With the economy battered from all the hits it has absorbed from the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the finger pointing is in full swing. The "know-it-alls" have taken the elevator up and mounted their high horses, berating irresponsible lenders who recklessly extended loans to undeserving candidates. "What do you expect when you loosen the reins; availing credit to a high-risk population?" they self-righteously postulate to anyone willing to listen.
But is allowing more people the opportunity to buy a home an immoral idea? There must be an upside here somewhere.
Think about your first job, your first client, or the kid who included you in the kickball game on the first day of school. We've all benefited from undeserved kindness, been trusted on potential rather than past performance. No track record, no history of credit worthiness; someone takes a chance, and then the rest is up to us. And so it goes we are trusted and we trust others, we take risks and are entrusted with other's confidence.
It's a hazardous business this trust thing; the opportunities for abuse abound. From laziness to outright cheating, con artists make a nice living off other's munificence. And so many seem to be getting away with defaulting.
And when victimized by the recipient of unearned trust, we tend to shame the other and recoil, lock our trusting instinct away, resolved never to be fooled again. It's a pity. Just as cash stuffed under the mattress sacrifices opportunities, trusts withheld wither and die within.
So now what? Should the FDIC terminate all "high risk" loans, should kids only play with well-credentialed friends? And why should I be a chump and make my payments?
Let's look at this issue from a spiritual perspective. As much as we might dislike facing it, we are all gratuitous beneficiaries. Without even having us filling out a credit application, G‑d has entrusted each one of us with a soul. Before even having done one mitzvah or shown any sign of success, a literal piece of G‑d is ours. No collateral, no cosigner, nothing more than our word to be righteous and not evil, and G‑d places His most precious asset in our untested hands—purely on the optimism that we will justify His risk.
It's so tempting to take the money and run; many seem to get away with it. And despite the evidence to the contrary, G‑d continues to believe that we are a reasonable gamble.
A metaphor: A king makes a feast and invites his most honored ministers to celebrate with him. They dig in to a scrumptious meal. Out in the back, the wait staff and the cocker spaniel eat pretty good too; a banquet like this produces some pretty fine leftovers.
A pragmatic observer might conclude that the dog has a better deal; he eats the same food as the partygoers without fidelity to the monarch—they don't even need a tie. Some might even encourage the guests to "take a hint"; leave the hard work for the poor saps who don't know any better and live off the leftovers. Why not make a decent living without breaking a sweat?
On the other hand, the clever waiter, having brushed up against nobility, resolves to graduate from the kitchen to the dining room.
So know ye all lenders of capital or compassion: there are crooks out there that will betray your trust. Yet the only way to profit is through risk and there is no greater beauty than trust requited. And know all ye recipients of kindness: much can be siphoned from the bighearted, yet if you chose that path it leads to the doghouse when your place card reads "dais."
G‑d is an unregulated lender, trusting undeserving folks with unreasonable capital. Let's make him look like a genius by growing His investment!