Special commentary by Patrick Kuwana written on the eve of the 21-day lockdown in SA
The last month has seen global markets lose up to 35% of their value. If it was not for government intervention in most countries the bloodbath of losses would have been much higher. Economic growth projections and national budgets have been thrown out the window. Most, if not all, nations are likely to enter into seasons of negative growth for several years. As bleak as this all looks and sounds, could there be a silver lining in this?
Is it possible that the current world economic system and structure has been in intensive care for quite a while now and that this crisis is the catalyst needed for us to wake up and realise that we should not try and rebuild it in the same way? Is it possible that this is the opportunity to build something different – something that will be more robust?
I find it fascinating how this crisis has brought many leaders, including presidents of nations, to call for prayer and to seek solutions from a divine source. So, today I will share some thoughts from a biblical perspective.
I had the opportunity to find a spot at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange yesterday to heed President Ramaphosa’s call to prayer before the 21-day lockdown in South Africa. I began to wonder if we are in a “dress rehearsal” for what Revelation chapter 18 describes in the Bible (I have included the Scripture at the bottom of this article for easy reference).
“Babylon” represents the current world economic system driven by greed, pride and self-centredness. A system that thrives on injustice and exploitation of others – a system that extracts for the benefit of a small percentage of people called “the elite” while it plunders and enslaves others. A system that keeps financial capital and the control of resources in the hands of a select few who pay allegiance to it. A system that pays lip service to the poor, widows, orphans and helpless in society when in fact it would love to have them swept into a hole and removed from their sight. A system that values money more than people and measures the value of human beings based on how many material things they possess – what car they drive, their home address, etc.
Perhaps we are being given an opportunity through this global crisis to heed the warning to “come out of this system” as per Revelation 18 verse 4? Maybe this is the time to construct a new system that will operate on the principles of humility, generosity and selflessness – creating mutual value and inclusive wealth and prosperity; taking care of the vulnerable, the poor, widows and orphans, and making a way for the excluded to now be included?
Maybe today is a good day to reflect on Revelation 18. It does seem to describe some of what we are seeing around us. I personally think that we are in the “dress rehearsal” though, so best we heed the call and prepare accordingly before the “main event”.
By the way, if you do read Revelation 18, you might as well read to the end (chapter 22) to get a sense of how the story ends!
I believe we are being given the opportunity to rebuild the economic framework of our nations on a different blueprint – a blueprint (Relational economics of mutual value co-creation) that will deliver inclusive prosperity and a structure that will be more future-proof.
Revelation 18 (The Passion Translation)
The Destruction of Babylon
After these things, I saw another angel coming from the heavenly realm with great authority, and the earth was flooded with the brilliance of his splendor. 2 He shouted out with a thunderous voice: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great. She has become a demonic dwelling place, a prison for every unclean spirit, unclean bird, and every unclean, detestable beast. 3 All the nations have drunk of the wine of her immoral passion, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and merchants of the earth have grown wealthy because of her power and luxury.” 4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying “My people, come out from her so that you don’t participate in her sins and have no share with her in her plagues, 5 because her sins are heaped as high as heaven and God has remembered her vileness. 6 So repay to her double the same treatment that she has treated others with—pay her back double for all her deeds and make her drink twice the brew she gave to others! 7 With the same measure she exalted herself and lived luxuriously, give her that measure of torment and grief, because she said in her heart, ‘I am no widow; I rule as a queen! I will never experience grief.’8 Therefore, her plagues will fall on her in one day—disease, famine and mourning. She will be burned with fire. For mighty is the Lord God who judges her!” 9 The kings of the earth who fornicated with her and lived in luxury with her will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of the fire that burns her up. 10 And they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, saying: “Oh no! You who were once the great and powerful city Babylon, now in one hour your complete devastation has come!” 11 The earth’s merchants weep and mourn for her because no one buys their merchandise anymore: 12 their gold, silver, jewels, and pearls, their fine linen, purple cloth, silk, and scarlet cloth, all kinds of things made from expensive wood, ivory, bronze, iron, and marble, 13 quantities of the finest cinnamon, spice, incense, frankincense, and myrrh, wine, olive oil, wheat, and the finest flour, sheep, cattle, horses, and their four-wheeled carriages, and the trafficking of the bodies and souls of people. 14 And they will say: The splendid delicacies for which your soul craved have departed from you. All your elegance and splendor have disappeared, never to be seen again. 15 Those who sold these things and grew wealthy through their business with her will stand far off, terrified over her torment. They will weep and mourn, saying: 16 “How horrible! The great city that once clothed herself with fine linen and purple and scarlet cloth glittering with gold, with jewels and with pearls— 17 in one brief moment such vast wealth is now laid waste!” Every ship’s captain and his crew, every seafarer and mariner, watched from far away 18 and cried out as they saw her go up in flames: “What city was ever like the great city Babylon?” 19 As a sign of their dismay, they threw dust on their heads and shouted with sobs and grief: “How horrible, so horrible, O great city Babylon! For in one moment you suffered such destruction—you who once made the merchants on the sea so very wealthy. 20 Rejoice over her, O heaven you apostles and prophets and holy believers, rejoice! For on your behalf God pronounced the judgment against her that she wanted to bring upon you! 21 Then a mighty angel took up a stone, like a huge millstone, and threw it into the sea, saying: “With this kind of sudden violence, the great city Babylon will be thrown down and exist no more. 22 The music of harps, minstrels, flutes, and trumpets will never grace your city again. No artisan of any trade will ever be found in you again, and the noise of factories falls silent. 23 The light of a lamp will never shine in you again, Nor will the joyous laughter of a wedding be heard in you. Your merchants were once the tycoons of the world, But you deceived all the nations by your sorcery. 24 For the bloodstains of the holy believers and the prophets and all who were slaughtered were all over you!”