Read for This Week’s Study: Luke 12:16–21, Eccles. 2:18–22, Prov. 27:23–27, 2 Cor. 4:18, Eccles. 5:10, Col. 1:15–17.
The lesson this week takes us into some interesting and, to some, delicate territory, that of dealing with finances as a person gets toward the end of their lives. The foundational passage from the Bible is from Revelation 14:13, a verse many people have never read:
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”
At first glance, this is a rather strange text, linking blessing and death. But a more careful look at the text reveals it is really talking about the residue a person’s life leaves once they are gone. It is true that death comes to many as a release from the struggle of life. In that sense it is a blessing, especially if a person has been dealing with the infirmities of old age that often become quite arduous. But it is the last phrase that is more pertinent to our discussion: “and their works do follow them.” This phrase is talking about the fact that every person’s life leaves a residue of memories, of deeds done or undone. And, of course, from a Christian context, the residue of lives lived with a view to eternity is going to be best and most to be admired. So, for those who are getting to an advanced age, while there is still time enough to make adjustments, some careful reflection is called for.
In light of the general theme of the lessons this week – Managing for the Master – part of this reflection should include the matter of monies earned and in hand. What should a believing person do with the money they have saved or invested?
The foundational principle behind all responsible asset management is that humans are not the owners of wealth or of other assets as much as they are managers of what already belongs to God. This principle should still prevail in any planning they do with the ending of life in focus. We should not follow the example of the Rich Young Ruler, nor of the farmer whose fields yielded abundantly to the point he built bigger barns, saying that he now had plenty and would plan to take his ease. These two men acted as if everything that had come into their hands was theirs to keep when, in fact, in their hands was enough to also care for and bless others.
A second guiding principle might be the reminder that we cannot take any of our assets with us into death. In light of this, a person is well advised to do some careful planning. In the USA, anyway, if a person fails to make a plan for their assets before they die, the state will take care of that for them, often at considerable expense and without regard to their wishes. The clear implication of this is that a person should have a plan for their estate in the form of a properly constituted will. In fact, failure to have a formalized will is a significant failure in stewardship.
A third guiding principle would be that the same responsibility to use money for meeting the necessities of life, for helping those in need, and for benefitting the cause of God prevails. There is no value in hoarding things. In fact, hoarding in a sense is a refusal to trust God to care for you. This statement presumes the hoarding of things way beyond what might be reasonably expected to preserve stability in life. A further note is in order, that lots of money does not provide security in life for it cannot prevent the coming of death!
In the official lesson, there is a useful list focused on the advantages of giving now! It appears below:
- The donor actually can see the results of the gift—a new church building, a young person in college, an evangelistic campaign funded, etc.
- The ministry or person can benefit now when the need is greatest.
- There is no fighting among family or friends after your death.
- It sets a good example of family values of generosity and love for others.
- It minimizes estate tax consequence.
- It guarantees that the gift will be made to your desired entity (no interference from courts or disgruntled relatives).
- It demonstrates that the heart of the donor has been changed from selfishness to unselfishness.
- It stores up treasures in heaven.
While Christians are called on to be faithful and even generous, they must also be wise. They should not over-give to the point of reducing their own circumstances to the point they become dependent on others. And they should be careful about various schemes that are intended to guilt them into giving. Prudence is a good thing in life, a quality that should be exercised even into old age.
A final comment. A person’s generosity should never be calculated until their estate is finally settled. While there are dangers in waiting to distribute all your assets at the point death comes, it is still true that generosity may finally be fully known only at that point. A lot of organizations have been known to benefit significantly because of the largess that comes at the point of an estate being settled.