“The end times are at hand and you want me to set up a plan?”
Years ago, we sent out several thousand letters to Christians who we thought might have an interest in a resource such as SMI, one that could help them set up a personalized financial plan based on biblical principles. To many, this was welcome news — we added about a hundred new subscribers.
To others, such as the man who returned our order card with the above message (written with a bold red marker for emphasis!), it was an unnecessary distraction. His comment was a vivid reminder there are many Christians who are so focused on the reality of Christ’s return that planning, saving, and investing for the future seem pointless.
I would like nothing better than to see their expectation of Jesus’ imminent return come to pass! World events, and the extensive evidence of God’s Spirit moving in new ways around the globe gathering millions into the Body of Christ, suggest that possibility. But until the Lord does return, we are not given an either/or choice. Should we be living in anticipation as we “eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed” (1 Corinthians 1:7b)? Yes. Should we have plans that will enable us to “be rich in good deeds, and be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:18)? Yes.
The Bible leaves no doubt that God expects us to plan:
- “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5).
- “A prudent man foresees the difficulties ahead and prepares for them; the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences” (Proverbs 22:3 LB).
But it also makes clear that we’re to ask the Lord to guide us in the process and trust Him with the results:
- “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3).
- “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).
Planning is an essential ingredient in managing your finances well. Pastor and author John MacArthur discusses the lessons of the Parable of the Talents in these terms:
- The Responsibility We Receive
The servants are professing believers. The talents represent a wide range of spiritual opportunities, privileges, and resources, including natural abilities, spiritual gifts, material things, ministry responsibilities, and other blessings God has given us as stewards. Their duty was to manage the master’s wealth, not merely hold it for him until he returned.
- The Reaction We Have
Two were faithful, embracing the responsibility they had been given. These two represent genuine believers whose supreme desire is to serve God. The trading done by these servants involved investment of the master’s resources. The verb tenses used in the parable suggest they were trading the whole time of the master’s absence; they did not merely make one successful trade and then sit idle the rest of the time.
- The Reckoning We Will Face
Upon the master’s sudden and unexpected return, all three stewards were summoned to give account. The unfaithful servant, by hiding his master’s talent in the ground, guaranteed that those resources would never earn a return. His behavior was “wicked” and “lazy” (Matthew 25:26). Because the two faithful servants’ had made the most of an opportunity to serve him, the master rewarded them with more opportunity to serve, and this new opportunity was of the most joyous kind: “Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:21, 23).
The good steward looks forward to the return of the Master, but also follows His instructions to “Put this money to work until I come back” (Luke 19:13). The Scriptures tell us to plan, save, invest, and give generously, and as we do, God has promised “to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
So, yes, may the church pray “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 16:22, Revelation 22:20)! But in 2017, while we may wait and long for His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8), “let us not become weary in “doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).