Economist Benedict Weerasena exhorts that the economy of God will not crash when we bank in the currency of faith and make transactions by His principles
By Hailey Chung
Word on the street has it that global recession is on the doorstep. Increasing food prices, triggered by food scarcity, have prompted fears of insufficient supplies for basic needs.
While all other grounds can feel like sinking sand, our feet can find balance when we step into the foundation of trusting the wealth of God, says Benedict Weerasena.
You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.Haggai 1:6, NKJV
Haggai spoke out in similar economic times
A believer and an economist with Bait Al-Amanah, Benedict Weerasena draws several Scriptures in relatable reference to current times. Quoting Haggai 1:6, he says that it essentially explained inflation with the scenario of decreasing purchasing power.
It is natural to find ourselves heavily concerned about the things of the world when the economy turns bad, but Benedict reminds us that one of our responses is to continue to build the house of the Lord.
It was the core of prophet Haggai’s message as the Israelites were focused on their work to fill their personal or family needs, but forgot the needs of the house of God.
Benedict says this alludes to the element of Christian posture, which is to seek first the Kingdom of God above all else (Matthew 6:33).
“This is definitely not worldly wisdom, but godly wisdom. To put God first in everything we do, and realise that we are actually able to make ends meet,” Benedict said.
The radical principle of the Bible is to give
Placing economics textbooks and the Bible side by side, the economist highlights the distinctive choice of following God, particularly in our perspective and conduct of money.
For instance, he says a principle of the world regarding money is that you will have less if you give. But the radical principle of the Bible in Luke 6:38 is to “give, and it will be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap.”
With that, Benedict links faith to a Christian’s rightful mindset regarding ownership of treasures.
“So in conventional wisdom, what you earn is yours, you own it. But in godly wisdom, what you earn is not yours, you are a steward. God is the owner of all things, He gives us the ability to earn the finances,” he said.
Investing in the long term
If there is anything similar between the concept of the standard and saintly, he says it is the belief to invest in the long term. “It is always encouraged that you invest in the future. When you save now, you invest in the long term. And this is aligned to godly wisdom in that our role and place on earth is temporal, we are supposed to invest in eternity,” Benedict says.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.Matthew 6:19-20, NKJV
Benedict encourages groups who are more well-off or have extra to cultivate the attitude of sharing in obedience to God’s instruction for us to be rich in good deeds, to be generous, and help those who are less fortunate and affected by economic uncertainty (1 Timothy 6: 18-19).
In reference to the early church of Acts, Benedict brought up that believers sold their possessions and shared their wealth with anyone who had need (Acts 2:45). However, he does not discount the importance of cash injections for immediate relief.
“I would not say that cash handouts are not that effective, it is actually an effective way to help especially in times of crisis,” he says.
For those who are struggling with poverty or insufficiency, Benedict encourages us to trust that God is our Jehovah Jireh. He has promised us His provision (Matthew 6:25-34) and commands us not to worry about what to eat, drink and wear.
In the face of increasing inflation, pray for normalisation
As Malaysia faces a daunting future and worries about the drag of the inflation timeline, Benedict shares that we can pray for normalisation. Again, he turns to the Bible, when King Jehoram was facing a national crisis.
In 2 Kings 6:33, King Jehoram experienced a similar ordeal when he cried, “This disaster is from the Lord. Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?”
At that time, the Israelites were facing a great famine and attacks from Syria. Inflation was extreme with a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels of silver and a fourth of a pint of dove droppings were five shekels of silver.
The people had also turned to cannibalism for survival. As a response to the King’s reaction to the crisis, the prophet Elisha gave word that God would bring down the food prices dramatically.
.. Thus says the Lord: ‘Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel..2 Kings 7:1, NKJV
“We can say [Malaysia’s current situation] is a punishment from the Lord, why should we pray and ask God for help? But God will make a way, He will do a miracle,” Benedict says, calling churches to make a difference for the nation through prayer.
The Malaysian Church has been generous
In studying the economic landscape, Benedict says it has been heartening to hear and see many churches in Malaysia supporting affected communities during the pandemic.
“Christian families rose to the occasion and really gave as much as they could to those around them, people in their neighbourhood. And many churches initiated programs to raise funds to bless the communities around them. That was really the love of God in action,” he says.
Benedict himself has had the opportunity to invite others outside the church to pray. After the government’s 2022 Budget was presented at the House of Parliament, he said that a colleague had asked him to prepare prayer points in relation to the budget.
In his opinion, there were breakthroughs in the allocations of the budget, as the government noted period poverty, mental health as well as orphans who had lost their parents to the Covid-19 battle.
Benedict continues to see God’s favour in life and work
Benedict thanks God for many opportunities along his career journey wherein God has allowed him to offer views and strategies on the economy.
On the day that the government’s budget for 2023 was scheduled to be presented, Benedict was invited to share with the all-party parliamentary group on urban poverty.
The young economist has also recently published a book titled: “Assessing and Addressing Urban Poverty in Malaysia: Social Mobility through Entrepreneurship” that he co-authored with Carmelo Ferlito, the CEO of another think-tank.
“God never reveals a whole long-term plan to us, it’s really about faith and trust in Him every step of the way, and God just opens more doors. Wherever God places us, just continue to be the salt and light in that sphere of influence,” Benedict says.
Benedict graduated with a Bachelor of Economics from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in 2016. While he was praying for a job, a spiritual mentor in Penang prophesied that he would work in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur.
“True enough, when my current boss told me our office is in Jalan Ampang, I reacted, ‘God, how precise are You?’ I have seen the favour of God through the work that I do, especially here in this research institute,” he says.
He also loves God for allowing him to have met his wife, Hazel Lim, now the mother of his son Josiah, through the Christian Fellowship in USM.
“It is really true in Psalm 37:4, that when you delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart’,” Benedict proclaims.
All photos provided by Benedict Weerasena.