What hinders us from living a life of expectancy, of setting our hope fully on the return of Jesus? An honest reading through the teachings of Jesus in the gospels would yield many answers to that question, but the answer on the top of the list by a long shot is the one that stares us in the face every day: affluence.
We live in an age of unprecedented affluence and financial possibility. Yet our legitimate planning for a certain salary level, house size, and nest egg for retirement can quickly sap all of our future-oriented anticipation. Wherever we are in that planning process, when our wealth-building is confined to this age, our sense of expectation, willingness to sacrifice, and emotional concerns remain in this age as well. As Jesus put it, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Jesus’ solution begins with us divesting ourselves of these earth-bound treasures. He charged the rich young man (read: middle class American) to “sell what you possess” (Matthew 19:21). This command was meant to effect two shifts in the heart: a shift from hoarding to sharing (“…and give to the poor”) and a shift from laying up treasures on earth to laying up treasures in heaven (“and you will have treasure in heaven”). Jesus paints a vivid image of this in Luke 12:33 when he commands all of his disciples, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.”
We could think of this as pushing our retirement plan one step further. Traditionally we think of retirement investment as saving some of our money for the time when we can no longer earn an income. The step further is to also invest some of of our money for the time when Jesus returns to make all things new. Just as those who are saving for retirement in their 30’s and 40’s expect to begin drawing off of those investments in their 60’s and 70’s, we should have the anticipation of reaping the yield of our investment in the lives of others when our Lord appears.
What might this look like? Jesus says to start by throwing a party. “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:13–14). You may have to sell a few of your possessions on eBay to fund it or at least go without some things you might otherwise buy. But the return on the investment is guaranteed and the yield is far beyond what any mutual fund or piece of real estate could offer.
As we take steps of obedience that shift our heart from hoarding to sharing and from earthly to heavenly treasures, we will experience a heightened anticipation of Jesus’ return. Our sense of the termination point of our investments will move beyond the end of this life to the life to come. To use the apostle Peter’s language, our minds will be prepared for action and we will free from the intoxicating effects of temporary wealth. Our habits of divestment and sharing will enable our hearts to “hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).
Jesus warned us that this is difficult venture. The rich young man turned down this offer for eternal wealth and “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22). Let us reject his tragic, short-sighted decision and build up wealth that will last, all with an eye to our King whose return will mean our prosperity.
Hoping with you,