us, because we love Him.
"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Cor. 15:57-58).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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