The Sins of the Fathers
- Monday, March 15, 2004
The family was typical of so many in the 1950's and 60's. Dad handled the money. Nothing much was said except for those occasional outbursts when he would declare, "We're spending money around here like drunken sailors!" Then it would go pretty much back to normal -- overspending, under-saving, and no real communication.
When he died in the 1980's the kids were grown and gone-some having financial problems of their own as they modeled what they had learned. His wife was left with a mortgage, no insurance, and no real resources. As the years passed, the income from the family business gradually evaporated leaving her dependant on the same kids who were struggling themselves.
This is a true story. But what makes it sad is that you could probably share several other similar stories of your own. In America today, we love the present-and tend to ignore the future. But unfortunately today's instant gratification has a way of becoming tomorrow's bondage.
Certainly, Jesus taught that we are not to worry and fret about tomorrow:
"For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for you life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span? And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like on of these." (Matthew 6:25-29, NASV)
Jesus here is telling His followers to keep an eternal perspective. Certainly nothing on this earth should rattle us so much as to take our eyes off the eternal prize. Jesus here is not criticizing those who reap (do business) and gather into barns (save and invest). He is warning that virtue can quickly turn to vice when a healthy interest in one's professional life morphs into an obsession to constantly gain more and more. Or, when one allows his trust to fall squarely upon the number of zero's he has in his 401K -- instead of the God who gives these things to enjoy (I Timothy 6:17).
But, to use this as our excuse not to make reasonable preparations for the future is to do Jesus' teachings a disservice. How do we deal with statements by Paul like, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever."
What about Solomon's admonition, "Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise... How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest -- and your poverty will come like a vagabond. And your need like an armed man" (Proverbs 6: 6,9-10).
And, let's not forget the anger Jesus himself showed the Pharisees who were not making proper provision for their own parents. (See Mark 7).
Sometimes the best and brightest among us spiritually fail to grapple with the day-to-day, where-the-rubber-meets-the-road type issues. It's very possible to get so enthralled with the beautiful bye and bye-that we forget to provide for the nasty now and now.
Part of the legacy a father should leave his family is a reasonable estate plan. No, I'm not suggesting that father's should leave their children a financial inheritance. In some cases that may happen, and if it does -- okay. But my point here is to suggest that thoughtful, loving fathers and husbands should live modest, prudent lifestyles so as not to leave loved ones in a dilemma in the event of an untimely death or illness.
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