July 26, 2015
Planning For the Future
“I had a dream I can buy my way to heaven
When I awoke, I spent that on a necklace.”
A song producer said that in a song once. That sure is a shallow view of the afterlife and of wealth isn’t it? Interestingly in his parable today, Jesus speaks of wealth and riches in a way we wouldn’t expect. When reading through this parable, you can’t help but ask the question, “What compels us in this life? What motivates us to do what we do?”
Here was this manager who didn't do his job. He lost his boss a lot of money, he got called out on it, and was soon to be released from his position. Did you hear what the manager did? You see, because the business was so big, the manager took care of all the transactions. In the transition time before he was completely released, he technically still had control over his master’s books. And working within his rights as manager, he went to some of the people that owed his master money and cut their bill in half. So the people who owed money safely received the reduction and had legal papers. Basically, he wasted even more of his master’s money!
This manager was desperate. He saw that his future was bleak. So, why not help himself out on the way out? He would have gained at least two new friends for helping them out and later, they might be inclined to give him a job. Maybe he had a family that he had to take care of. Maybe he loved to go snowboarding in the mountains. Maybe he loved to sit at his condo down in Del Boca Vista, Florida. His love for the good life compelled him to do this. I doubt he loved to do those things being in the Middle East. But what about you? What compels you to do what you do? I’ll be honest, far too often, as I plan for the future, my hobbies take priority. So often our search for pleasure, or thrill, or excitement, or even relaxation becomes a priority.
Just a couple years ago in Milwaukee, workers at a small Animal hospital came into work and heard noises coming from the vents. They thought that maybe it was a cat that had gotten into a vent. Well, it was 19-year-old man, about 6 feet tall. The fire department came in and cut him out of the wall and he was naked. Here, he had tried to break into the hospital to steal some drugs. He removed his clothes so that he wouldn’t snag them on anything. His love for drugs put him in quite the predicament. Get it? Our love for things often put us in bad situations.
Our love for sin put us in the worst situation. And the problem with that is that we know the consequence. God told us! Our sin condemns us. When I put my love for things or excitement or pleasure as my number one priority, it ruins my relationship with God. God has given to us wonderful blessings to enjoy. But when they become our number one priority, that which compels us, then we have a problem. Then that becomes our god.
And yet, something compelled God to do something about it. He saw our terrible sinful condition and He was motivated and compelled by love for us. His love for us put him in the worst situation, worse than naked in an air duct. It put him on the cross and put him in the grave. Now that is love. That is motivation. He had the end goal in mind, and he was willing to go through all the pain in suffering for that end goal. God’s love led him to the cross.
And maybe that is the question we should really be asking. Where are you being led by whatever compels you? Do you know that answer? That’s a tough question to answer because we don’t always know! Where will your addiction to video games take you? Where will your love for judging people and their clothes take you? Well, unless you’re going to be a video game tester or on fashion police, where do our sinful priorities take us? Probably not very far! Let me ask you this question: where would you like to be led?
As Christians, I would hope our answer to the question would be heaven! That will probably change how we manage our lives and our priorities. If heaven is the most important priority, what would you do? If you hear that sin ruins your relationship with God and with people, what would you do? Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians, “For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.”
Our love for Christ and what He did for us changes our priorities, it changes our motivation in life. Yes, God has given us wonderful blessings to use and to enjoy, but we can’t have two number one priorities. We can’t serve two masters, as Jesus said. This is often a struggle for us younger people as we are still trying to figure out who we are. We go through a lot of conflicting thoughts as we want to be cool and follow our friends and at the same time we want to be Christian. We get pulled in different directions, which can’t be the case as Jesus says. That’s why it is always good to take a step back and ask those questions again. What compels me to do what I do? Where would I like to go?
I think that is what makes the parable that Jesus uses so ironic. He doesn’t speak of a Christian manager, but an unbeliever. This entire parable is a genuine picture of unbelievers. The people of this world have their hearts set on the treasures of this world, where Christians have their minds set on the treasures after this life. So that usually means the people of this world are smarter about dealing with worldly issues. Jesus isn’t blaming Christians, but merely pointing out what is normal for the people of this world. See how unbelievers are motivated to take care of themselves, even if they swindle others. They will do anything to keep themselves alive. It's almost noble!
But what about God’s children? Do you show the same concern and motivation for a heavenly future? Do you make plans and act wisely so that all your efforts are directed toward this heavenly goal and reaching out toward others? Are we willing to go out of our way, like this unrighteous steward, but not in a selfish way, but rather to reach out to others? Or do we walk a block around a house to avoid a conversation?
People of all sorts go through future planning. Financial planning, vacation planning, or retirement planning. That is what Jesus wants for us. He wants us to use our money wisely to in sure a good future for ourselves in this life. However, the worldly wealth that God might put into the hands of a person is really nothing in comparison to the true riches of heaven.
So even though the bible does describe the love of money as evil, Jesus says money can actually be put to good use by Christians! They can use it to make friends for Christ. Initially this thought from Jesus seems silly, almost like bribing people to become my Christian friends, but it makes sense! Here’s why: I want to go to heaven. Heaven will be awesome and full of people. But won’t heaven be that much more special to see people that you knew personally, or those whom you gave offerings to do outreach to? Or to even see children that you helped through our school? I think so!
“I had a dream I can buy my way to heaven. When I awoke, I spent that on a necklace.” Kanye West said that. Maybe that says something. Kanye West knows how to make money! But it really shows how short term minded the people of this world really are. To unbelievers, acquiring wealth or things is often the chief purpose in life. To Christians money is a means rather than an end, something to use in the service of God and his kingdom. Christ’s love compels us in this life to see that heaven is our home. When we have that correct motivation, our priorities change. May God help us put him number one.