by Charlie Douglas | November 26, 2011 12:01 am
Exterior moral hazards abound these days. From individuals to financial institutions to sovereign nations, it seems that there is an increasing need to be bailed-out and to have debt forgiveness.
Moral hazards most often occur when parties who are largely insulated from risk behave differently from the way they would normally behave if they were fully exposed to the risk. Or put another way, moral hazards generally result in risky behavior stemming from not having enough skin-in-the-game.
Too often individuals and institutions alike do not bear the full consequences of their actions, thereby, leaving other parties to bear the brunt of responsibility for the consequences of those actions. Financial issues surrounding the marketplace are particularly rift with a variety of moral hazards. Consider the following:
Examples of exterior moral hazards regarding financial risk are abundant in a world where too many have lived beyond their financial means for too long. “Too big to fail” has become commonplace nomenclature as the responsibility buck readily gets passed on to somebody else. A recent article in the WSJ aptly posited a financial twist on St. Augustine’s infamous prayer, “Lord, make me financially chaste, but not yet.”
But might there be an interior moral hazard found within humankind that is more deserving of our attention? The answer in the affirmative can be found in forgiveness and the subtle nature of sin.
Graciously, Jesus’ endless mercy forgives our sins if we are repentant and seek to turn away from our spiritual transgressions. Trough reconciliation, our sins from morally wrong conduct and omissions can be wiped clean time and again. Still, a tolerant attitude toward sin can result in risky, errant behavior, stemming from not having enough spiritual skin-in-the-game.
Recently, I told a good friend as I was driving to church to go to confession that I still struggle with many of the same sins that I did earlier in my life. While I like to fancy myself as having become more spiritually advanced over time, the reality is that I too often regress back to spiritual laziness, banking on Jesus’ bountiful forgiveness to bail me out. At times, it is as if a spiritual indifference fosters a careless attitude of “Well, nobody’s perfect and I am only human. No big deal, Jesus will hopefully forgive me for that one too.”
A “spiritual bail-out” mindset can lead us to forsake obedience and the need for virtuous behavior. If we are not vigilant against the occasions of sin we can carelessly take on too much spiritual risk. Moreover, although God’s ocean of mercy is far greater than our collective scarlet sins that does not mean we can avoid the consequences of sinful behavior, both here and in the hereafter. The truth is that sin offends. It offends Jesus, often others and the very nature of our eternal soul.
In the end, internal moral hazards can be more costly than external, financial ones. Therefore, dear Lord, please help us to spurn the seductive nature of sin and to recognize that our spiritual character is defined by how we choose to live life in the many present moments at hand. And finally, may we also pray for the spiritual courage to resist our temptations, believing that St. Augustine can intercede in helping us overcome the prideful indifference found in the words “but not yet.”
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