Happy Presidents Day.
If you have time for catty conversation – and chose to speak that greeting in the barista line this morning – the person waiting for their Carmel Macchiato might respond with, “President? Which one?”
The implication: lots of people these days have a hard time separating respect for the position and the person in the position. Today – Presidents Day – is a holiday for many, a workday with overtime pay for some, and a day of public protest for others. It’s hard to get everyone on the same page…
For people working today – and included in a collective bargaining agreement – they’re likely receiving higher-than-normal wages. For a significant number of those, it couldn’t come at a better time.
The latest stats are troubling: a few days ago, Barron’s reported on the current economic status of people in America. Most are working, and most feel upbeat about the financial climate surrounding them, but the numbers tell another story. Here’s one low-light of their findings: 29% have more debt on their high-interest credit cards than they have savings in the bank. Only 39% say they have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency room visit or a critical car repair.
When “savings” is the category, the recurrent question arises: how much is enough? Statistics may not lie, but they can be disconnected factoids lacking emotional gravity. At what age? At what income level? For what purpose? The variety of qualifying clarifiers can take you down rabbit trails that lead nowhere, and reduce the conversation to trivial irrelevance.
For people committed to setting resources aside for the future, a new set of challenges are on the table: In what asset class will their reserves reside? Cash? Stocks? Bonds? Private equity? Commodities? Real Estate? How liquid need they be? What are the future gain/loss possibilities in each category? Having abundance is great, but it introduces a myriad of additional considerations.
Turn the clock back a few bull/bear/bull cycles, and imagine a culture where the uncertainties of living in an occupied country – under the control of an often-brutal empirical power – was the setting. Add one more factor with significance: the person in the story is a woman, at a time/place where men were profoundly advantaged. Here’s the story:
“While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly.” (Mark 14:3-5).
Mary was single, and middle-aged. No one “needs” perfume worth a year’s income: she was holding extraordinary wealth in a highly-transportable form. Currency is bulky, and – potentially – subject to devaluation (have you read about the inflation rate today in Venezuela?). She was a savvy businesswoman; how else could she amass that kind of discretionary wealth?
Wealth demands decisiveness, and often is evidence of extraordinary wisdom that is not commonly practiced or understood. The backstory of that container of nard is not insignificant.
The buzz in the back of the room challenged her decision: there were public charities that would have been better recipients of her largesse. She could have retained it for herself without raising any debate among her peers. She made the move that made her famous: she decided that an investment into the Kingdom efforts centered on Jesus was the most informed move she could make.
Jesus weighed in: “‘Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing… Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’” (Mark 14:6-9).
Smart people are still making shrewd decisions today. They’re transferring assets from earth to heaven by repurposing abundance for Kingdom impact. Jesus loves spotlighting prudent moves that make faith come alive!
What are you doing with your nard?