In the last six months a perfect storm has been brewing in European countries, but it has nothing to do with the weather. Instead it involves the European currency, the Euro, huge foreign debts, struggling economies, and political uncertainty. As Americans we may not think European financial crises affect us, but our economy is intertwined with those in countries across the pond.
For starters, it is important to know that many European countries and the United States are in debt to one another. Getting secured loans from other countries is not a bad thing altogether. It is like having one or two credit cards that get used and paid off monthly in order to build good credit. The problem comes when a country owes more money (in loan repayments) to other countries than what it brings in or makes. In the past year Portugal, Ireland, and Greece have been in so much debt and with little or no opportunity to increase their income that they have defaulted on loans and have had to get bailout money from other countries in the European Union.
Web of Accountability
To complicate matters, many European countries agreed in the late 1990’s to give up their individual currencies and to use a new currency called the Euro. When the Euro was established, countries also agreed to many rules and policies about lending, spending, and debt. In 1997 the “Stability and Growth Pact” outlined that each country could borrow only up to 3 percent of its yearly income (Gross Domestic Product). But Italy, Germany, France, and others broke the pact at different times by borrowing much more than the 3 percent allowed. Greece also tried to manipulate its numbers to make its economic situation look better than it was. It seems no one was willing to hold anyone accountable. Now, Greece is not only on the financial brink but also the country is facing political meltdown as parties disagree about how to move forward.
The fear in Europe is that if Greece collapses economically, other countries will follow and the value of the Euro will fall sharply, at least in the short-term. Even stronger economies would be affected not only by loan defaults but also by the loss of trading partners, rise in unemployment, weakened global markets, and the devaluation of multinational stocks.
But the real issue is not money—it’s accountability. Seventeen European nations made agreements with one another and set up systems to hold one another accountable for the good of the entire community. We may never know where, how, or with whom the breakdown started, but we do know that it did and that it continues.
Like the European nations, Christians are connected to one another and called to hold one another accountable. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it.” Since we are linked, we have a responsibility to encourage, support, and correct one another so that the whole Christian community can be more effective in doing God’s will and reaching others in Christ’s name. At the same time, we are accountable first and foremost to God.
Youth need people in their lives who will hold them accountable, who will help them see the consequences of their actions, and who will set an example for them to follow. Young people also have a responsibility for holding one another accountable, gently correcting one another’s mistakes, and nudging one another in the right direction. Being a follower of Christ is a big responsibility, but it’s nothing we can’t handle; and it’s nothing that we have to handle on our own.