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Friday, May 20, 2011

Interview With a Galilean Financial Adviser

It may feel strange thinking of going to a first century Jewish rabbi for financial advice. But in these uncertain economic times, anything seems worth a try.

So let's imagine meeting one Jesus of Nazareth along a lake where some of his closest followers are partners in a family owned fishing business, and in view of a hilltop area where he once taught extensively on good money management

Our conversation with Jesus starts with questions about his credentials.

“Most people have a lot of respect for you, but aren’t you a little out of your league when it comes to economics? On spiritual issues you’re great, of course, but finances are so complicated these days that even experienced investors don’t seem to know what to tell us to do.”

“Fair question,” he replies, “but being involved in the creation of the entire universe, and then having been officially put in charge of it, should count for something.”

"A valid point," you admit.

“But with all due respect, do you really expect us to take seriously talk like ‘Take no thought for tomorrow,’ or ‘Live like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field’? That just seems irresponsible.”

“Notice that when I teach people not to worry about the future, I don’t mean they shouldn’t work. Think about it, most birds actually work a lot harder and put in longer days than we humans do, and even the wild flowers aren’t like dead bouquets in a vase. They are constantly drawing nutrients and moisture from the soil, sometimes under harsh conditions, actively turning sunlight into color and growth. It’s the 'don’t be anxious' part, the trusting part, I want my followers to learn more about. But to work, as the very first humans were instructed to do from the beginning, has always been a part of the plan, just as in the later instruction 'six days you shall labor.' And remember, the Creator’s very first command was for people to tend the earth and to take good care of it--which, by the way, most of you haven’t been doing very well.”

“I know, I know. But back to finances, I’ve never understood the part about investing in ‘the kingdom of heaven,’ instead of in enterprises here on earth. How can you ever do that, practically?”

“First of all, this is about the wisdom of not investing in more and more earthly stuff, consumer-based perishables that don’t really satisfy, or in self-enhancing status symbols that inevitably depreciate, rust out, wear out, or get moldy and moth-eaten. Instead, invest in what's more lasting, that truly helps meet the basic needs of people--including yourself and your family, of course--and that demonstrates your concern that everyone should have enough to eat, decent clothes to wear and adequate health care. Such gifts just keep on giving. Even in the next life you’ll be experiencing lasting returns, since the folks you’ve helped, along with your Father, will forever thank, welcome and bless you for having made truly wise financial investments. It’s part of my fail-proof eternal retirement program.”

“Yes, but we do have to first make it through this life, don’t we?”

“Of course. For starters, my plan represents the most effective stimulus package possible for ailing economies. The rising tide of improved standards of living from the bottom up lifts all boats, quickly and efficiently. And contrary to what some people think, I’m not naive about the need for prudent capital investments that provide the means of earning money. For example, my human parents had to invest money in tools and supplies for their carpenter business in order to provide for all of us. My friends in the fishing trade have had to invest in, and maintain, boats and nets to keep their enterprise going. And remember my illustrations about the ‘talents’ and the ‘pounds’? That’s all about people making capital investments for the purpose of increased profits in the 'Company of Heaven.' That worldwide enterprise is headquartered with my Father, but operates very much in this world. So that’s what I advise you to invest in, rather than your speculating in stocks in companies that are mostly about promoting consumer wealth.”

“OK. So you are saying it makes the most sense to invest heavily in enterprises that directly meet human needs and promote the worldwide Kingdom-of-God Movement, thus having more of God’s will being accomplished here on earth as it is in heaven.”

“Exactly. And don't assume that just because you manage large sums of capital wealth, even if dedicated to a God-blessed enterprises, that you are automatically entitled to more consumer wealth as a result. My business model is based on every man, woman and child on earth becoming wiser and more just stewards of wealth that's meant to bless everyone on the planet. God has no favorites, some who deserve a larger share of the consumer pie than others.”

“But I can’t help being concerned about providing for my family's future needs. Someday I'll no longer be able to earn, and I may even need some long term nursing care.”

"Well, remember all of my teaching on money is in the context of people belonging to covenant communities that are so committed to each other that no one will starve unless they all do. That represents the one and only real assurance of lifelong security.”  

End of interview.
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