The mockery of careful planning

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February 26, 2011

I have always been a little uneasy with Jesus’ parable of ‘planning’ (Luke 14:28-31).  Jesus asks whether the people would not plan ahead of time to make sure they had sufficient materials to complete a tower and sufficient soldiers for victory in war.  The ‘moral of the story’ as I have received it is that of the wise stewardship of resources.  Let's be careful about how we spend our money so that we do not put ourselves in jeopardy.  I could not quite put my finger on why this bugged me other than the fact that it seemed to propagate good, bland, passive citizens.  I’m not sure why I didn’t see it before but the two images obviously have strong connections to the Old Testament in primarily in the stories of the Tower of Babel and David’s census taking.  Both of these acts reflect careful planning.  They are also both sins.  So what would it mean to answer Jesus' question.  Who has the materials to finish building a tower? The answer is no one,  because tower-building is never finished.  Who has the man-power to win a war? The answer is no one, because a war-making is never over.

The parable drives this home in a way that should have been clear.  The parable  is book-ended first by the command that one cannot follow if they do not first hate their family. And at the end of the parable Jesus offers a re-articulation that states that you cannot become a disciple if you do not give up all your possessions (i.e. ending the production of tower-building and war-making).  The internal space filled between these two commands is the mockery of ‘careful planning’.

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