Wealth advisers teach us why and where to stockpile our assets and how to diminish our liabilities. “Save! Save! Save! Put away for rainy days. Establish your kid’s college nest egg now! Buy low and sell high! Get real estate to get more bang for your buck! Don’t touch your 401(k) or you’ll risk having nothing for retirement!” And of course, they earnestly urge, “Set aside enough for taxes or be bitten by Uncle Sam in the end!” Any good wealth adviser aims to cure their clients of unsound “robbing Peter to pay Paul” financial practices. Managing portfolios calls for vigilance because markets can be highly volatile and thus vulnerable to external forces beyond one’s control. For this reason, sound investment strategy requires advanced planning, goal-setting, and staying focused. This month’s gospel readings address the importance of honoring one’s faith journey by carefully calculating costs and practicing disciplined stewardship.
These themes color the pages of Luke’s gospel but also inform Paul’s eldering counsel to his young devotee, Timothy. Paul writes: “There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6), for true satisfaction is discovered at the site of contentedness, not on “the uncertainty of riches” (verse 17).
Our spiritual ledgers get out of whack when wealth accrual is decoupled from gratitude and when we forsake practical wisdom. Dialing back the spiritual appetite for hoarding temporal goods is not only good stewardship but crucial for securing tomorrow’s sacred dividends. Having an appropriate perspective on wealth is the initial deposit for moving into the life-giving presence of a debt-canceling God.
Jeremiah 2:4-13; Psalm 81:1, 10-16; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14:1, 7-14
Biblical storylines of God’s dealings with Israel vary little in terms of plot. The master narrative of unrequited love loops over and again in the prophetic literature. Taglines proceed in this order: “As they pursued worthless things, they forgot their first love and were forced to submit to the exacting demands of their foreign foes. Yet again, a faithful God is love-spurned by a prized people who contented themselves with serving lesser gods of their own making.” Sacred love tales of this sort get nauseating, at least I think so.