When I got my first job after graduating with my Masters, I discovered that I was enrolled in a pension plan–well, actually two of them if you count the government pension plan that was also reducing the take home portion of my pay cheque. I have to confess that in my early 20s, the idea of a pension plan was only mildly interesting. The demands of student loan repayments, married life and the expenses of starting out after university meant that if I had been given an even choice, I just might have tossed the pension plan for a few extra dollars every week.
Fortunately, I didn’t have an option about making that choice–both the government and my employer required that I give them money every pay period. Without any attention from me, the pension money disappeared from the pay cheque and showed up in a statement that came once a year. Since I was young, busy and couldn’t do anything with or about the money, I tended to ignore it, at least until a few years ago when the state of my pension became important. As I got closer and closer to retirement, I paid more attention to the annual statements and now that the fund is computerized, I occasionally peak at the accumulating amount.
For all my working life, that pension has been there, generally growing (except for years with economic downturns) and sitting there having an effect on my future without my paying much attention to it. But when the time comes that I actually decide to retire, I am going to be very glad that decisions about my future was made a long time ago.
Now, in a lot of other areas of my life, I have been concerned about my future and have taken a fairly active part in preparing for tomorrow. I choose university courses and programs with an eye to the future. I decided on advanced education because I was looking ahead. A lot of my work in ministry involved and involves looking ahead and trying to structure the present to enable certain things to develop in the future. I chose to begin a serious exercise regime early in life to prevent certain health issues in the future. We began putting money away for our kids’ education shortly after each was born.
In short, I, like a great many people, was living partly in the future. I was and still am willing to defer things now because of some future benefit. Less money now meant more money in the future. More exercise now meant better health tomorrow. This meeting in the church today meant we could begin that ministry next year.
Well, actually, the best we can actually say is that if we do this stuff today, it might have an effect on tomorrow. I can’t actually guarantee that I will live long enough to spend my pension money. I can’t guarantee that this sermon series will produce a healthier church in five years. I can’t guarantee that my kids will want to go to university. I can’t even guarantee that the lawn mower will start in an hour or so when I run out of excuses to avoid doing the lawn.
With no guarantees, why plan? There are actually lots of people who live for today and who seem to be doing quite well. Living in the now is something of a mantra for a lot of people today. The idea of pensions, educational saving plans, exercise plans and ministry plans is something of an anathema to many people, some of whom are quite willing to quote Matthew 6.34 as support, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NIV)
And, as with all Jesus’ words, there is a powerful truth here. We can only live right now. But right now does become tomorrow and because most of us will inhabit tomorrow or a certain number of tomorrows, we really can’t ignore tomorrow. Statically, the likelihood of tomorrow coming is pretty good and the likelihood of our being around tomorrow is equally high so it makes sense to give it some thought. We can’t live only for tomorrow–but we do need to keep an eye on tomorrow since we are likely going to get there. It is likely better to have the pension and not get to use it than not have it and need it.
May the peace of God be with you.