–Originally published on FWB21 December 20, 2012–
“If I knew that tomorrow was the end of the world, I would still plant an apple tree today.” –Unknown
Tomorrow, 12/21/2012, is supposed to mark the end of the world. Assuming the Mayans were wrong and nothing happens, this will be my fifth time to survive the end of the world (that I know of). But, assume the world does end tomorrow: Christ returns in His glory and brings an end to time. What then? Does that change what we’re doing today?
For Christ-followers, the answer should be NO. We should already be living in light of Christ’s imminent return (as his disciples have for generations), finding a balance between planning for the future and living in the moment.
The Bible has a lot to say about both sides of this coin. On the one hand, we have commands and wisdom that require long-term planning and promise length of days. Here are a few of them:
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.” Proverbs 13:22
“Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” Proverbs 21:20
“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.” Deuteronomy 6:1-2
“‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:2-4
And on the other hand, we have Jesus’ own words to keep us focused on the here-and-now, such as:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? … Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:25, 31-34
“Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 24:42-51
Matthew 25 is an amazing blend of these two ideas, using illustrations of people who plan wisely and are ready at a moment’s notice because of it. In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, the wise ones planned ahead and had oil ready for their lamps for the moment the bridegroom came. In the parable of the talents, the wise stewards invested what they were given and were ready to give a pleasing account when their master returned.
With all these things in mind, we should seek balance.
Financially, we should give liberally, as God brings opportunity. Even sacrificially. But we should also store up for the kingdom, making wise long-term investments. That way we are ready to give at a moment’s notice, but we are also planning for future needs and new opportunities for kingdom work. And as we give and save, we do not look to those things for security or worry about whether we’ll have what we need–we trust God to provide and we manage the resources He gives us for His kingdom.
In ministry, we should act on those unexpected opportunities that God brings about where we have only one shot at making a difference for the kingdom in the life of another person. But we should also strategize and make long-term plans for multi-generational faithfulness.
“If I knew that tomorrow was the end of the world, I would still plant an apple tree today.”
Be faithful in the present, and plan for the future. Then you’ll be ready for Christ’s return and the end of the world–whenever that is.