Practical Wisdom and Financial Planning – Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019
Many scriptural characters and writers offer lofty words of wisdom. We see that in both Old and New Testaments. Jesus can certainly offer similar lofty words. But most of us recognize that Jesus’ wisdom is usually found in parables and images. Jesus’ words and actions often reveal a sort of practical wisdom. That comes across today in his reminder about the need for planning and preparation. He offers two illustrations.
The first involves building a tower and the need for considerations around cost. One would think that this is just common sense, but it is striking how many individuals and developers let their desire to build get ahead of the practical questions.
Likewise, Jesus offers the example of a leader heading out to wage war. Is that leader or nation going to be in over their heads? If so, perhaps it makes more sense to negotiate and settle in a peaceful manner.
Is it that strikingly different for us? I live in a well-off neighbourhood. I walk around and marvel at the size of homes and the vehicles in the driveways (both the number and style of vehicle). I mutter to myself that my neighbours must have either plenty of money or plenty of debt. It’s probably a combination of the two.
One occasionally hears central banks and economists warning us about the debt level of individuals, families, corporations and nations. The situation is getting more unrealistic. The simple truth is that many of us are living beyond our means.
Jesus’ wisdom is very practical. We need to sit down and calculate the expenses and see how that measures up against the fiscal reality. The Church has often addressed issues such as fiscal responsibility and forgiveness of debts for poorer nations. There are any number of papal documents that speak of economic justice.
Pope Francis annually sends a note to the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, urging those participating to help build “inclusive, just and supportive societies, capable of restoring dignity to those who live with great uncertainty and who are unable to dream of a better world” (Francis’ message to the January 2018 Forum).
The Church has not been hesitant to speak of the need for economic justice and the forgiveness of debts. But Jesus is addressing the need for something beyond that – namely, personal discernment. Can I afford this? And, even before that is answered, it is good to ask whether I really need that? Is this a wise use for the use of my money?
I’ve searched on the internet, looking for Church statements about the debt load of ordinary men and women. I’ve been unable to find something quotable from a pope. Perhaps this particular issue is unique to well off areas in the world and those with credit cards and banks eager to keep lending people money.
We are close to an election season. It would be a good idea to ask of candidates for the election: How will you and your party help build “inclusive, just and supportive societies?”