"The end times are at hand and you want me to set up a plan?"
A few years ago, we sent letters to Christians who we thought might have an interest in a publication such as Sound Mind Investing, one that could help them set up a personalized financial plan based on biblical principles. To many, this was welcome news — we added about one hundred new subscribers to the SMI family of readers.
To others, such as the man who returned our order card with the above message (written with a red marker and in all capital letters for emphasis!), the idea of planning wisely for his financial future was an unnecessary distraction. His comment was a vivid reminder that many Christians 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 certainly suggest that possibility. But until the Lord does return, we are not faced with an either/or choice. We should we be looking for "the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ," (1 Timothy 6:18), and we should be faithful stewards by acting to take care of what the Lord has entrusted to us while he is away.
In his book, The Second Coming (Crossway, 2006), Bible teacher John MacArthur discusses the Parable of the Talents in a section he titles, "The Tragedy of Wasted Opportunity." He writes about the parable 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. In effect, he gave them the power of attorney to act on his behalf with regard to the possessions he entrusted to them. Their duty was to manage the master's wealth, not merely hold it for him until he returned.
- The reaction we have. Two slaves were faithful, embraced the responsibility they had been given, and set to work. They represent genuine believers whose supreme desire is to serve God. The trading done by these servants involved investment of the master's resources, not at all unlike the trading that takes place in the stock market today. The verb tenses used 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 third servant represents someone who pretends loyalty to Christ but in reality squanders spiritual opportunity, declines to serve the Lord, and serves himself instead.
- The reckoning we will face. Upon the master's sudden and unexpected return, the stewards were all summoned to give account. The unfaithful servant, by hiding his master's talent in the ground, guaranteed that those resources would never earn any profit. His behavior was "wicked" and "lazy" (Matthew 25:26). He showed great disregard for his duty to the master and a complete lack of concern about his master's business. The two faithful servants were commended, and their reward was an expanded sphere of service. Because they had made the most of an opportunity to serve him, he rewarded them with more opportunity to serve, and this was opportunity of the most joyous kind: "Come and share your master's happiness" (Matthew 25:23).
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! But while we wait, longing 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).
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