If one wanted to climb from Earth to the moon, one theoretical way to do it would be to stack seven columns of \$1 bills side by side and then climb that column from here to there. Mind you, I am not pulling those figures out of thin air; they accurately represent the thickness and height of \$30 trillion.

But if we figured that perhaps we might like a bit of a sturdier column to climb on, we could just wait a few more years till, say, 2029. By that time we could have a very sturdy column of three rows of seven stacks of those \$1 bills to climb on, an 18- by 18-inch column of cash stretching from the Earth all the way to the surface of the moon.

And most of you have probably guessed by now that I am talking about the national debt, which currently stands at nearly \$30 trillion and, by Forbes' estimate, will be almost three times as much by 2029. (forbes.com/sites/mikepatton/2021/05/03/us-national-debt-expected-to-approach-89-trillion-by-2029/?sh=7ca4f1d35f13)

Houston, we have a problem indeed.

If I were to lay a \$100 bill in front of a person and ask them how much it is worth, they would likely look at me as if I were stupid and say, "Uh, a hundred dollars. Duh." But the actual material value of a \$100 bill is around 12.3 cents. And herein lies the problem that many people are currently blissfully unaware of.

Before 1971, dollars were backed by gold, as were many other world currencies. Since that time, though, that relationship has severed. In other words, a dollar bill once had a reason to be in existence: a fixed amount of gold that it could be exchanged for. But since that time, each dollar bill has had a bit of a more tenuous reason to exist: a good or service that has been produced or rendered. And while the removal of the firm gold standard to the more flexible current standard has paved the way for extreme and quick prosperity, that "pavement" has been laid heading straight for the edge of the cliff.

Simply put, the only real value in paper money is the confidence that people have in it that it has a legitimate reason to exist. Once people lose confidence in that, no one wants it — or at least they want a great deal more of it for things and services that used to be much cheaper. This has been the case in Venezuela, where hyperinflation so badly wrecked the bolivar (their version of the dollar) that by 2017 the people there were literally using eggs as currency.

And that, at some point, is where America is headed unless drastic changes are made. And those changes will almost certainly not be made, because people have gotten used to the government simply printing money and handing it out for this stimulus that we "deserve," that program to which we are "entitled" and those "basic human rights" that someone else is supposed to pay for. And hardly any politician dares even attempt to roll any of that back, knowing that it would be political suicide.

And so at some point, the house of cards will collapse. But Proverbs 22:3 gives us good guidance on that, saying, "A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished." Knowing that disaster is coming sooner or later, then what should individuals and families do?

One, get out of debt. Being in debt yourself when the national debt is burgeoning out of control is like having concrete blocks strapped to your ankles when the floodwaters are rising.

Two, have an emergency reserve fund. Yes, I know that when hyperinflation sets in that will go away quickly. But before then, even in smaller disasters like sudden job loss, an emergency reserve fund is a must.

Three, diversify. When Jacob knew that Esau was coming to attack him, he divided family and wealth into different sections so that everyone and everything would not be able to be taken all at once. That principle is still a good one to follow financially. Don't have all of your eggs in one basket, as the old maxim instructs.

Four, have "real wealth" on hand. When financial disaster strikes, the billionaire in the small penthouse is a pauper, but the family in the split-level ranch with a basement full of canned goods and water and other supplies is a tycoon. That person will also be the only one equipped to help others, which is what God expects from us anyway.

Five, consider where you live. Again, the family crammed into an apartment with no yard will not do so well, but the family with a garden patch will be able to feed themselves and others.

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list; if I were to include everything in this column the entire paper today would be just this one column. But it is a good start. And the best part is, if you follow this guidance and then somehow the coming financial Armageddon is averted, you will still be out of debt, with an emergency reserve fund, a diversified portfolio, several months of food on hand and a garden.

None of which is a bad thing.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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