Proverbs 13:22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.
One of the things I’ve learned from the Proverbs is the need to take the long view. When we evaluate things always in terms of how they will impact our lives over the next day or two, how they will make us feel right now, then we will live for self, live for pleasure, for the moment. But when we believe God’s promises, then we work and act with an eternal timeframe in mind, using the opportunities we have right now to prepare for that eternal timeframe. Someone who is young and is investing for a retirement that is fifty years away makes different choices than someone who is sixty-five. And if we truly believe that we are destined for eternal life, then we will make choices with that in mind.
On the other hand, someone whose choices are all geared toward immediate pleasure- the next vacation, the next promotion, the next new shiny toy, will make different choices. That second person may even claim to believe in eternity. But their actions show what they truly care about.
Some even seem to have the idea that Jesus’ death on the cross frees me to focus on the here and now. The thinking goes like this- Jesus died on the cross to secure my eternal future. Therefore I don’t need to worry about eternity at all. I can just focus on living my best life now. But the Scriptures tell us something else constantly- that the man of God, if he does have faith in Jesus, will work with that eternal focus in mind, and not just seek to please himself with his life. The idea that Jesus suffered the terrible pain and shame of the cross in order to free me up to please myself and fulfill my sinful lusts ought to fill any godly man with revulsion.
So people will often ask, is this a sin? Is it sin to go to a ball game, go on vacation, buy a new car? And often, it is the wrong question to ask. The right question is, where are my values? Am I laying up for myself treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupts and thieves break in and steal? Or am I laying up for myself treasures in heaven, treasures that last forever? People of God, what are we doing with our lives? Of course it is not sinful to enjoy the things of this world. But it is a great and terrible sin to enjoy the things of this world as if that is all there is, and to neglect the things of eternity.
And so the Proverb quoted above should be seen in this light. It’s not ultimately about money, though our use of money will certainly reflect our commitment to Biblical truth, or lack thereof. It’s not saying that it makes you a good man if you leave an inheritance for our grandchildren, and a bad man if you don’t. It’s saying that when we labor with God’s truth in mind, we can have a wonderful assurance that our labor will have permanence and long-term value. If on the other hand, we labor for the present, then the present is what we get, and it’s all we get.
Actually, we don’t even get the present. We get the past. The vacations we take, the things we buy, the lusts we fulfill- last only for a moment, and then all we have is the memories, which fade away. The new car is only a new car for a moment- every moment you have it, it’s less new. And as we grow old, food tastes less good, our bodies don’t work as well, we will enjoy the things of this world less and less, and if this world is all we have, we sink into darkness and despair. The knowledge of the transience of this life, if learned only through experience, is a terrible, awful truth, always learned too late.
But if we learn of the transience of this life from God’s own truth, then that prepares us to labor toward what is not transient, the eternal blessings afforded by God in His Son, Jesus Christ.