Jesus told an interesting parable about making a wise plan that many like to avoid. Consider:
"Then there is this story he told his disciples: 'Once there was a rich man whose agent was reported to him to be mismanaging his property. So he summoned him and said, ‘What’s this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your stewardship--you’re not fit to manage my household any longer.’
At this the agent said to himself, ‘What am I going to do now that my employer is taking away the management from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I can’t sink to begging. Ah, I know what I’ll do so that when I lose my position people will welcome me into their homes!’
So he sent for each one of his master’s debtors. ‘How much do you owe my master?’ he said to the first. ‘A hundred barrels of oil,’ he replied. ‘Here,’ replied the agent, ‘take your bill, sit down, hurry up and write in fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And what’s the size of your debt?’ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. ‘Take your bill,’ said the agent, ‘and write in eight hundred.’
Now the master praised this rascally agent because he had been so careful for his own future. For the children of this world are considerably more shrewd in dealing with their contemporaries than the children of light.'
Now my advice to you is to use ‘money’, tainted as it is, to make yourselves friends, so that when it comes to an end, they may welcome you into the homes of eternity." [Luke 16:1-9, Phillips]
This "rascally agent" or "unjust steward" [KJV] is hardly a person to be commended. He was a thief and a swindler. Yet, in the parable of Jesus, his master praised him. Why? It certainly wasn't for his dishonest actions.
What was the one redeeming characteristic of this man - the one Jesus said His children often lacked? The agent had the ability to make a wise plan for the future. He could size up a bad situation and turn it around to his advantage. He was unprincipled, but smart. Christians are often the opposite: Principled, but unwise. We need to be both principled AND wise.
Why is this so? Failing to understand the Bible in context, some Christians have developed weird ideas. By failing to make a wise plan, they are planning to fail - and then they blame God!
Some feel that planning for the future shows a lack of trust in God. They think it would insult God if they developed a long-term wise plan. Doesn't a wise plan [life plan, emergency plan, family plan, etc.] contradict faith? How can you have faith in God when you are planning things out for yourself?
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." [Heb. 11:1]
Planning ahead can actually be an expression of faith. As we plan for the future we take into account what we believe God will do through us. When we have gone as far as we can, then God can take us further. If we are holding back, we will never see what God can really do. God wants a people who are not only prepared to look after themselves, but also are prepared to look after others. If we are wandering though life without a wise plan there is a strong possibility that we will become a drain on the resources of others instead of being able to help those in need.
Others object by saying Jesus taught us to take no thought about tomorrow; therefore, we should live one day at a time.
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." [Matt. 6:24-34]
Is Jesus teaching that we should not make a wise plan for the future? Should we just let things happen? Are we to be wanderers in life?
There are two things to consider:
1. Jesus started by comparing two masters: God and mammon [power of money - Phillips]. In other words, Jesus was forcing us to choose where our loyalties lie. Is our priority God or the things of this world? The people in this world worry over the future, they are trapped into seeking the latest fashion in clothes and other things, they "need" the best food, and they always want the biggest and the best of everything. Jesus said that was not to be our focus. Our focus is the Kingdom of God. As we seek to benefit our King, our King looks after us. Jesus is not saying we should not plan for the future. What He is saying is that our priorities must be right. We are not to be obsessed with the things of this world.
2. "Taking no thought" means not to worry about the future. We have confidence and faith in God. We do not worry about the future. We make our best wise plans for the future, but we do not worry about it. We recognize that our plans may fail, but God will never fail. We do live our lives one day at a time, but we have a plan for the future. If our plan fails we keep trusting God and working for His Kingdom.
Still others fail to plan for the future because of a popular misunderstanding of "end times." They feel that Jesus is going to return any minute so they don't need a plan for the future because there is no future on this earth. This false "end times" teaching has been popular for about 100 years and many Christian lives have been wasted waiting instead of working. [Yes, Jesus will one day return visibly and physically to end this age, but that doesn't excuse failing to plan and work for the future.] This false doctrine also states that all a Christian's work is going to be destroyed by the AntiChrist/Beast in our near future. Therefore, there is no point in working and planning for the future because evil is going to wipe it all out anyway. This is Satan's fantasy, not reality. [See our writings on Bible Prophecy.] We can work and sacrifice for the future because our efforts will have a positive impact on coming generations. It is NOT going to be wiped out. The Bible states that Jesus wins on this earth, not Satan!
Finally, there are those who are just too lazy to plan. It takes too much work to develop a wise plan for the future. The foolish and the lazy will reap the results of their lifestyle. Let the pig wallow in its mud.
For the above reasons [and probably others], many Christians have failed to plan for the future. Many Godly people have unnecessarily suffered because of this lack of thinking ahead. For example, some have refused to buy inexpensive life insurance thinking they will not need it and then the husband has died and left his wife and children destitute. A little simple planning would have saved the financial suffering of the family.
As you begin to plan, if you haven't already, consider the following areas. I know I have readers from all over the world and some of these suggestions may not work in your country [I am writing from a Canadian perspective], but the principle remains the same: Do want you can to prayerful plan for the future and anticipate potential problems while at the same time not worrying about the future.
Consider: What disasters could over take you, your family, your church, your nation?
For example, if you were to lose your job, what would happen? Many people live from paycheck to paycheck. If they lost their job within a month or two they would be poverty stricken. Think - don't worry! - about what you would do if this happened. What skills do you have? Would you be able to find a second job? Do you have a hobby or skills that could be turned into a home business now? [We don't want to become obsessed with work, but God did say to work six days a week.] Can you involve your family? Are you saving an emergency fund?
I am told that Mormon families are instructed to store a year's worth of food. If they were to lose their job or another disaster struck, they are prepared with groceries. No need to panic or run to the church or government welfare system. Christians need to have the same kind of foresight and planning. It is not that difficult, every grocery day just buy 3 - 4 non-perishable items to have on hand. Build it up slowly until you have reached your goal. Then you can rotate your food supply always keeping your supply at the level you want. While you are at it, consider other things you might need in different emergencies - candles [no power], water, heat, etc. This isn't lack of faith, it's just wise planning. Do a search on the Internet and you will come up with many ideas to fit your specific circumstances, although the church should be wise in instructing its members how to develop a wise plan.
All human beings [except those alive when Jesus returns] are going to face death. You could be dead within the next five minutes [I hope not!]. As Christians we are prepared to enter eternity. God has also given us responsibility for those under our authority on this planet. For example, if you are a husband, what would happen to your family if you died? Would they be thrust into poverty? Does your wife have up-to-date skills which could earn an income - even if she currently is an at-home mom? If not can you help [not force!] her to develop such skills? Part time college courses? At-home business? In North America one very profitable home business which requires minimum of training is daycare. It is not for everyone, but for some it works.
Could your wife manage the household without you? [If you are the wife, consider if you could do everything if needed in an emergency.] Does she know how to handle the finances? Where the will is? Who to contact in emergency? And a million other details? It is cruel to leave her unprepared in a time of emotional crisis and loss.
Do you have low-cost term life insurance? It cost so little, for most people, but it can save a lot of struggle and pain in the case of your death. This is just wise planning.
Do you have a Will, and is it up-to-date?
One day, if you don't die, you will want to retire from your job. Begin planning now. Don't close your eyes. It will take wise planning.
Christian education is one of the most vital ways, as well as being a requirement, of planning for the future. It prepares your children to follow God into the future. Of course, the school needs to be both Christian and provide a quality education. Plan carefully. It often requires short-term sacrifice.
Jews believed it was the father's responsibility to see that his sons were taught both the Law of God and a trade. Anything less was failure. How many Christian fathers have trained or provided training for their children to enter the work place? My father provided me the opportunity to learn income tax preparation. I wasn't wise enough at the time to take advantage of the opportunity; however, looking back I am grateful for what he offered me. He was planning ahead. Of course, we cannot and should not force our children into a path they don't want to go. But we must help them prepare for their future.
There are many other areas of wise planning. We need to consider our own circumstances and do our best to prepare. Certainly, we are not to worry about the future. We can trust God and still develop a wise plan. God wants us to be wise planners. Many of the accomplishments of Western civilization are because of wise Christian planners of the past. One reason why humanism has been able to take over and destroy many things is because Christians have failed to plan.