There’s a great deal of folly in saving now in order to live later, certainly as far as the out-of-balance approach some people take in living their lives. The generations old approach of working hard right up until retirement age to enjoy the (short) spoils of retirement, has not only made a return it’s morphed into ‘work your guts out to retire even earlier,’ and greed drives it.
Mortgages and material possessions are acquired at break-neck speed for these people--and then there’s the midlife heart attack or stroke (or some other health condition) to look forward to. It may seem an exaggeration but how many spend most of their lives away from their families to earn their squillions?
Linkin Park have nailed this prospect in the chorus of their haunting song In the End. This is how it goes:
For mine, people will continue their own sweet, unbalanced way of greed and acquisition-at-any-cost until they “fall, to lose it all.” And this is after possibly decades of getting it wrong--how demoralising.I tried so hardAnd got so farBut in the endIt doesn’t even matterI had to fallTo lose it allBut in the endIt doesn’t even matter
Jesus talks about remaining alert and ready in Matthew 24; none of us knows when the Lord will come, only the Father (v. 36). He will come in the night like a thief (v. 43). The event and circumstances of our deaths will always be a mystery.
Indeed, the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21) propounds this most powerful truth. The rich farmer produced an amazing crop and was troubled for a place to put his ‘abundance.’ In tearing down his small barns to build bigger ones his plans bargained on living perpetually--and certainly not dying.
He didn’t account for the ever-present possibility of his death. “God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’” –Luke 12:20 (NRSV). His greed simply stored up wealth for someone else. That’s the potential lot for those not rich toward God.
There’s a series of proverbs alluding to these very issues. “The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall” –Proverbs 18:11 (NIV). How easily we can be fooled into choosing money over God (as it’s either one or the other, not both) thinking that we buy some kind of protection. In the end it crumbles like stacked cards. It doesn’t even matter. Money, in this way, is the falsest pretence.
If we combine two more we get a fascinating picture: “Good people leave an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous... Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor” –Proverbs 13:22 & 28:8 (TNIV). Greed, here, is the confounding glue of folly. All that hard work to build a dominion--and for what? At least the booty will go somewhere it’s actually needed!
So, what’s the wise thing to do in life around acquisitions?
Clearly it’s wise to buy a home and provide for our families, planning for a future that ensures we can enjoy as comfortable a life as God allows. But there has to be a balance in the swinging pendulum. We have to live today, for others, and for ourselves--but ultimately for God. This is investing in a relationship dependent on God--which is no easy matter. This requires much commitment and trial and error in itself. People shun dependency in our prevalent culture.
The cliché “life’s a journey” is so worn through, but it remains true. Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. But, the real fruit belongs to, and with, and in, God.
Money or God? Live now or later? Both of these are easy choices. But it’s got to be a daily, moment by moment choice; choices congruent with our personal values.
None of us I’m sure truly wants to end life whistling the chorus of the Linkin Park song as a life epitaph.