Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Daily Bread

"Plan for the future" has become an American mantra. Set one-year and five-year goals. Keep six months' worth of living expenses in savings. Set aside a few hundred thousand for retirement.

Not that such advice is all bad, or that we don't need some chiding. At least one in three Americans regularly go to dangerous opposite extremes: letting their savings accounts sit empty; treating credit cards like blank checks; regarding exercise and nutritious eating as optional to good health. But--as even the dedicated planners tacitly admit through their admonitions to prepare for any contingency--there is no way to absolutely ensure a long, healthy, wealthy life. A speeding car can knock anyone from peak physical condition to permanent quadriplegia in a second. And we have no money-back guarantee that our society--which we implicitly count on to sustain our savings--will remain intact and stable for another fifty years.

"Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth," warned the Proverbs (27:1, NIV).

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth," Jesus echoed in the Sermon on the Mount. "Do not worry about tomorrow" (Mt. 6:19, 34).

James 4:13-16 adds: "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil."

Planning for the future becomes both foolish and sinful when it leaves God out of the equation. If we aren't careful, we can end up like the rich fool in Luke 12:15-21, who was sure he had enough to support himself in luxury for the rest of his life. And in a way he was right; he didn't live long enough to spend any of it.

The only prudent first step in planning for the future is to submit ourselves to God's plans.

"Give us today our daily bread"--
So goes the ancient prayer,
But most of us would also seek
Tomorrow's and to spare.

We would demand a bakery
With lifetime guarantee,
And would exchange a childlike faith
For things that we can see.

"Give us today our daily bread"--
Yes, so the Scriptures say:
Put off all dread of things to come,
And serve the Lord today.

The Master's path is paved in trust;
The view ahead is dim,
But we can trust the One Who leads
And put our faith in Him.

"Give us today our daily bread,"
For we can eat no more;
For all who stuff tomorrow's in
Add groaning to the store.

Some rich and poor alike die young;
No earthly thing is sure--
So eat your daily bread for strength
To build what will endure.

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