#144 Be Anxious about Nothing

the christian economist dave arnott

#144 Be Anxious about Nothing

Anxiety is becoming its own industry which will slow GDP Growth, but for Christians, “…the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”


I said to a young woman in my class recently, “You’re in the happiest group in the world.  A Christian American woman.  Now, if you get married, your chances of being happy increase even more.”  Much of the data for that description comes from the book Gross National Happiness by Arthur Brooks.  

Anxiety is Growing Faster than GDP

But many people are not happy, and are suffering from anxiety.  Especially since the pandemic.  Here are a few data points: 

By definition, anxiety is the body’s way of telling us something isn’t right. Every person aligns their life with something.  It’s called worldview.  Christians align with the Christian worldview: Creation, fall, redemption.  This definition of anxiety suggests that the person’s life is aligned with something else.  I’m humble about this.  Professionally, I am not a psychiatrist, and personally, I have been blessed to have generally good emotional health.  I have great sympathy for people who suffer from anxiety, and I’m not here to offer simple bromides like, “Nail it to the cross” because I don’t know which hammer and nails you would use.  I will try to stay on the Christian economics viewpoint on this difficult and complex subject. 

Daniel Henninger’s article in the Wall Street Journal recently was titled, The Next Pandemic: Anxiety Over Life Itself.  He wrote, “A medical advisory group to the federal government has just recommended that all adult Americans age 19 to 64 be screened for anxiety.  One could see this coming: The ultimate pandemic is now life itself. “



In an interview earlier this summer, Dennis Prager asked if I was an optimist or a pessimist.  I answered that as the Christian Economist, I operate in two camps, and I have two different answers.  

First, the pessimistic economist.  Since my DBU sophomores were born in the year 2000, the US debt to GDP ratio has doubled from 57% to 124% and it’s getting worse every day.  Inflation is making people poorer, and it is especially impactful on the poor, whom we Christians care about.  The Fed is no longer independent, and it is printing money to support the fiscal madness of national debt.  The Central Bank kept the interest rate too long for too long and caused inflation. 

There is no free lunch, so the increase of the national debt from $20 to $30 trillion, just since my DBU students started college, has to be paid for.  I have NO expectations that the debt will actually be reduced.  Just the INTEREST on the debt is currently the fourth-largest expenditure of the Federal Government.  And what do we get for that?  Nothing.  

Now, the optimistic Christian.  I have seen God redeem messes greater than this one.  We have messed up before, and God has a way of turning our fallen messes into something better than we could imagine.  But we should not count on God to bail us out every time.  After getting my sophomores all discouraged about debt and interest rates and falling GDP, I reassure them: Because of the economic mistakes of the last few years, you will be poorer for the rest of your lives.  But, they will not take away your spouse, your children, your family, your salvation, nor your church.   This is why Christians have hope.  We believe the captain is still on the bridge.


Three Levels of Stress

In my macroeconomics class, I made a little case from the story of a McDonald’s employee in St. Louis who got caught between two different minimum wage laws, and was bumped from the higher to the lower level.  She was anxious about paying her bills.  I announced to the class, “I WANT minimum wage employees to be anxious.”  By definition, minimum wage employees are among the lowest economic producers.  Students get anxious over social loafers in their project groups who don’t make a contribution.  The McDonald’s employee in this case is similar.  The Christian Economist wants her to produce at a higher level.  Now, if you still believe the zero-sum theory, that she must get poor for the rest of us to be rich, I will refer you to the great Thomas Sowell.  He made a you tube video about it.  We want her to make more, but we want her to make more by PRODUCING more.  There’s more about minimum wage in my very first podcast #1 titled The Christian View of Minimum Wage.  I want her to be anxious, just like I want my DBU sophomores to be anxious.  I want them to be concerned about what’s on this Thursday’s quiz.  That’s because I want them to move up, academically, and economically.  I want them to graduate from this class, and the next, and I want them to graduate from DBU, then continue to move up through their career by loving their neighbor by supplying goods and services their neighbor demands.  I want them to have GOOD stress, which today I will call eustress.

Let’s consider three levels of stress:  No stress, eustress, and distress.  If my students had no stress – meaning we award guaranteed minimum grades, there would be no reason to get out of bed and attend my 8:00 AM class.  If they have eustress – that’s good stress – they show up on time, read the chapter, take notes during class, and confer with their study group in an attempt to do well on the quiz.  If they have distress, they CAN’T get out of bed. 

Ok, you see how many of the 40 million adults referred to by the Anxiety and Depression Association must be confusing eustress with distress.  Why are you listening to this podcast?  Let’s assume it’s to increase your store of information about Christian Economics.  If you had NO stress, you wouldn’t bother to push the button on your smartphone.  If you were at the other end and had DISTRESS about what I’m going to say, you wouldn’t listen.  But you have EUSTRESS.  You want to learn more about Christian Economics.  Don’t confuse EUSTRESS with DISTRESS.


Life is Better Now, Than Any Time in History

This first line from the book The Great Escape is one of my favorite quotes.  The author is Angus Deaton, who won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Economics and is a professor at Princeton.  The statement is true, but that’s at the macro level.  At the micro level, people have problems.  Two different men have been in our home the last two nights, with multiple health and emotional issues in their families.  One of our family members has cancer, and we are quite concerned about it.  

John 16:33 reads “In this world you will have trouble.”  I’ve always thought that was a pretty bad marketing slogan.  But the remainder of the verse reads, “But take heart, I have overcome the world.”  

Those two men were in our house this week, because we have relationships with them, and we invited them.  But a society that is self-centered and full of hermits scanning Facebook and playing video games, will not find ways to deal with their problems.  

Christianity teaches values that promote less anxiety, specifically because the beliefs in Christianity run directly counter to the issues that cause anxiety.  For example: Fear of the Unknown.  The Bible teaches that fear of the unknown shows a lack of faith in God.  Everything is assumed to be the result of God’s plan. 

Ginger and I attended an event called The Roaring Lambs dinner last year.  One of the honorees was Mike Lindell, known as “The Pillow Guy.”  In the midst of the pandemic and economic and political distress, he said, “You think the world is going the wrong way, but you’re going to find out that it’s going God’s way.  He planned all of this, and he’s going to redeem it.”  Life is better for Christians, because we believe our salvation is secure.  

Most of the things you worry about don’t happen.  Thus, logically, worry works, because it makes bad things go away.  Or not…….

I did an interview with Jeremy Stalnecker at The Situation Report this week.  I mentioned that I have earned a PhD, written a few books, and read hundreds of books and academic papers.  But maybe the most powerful five minutes I can recommend is the Dennis Prager video titled The Key to Unhappiness.  He says there are two kinds of people: Those who feel entitled are UNHAPPY, and those who feel grateful are HAPPY.  He says it’s our DUTY to be happy.  And, as a Jew, he doesn’t believe Jesus died for his sins.  We should be even MORE grateful than Dennis Prager!


Opportunity Cost

It’s pretty easy to predict a growth in the mental healthcare profession.  This is not good for the economy.  Counselors and psychiatrists are like accountants or police: They don’t create value, they protect it.  Sure, they enable labor to be more productive, but the less we as an economy spend on that protection, the richer we get.  The previously quoted Mr. Henninger predicts that a post-Covid mental healthcare industry is emerging.  And that anxiety mitigation will provide lifetime work in schools, medicine and the media.

I will return to the title of this podcast for the closing.  It’s found in Philippians 4, verses 6 & 7: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And here’s the important part, “.. and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”




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