Are You Contagious?

(Photo by Brittany Colette on Unsplash)

A couple of the definitions of contagion in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is "a rapid communication of an influence" and "an influence that spreads rapidly." The Economic Times defines economic contagion "as a situation where a shock in a particular economy or region spreads out and affects others by way of say, price movements."

An article by Reuters explains the concerns of contagion to the world's economy from the plunge in the Turkish lira (more than 20 percent this month). AMSCI's Turkey equity index has fallen 24 percent since the start of August and more than 50 percent since the first of the year. Investors have sought safety by purchasing U. S. dollars, U. S. treasuries and other U. S. assets.

The perception of heightened risk has been reflected in more than a 5 percent drop in European bank stocks, the South African rand, the Argentina peso and the Russian ruble thus far in August. The stocks of emerging countries (as measured by the MSCI Emerging Stock Index) has fallen about 4 percent this month.

Since most of the debt of emerging countries is denominated in U. S. dollars, a strengthening dollar increases the risk of problems or even defaults with their debt. Debt problems in emerging countries impact the banks that loaned the money. European Union bank stocks have fallen 8 percent in August. An article in MarketWatch reasons that the risk of contagion with European banks is overblown. Time will tell which viewpoint is correct.

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Economic contagions don't have to be negative. Reportedly, the U. S. and Mexico are close to agreement on tariffs and trade. Europe is now closer to agreement. At this writing, a trade agreement also looks more promising with China. Time will tell whether these promising signals actually develop into trade treaties. However, a single significant agreement puts pressure on lagging countries to reach agreement. Contagion and the threat of contagion is a real force in economics.

As sons and daughter of the most high God, we are expected to be contagious by modeling our Savior. Pope Francis has said that "If evil is contagious, so is good." When Moses sent 12 spies to view the promised land, 10 of the spies returned and spread fear, grumbling and rebellion against the Lord and his representative Moses (Num. 13-14). The contagion of fear kept that entire generation of Israel, except Caleb and Joshua, from enjoying the fruits of the promised land.

Similarly, the entire nation of Israel cowered in fear against a Philistine champion named Goliath (1 Sam. 17). The contagion of fear had left Israel with little hope. But a shepherd boy named David, with faith in what the Lord could do, approached the heavily armored giant and defeated him with a sling and a single stone. The actions of David spread the contagions of fear among the Philistines and courage among Israel. Israel won a great victory and plundered the Philistines. David was promoted and eventually became king.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus went about doing good, healing and delivering people. News about Him was contagious (see Matt. 4:24, 9:26 and 9:31, for example), and spread so extensively that He had many people follow Him, often taught to large crowds and could not get rest. Jesus modeled love and power with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He not only taught the Word of God, He demonstrated the Word with His everyday walk. We are called to be like Him and do likewise: "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him" (Acts 10:38).

The secret to leading a God-honoring life and having an example which testifies to His faithfulness and goodness lies in our relationship with Him. If the motivation for our actions is to be seen by others, we are guilty of the same hypocrisy as the Pharisees and Sadducees. If the motivation of our actions is to cause God to love us more, to be accepted by Him, or to impress God, we will fail. By faith and grace, He already loves us and accepts us, and as imperfect children we will not impress Him.

We live a life as faithful follower of Christ, because we love Him. We love Him, because He first loved us. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to get sin and poor behaviors out of our life, and to radically live a life of love and obedience. His word empowers us. The Holy Spirit empowers us. Prayer empowers us. Through Him, we have the ability, the means and the capacity to be the leaven that spreads throughout the flour. Let us seek the grace to be contagious for the kingdom of God.

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.

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