Houses Built on Sand
Tom Bethell, in his apposite article “The Spiritual Hazards of Wealth” (NOR, April 2005), asked, “Can God compete with the stock market for the rich man’s attention?” It’s that old tension between God and mammon. And man can serve only one master.
The Nicene Creed succinctly yet poetically sums up our Catholic faith. At the outset we profess fealty to God the Father Almighty who created all things “visible and invisible” (cf. Col. 1:16). In recent days, the folly of those who have placed their faith in Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” that allegedly drives the market has been laid bare. Predatory lenders, dazzled by the prospect of easy short-term money, sold outrageous mortgage packages to unqualified buyers. These risky loans were pooled into mortgage-backed securities, and voilà, an international banking crisis erupted once the mortgagees inevitably defaulted. The “invisible hand” failed. Our housing market was built on sand.
If we are wise, this economic crisis will remind us that all we gather on this earth eventually slips out of our grasp. Wealth and security are transient. Families are facing foreclosure, unemployment rates are on the rise, retirement accounts are being ravaged — the reverberations are being felt in virtually all sectors of the economy. One wonders: Is the worst yet to come?
If we are wise, now is when we will heed the instruction of our Lord: “Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust and moth consume and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also” (Mt. 6:19-21).
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