I am a person that seems to always live in the future. I need to lose weight so I will start that diet tomorrow. I need to clean the house but I will begin tomorrow. I need to get groceries, tomorrow! Or maybe you are another type of futuristic thinker than me. You will finish high school and then go to college and get a bachelor’s degree and then on to a five-year PhD program and then get married and then have children after starting your career. You will live in a nice house and drive a new car and hire a nanny to take care of everything at home because you plan to be very busy building your career. Or maybe you are a business person who is always trying to outsmart the market so you make plans today for what you think will happen ten years down the road. Beginning to get the picture of futuristic thinkers like me? If I am honest I would say there are three categories of futuristic thinkers, the lazy, the over-achievers, and the ones who think they can cheat fate! Jesus had something to say about futuristic thinkers.
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16-21, (New International Version or NIV).
That business man who thought he was finally going to have a strategy for success never got to enjoy his wealth because he died! When I read this I always think that this is not me! I would never think only of myself. And then my conscience begins to go into overdrive. The argument in my head tells me that I am just as bad as this rich guy because I am lazy. I procrastinate. I put off doing today what I should do. The Bible has something to say about that too.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:13-17, (NIV).
Procrastinators like me usually know that it would be better to do what needs done in the present rather than putting it off until the future. For instance my kitchen sink is full of dirty dishes ready to be put into the dishwasher and yet here I am procrastinating getting that easy task completed. Writing this blog post is so much more fun than doing dishes. Now I could argue that it is also more important because the motive for writing this blog is to encourage others but the truth is I am a bit lazy when it comes to doing dishes! James says that if I know what needs done and yet don’t do it then I am sinning against God, even in not doing something like the dishes! Ouch! Truth hurts sometimes, doesn’t it? But James says a lot more in this passage. Basically my paraphrase of James would be that when we make our plans we need to ask God if the plan is what we should be doing. God will help us prioritize the importance of our plans. Making plans is smart to do but we need to make plans for the future with God in mind. What is the motivation for our plans? Do we have good intentions or are they self-serving? Have we prayed about the plan and asked God for guidance or are we just making plans without seeking God’s advice. When we live within the will of God then we are constantly asking God what to do in each situation. This is the best advice for side-stepping sin and not be trapped by it. We often need to make plans for the future but Proverbs has a few pointers in what to do and not do when making our plans.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6, (NIV).
Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness. The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires. Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing. Proverbs 11:4-7, (NIV).
From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward. The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult. Proverbs 12:14-16, (NIV).
The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him. The Lord detests the way of the wicked, but he loves those who pursue righteousness. Proverbs 15:8-9, (NIV).
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Proverbs 27:1, (NIV).
We must live each day as if it is our last one on earth, I think, because we are not promised tomorrow and we have no control over our time of death. We can and should make plans for the future but we also need to pray about those plans and ask for God’s guidance and wisdom in making them. We need to live righteously and be mindful that our purpose for being here is not to be rich. If God wants us to be rich He will make us rich but honestly most of us won’t be wealthy. We might not be able to handle wealth as well as we handle what we have today. Being content with what we have is living righteously because we understand who gave us it all. I hope that this time together has been an encouragement to you in helping to understand the value of living in the moment and planning for the future only with God’s permission and advice. And now it is time for me to tackle that mountain of dirty dishes piled up in my kitchen sink.