Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How not to be a financial Pharisee

Being a Pharisee is easy. In fact, for most of us, it's a kind of ingrained behavior.

I'm referring back, of course, to Jesus' parable in Luke 18.9-14.

"And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

The Pharisee in this parable has become the classic example of those who see themselves as good and others as bad. The Pharisee doesn't so much pray as he brags to God, pointing out his goodness, and sneering at the wicked publican who cannot even bring himself to look up to heaven, but bewails his sin.

There are some who are untouched by the current economic crisis. They made smart decisions, borrowed prudently or not at all, and were circumspect in their dealings. Good for them.

What is problematic are those who made such smart decisions and look with scorn on those who did not.

Make no mistake: some who are suffering did make very bad economic calls. Some borrowed far than they should have and spent what they did not own.

Reading the letters columns in various publications is enlightening. There are missives from those who made wise decisions and are scornful of those who did not.

Whether bailouts should be made or stimulus packages given are decisions that will be made by our titans in congress. Whether good or bad, it's not something we have a lot to do with.

I'm glad for all who made good money calls. They are often wise, prudent, and far-seeing.

But there are those who made bad calls. Some of them are likewise wise and prudent.

But they made mistakes. And mistakes are made by everyone.

What we need to remember is that whether we are suffering or not, we are in this together. We should pray that governmental officials make wise decisions, that God provide for all, and those suffering will endure their trials with patience. Scorn is not helpful and usually sinful. Remembering that we, too, could be in a bad place financially is helpful. Scorning those who made bad decisions is not.

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