I visited the ICU floor of the hospital this week. Muffled beeps emitted from behind drawn curtains. Nurses hustled, concerned grimaces on their faces. I caught one of their eyes. She flashed me a sympathetic smile in return. People were dying.
Each room held someone near the end of their life. Oxygen machines, morphine drips and the prayers of family were the few things separating the patients from this life and the next.
People say only two things are certain; death and taxes.
While the patients’ deaths seemed imminent, nothing prevented me from dying in a car accident, receiving a life-ending diagnosis, or passing quietly in my sleep from mysterious causes that same day. Though literally being in your death bed makes death FEEL certain, it has always been a certainty since the moment we took our first breath.
Tax Day: A Day of Reckoning
The Bible says that “on the day of judgement (we) must give an account.” (Romans 14:12)
As you prepare your taxes this tax season, you are preparing a reckoning. The goal of a tax return is to determine a single number; taxes owed. On tax-day you will “return” the taxes that you have been holding onto up until that day, or the government will “refund” you that which they have withheld via payroll deductions and quarterly estimates. It’s a day of reckoning. We have to give back what we owe.
If our justifications on our tax return seem suspect, full of misstatements and half-truths, what happens? We get audited. How much better to have an accountant audit your books before the Internal Revenue Service does!
There is something more certain than our eventual last breath or the fact that Uncle Sam wants his money. Enoch nor Elijah ever perished. Jesus could return before you expire. If you don’t make any money, you won’t owe tax.
The only certain thing is this: some day we will have to give an account. The day of reckoning will come.
We will have to both “give back” the breath that we have borrowed from the creator of the universe and give an accounting for what we’ve done with it. Too many people lie motionless on their death beds wishing they had lived a different life. Whether they have a million dollars in the bank or a negative net worth, nothing they own or owe can save them from the inevitability of their demise.
They have to give an account.
Settling up with Jesus
When I think of the questions Jesus might ask me at the end of days. None of them sound like this:
- Why didn’t you save more in your 401(k)?
- Why didn’t you pay off your house?
- Why didn’t your career advance faster?
Jesus’ directives involve eschewing these things for the sake of the Kingdom. But the church culture around money is hyper-focused on accumulation,“stewardship” and earthly “wisdom”.
The Bible speaks plainly about the great reckoning:
- What did you do for the least of these? (Matthew 25:40)
- How did you deploy my (Jesus’) assets to benefit my Kingdom? (Matthew 25:14-30)
- Did you make disciples? Did you bear fruit? (Matthew 28:19-20, John 15)
It’s a sobering thought, but for some reason Christians don’t live like they are going to die. We of all people should know that the things before our eyes will pass away. Yet, we store wealth, make our plans and follow the cultural script of working hard (making money for ourselves), saving (for ourselves) and retiring (to do what we want). We don’t acknowledge the borrowed breath that we most certainly will return.
Every dollar we earn or spend has Kingdom implications. We are either building our own kingdom that is as stable as a “vapor that appears for a little while and then disappears” (James 4:14), or building the Kingdom of Heaven “where rust does not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).
Auditing for Eternity
Whether we have fifty years left in this world or five, the day of reckoning is drawing near. Wouldn’t it make sense to spend some time “auditing” your life before that final day? Why wouldn’t you make adjustments before it’s too late and the account is already in ink?
Here’s how you might audit your time and money to ensure an eternal perspective:
- Take a walk in a cemetery or flip through the obituaries. Notice the ages of those who have died (you’ll notice they vary greatly). Calculate the number of years from your current age to the age of the deceased. What if you only had those years to live? What would you change?
- Sit with your financial advisor and create a Statement of Financial Purpose or “mission” for your money. Having someone else ask you probing questions (and refereeing conversations with your spouse) is extremely helpful if you’ve never thought in these terms. What is the point of your money?
- Make two lists. First, write down all the things you wish you were doing/doing more; walks with your spouse, volunteering at an organization, traveling. Second, open your calendar or think through your last month and write down everything you did. Are the lists the same? What in the second list is incompatible with the mission or statement of purpose you created? What would you have to change to do more of the first list?
It’s sad how many purposeless Christians I know. Or worse, Christians who think their purpose is of earthly means. I spent my life as one of the latter, until that “purpose” was thwarted through God’s mercy. I suddenly had to decide what I believed.
Is this stuff real or isn’t it? If it’s real, why am I not living it?
As Paul says in Corinthians, “if in this life only we have hope in Jesus, we are most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)
What if we started living like our eternal hope was more certain than death or taxes?
How would you start?
Teaching our kids to have an eternal perspective on money is important. That’s why I developed the Mission Minded Money for Kids Curriculum. You can download your free copy by inserting your email below.