My husband and I believe in the value of saving now for our financial security later. We are retirement age, yet we both still work. He works a full-time job and I work a part-time job along with writing and marketing my books. Fortunately, we find fulfillment in what we do for a living and, frankly, the money isn’t bad either. Because we plan to live well into our 90’s, we have a savings goal aimed at having ample funds by then.
Planning long-term goals is an essential practice. Our youthful eyes should not be so riveted on fleeting pricey wants that we disregard the inevitable needs of our sunset years. The self-control we wield through budgeting and saving will be a blessing awaiting us someday. We want to be worry-free when our retirement finally comes.
Someday though, death will visit us, and we know that we instantly be transported into God’s presence. The Bible says, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) This implies that we will live once and then after death, face God’s judgment. With such a consequential appointment looming ahead, we should apply the same principles of investing for our final retirement in Heaven. Jesus gave us a snapshot of what will inevitably take place and commends us to invest ourselves in other people+ until that day.
Here is the unveiled description of God’s final judgment of all people. “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him… And He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats…” (Matthew 25: 31-32) In this analogy, the sheep represent righteous persons who lead godly lives by seeking and obeying God. They are regarded as righteous by their belief and faith in Jesus. They hear God’s voice and follow Him. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…” (John 10:27)
The other category of “goats” refers to the wicked. Those people are characterized as proud and stubborn in their rebellion against God. They refuse God’s voice in preference to their own evil inclinations. “This evil people which refuse to hear my words…” (Jeremiah 13:10) To stay out of this category, we need to recognize that our greatest challenge in life is getting our motives right towards other people. We must rid ourselves of angry resentment of having to serve others without getting anything in return. Showing mercy is non-transactional. Mercy is offered purely for the betterment of someone else who has a real need.
Let’s focus on the congratulatory judgment of the “sheep.” Jesus addresses those on His right. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in; naked and you clothed me; I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25: 35-36) The righteous seem puzzled and ask Jesus, “When did we do all these things for You?” (Paraphrase vs 37) Their unassuming inquiry implies that they never kept track of their service on Earth to receive praise or credit from others. They simply acted with mercy as situations arose.
Jesus welcomed those people into His kingdom by virtue of His answer. “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even to the least of them, you did it to Me.” (vs 40) He told them that serving others out of mercy, even for the weakest person, translates into serving God Himself. This is the meritorious lifestyle of the righteous: Serving God by serving others. How then can we invest in people for the sake of God’s kingdom? Here are two types of opportunities that we will encounter. The first is short-term and momentary; the second is long-term and ongoing.
In the first instance, we may encounter unexpected requests from our own personal circle of family and friends. Someone may need a ride somewhere or help at home or with their family. You can discern if you are able to meet that need and offer them money or assistance. Other less tangible ways to invest in people are to listen to them, spend time visiting them, and letting them know that you believe in them when they face challenges. Timely encouragement can afford people the necessary push forward in their endeavors when they are too afraid to push themselves.
Group service projects such as letter writing to shut-ins and out of town college students is a wonderful way to fulfill Matthew 25: 35-36. Those hand-written notes offer solace to isolated people. Personal visits or phone calls can also brighten their lonely day. Remember that consistent small acts of thoughtfulness add up over time.
In my book Recipe For Sharing, I wrote a whole chapter devoted to what I call “Hospitality To Go.” This is the service of delivering meals and edible treats to homebound folks. Taking a batch of homemade soup or baked goods to someone is a wonderful way to offer your condolences. It shows that you took the time to think about them.
The other avenue for investing in people is a more long-term, lifelong type of service that God calls us to. We find instructions on this in Ephesians 2:10. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God has pre-planned a life work for each of His people. Jesus will gradually disclose this vision and give us the desire to carry it out. We need to seek Him for what He specifically has in mind.
For example, God had a plan for me to become a Christian author, although I had no formal training. As I carried out the ideas He put in my mind, I wrote and published my books. Since 1993, my writing has spanned over decades and has been a life work for me. I enjoy musing about the people who have purchased my books and hopefully received the help and answers they were looking for. Someday I will find out who they were.
Other examples of lifelong investing in people are: Christian prison ministry, full-time Christian service, affiliation and support of Christian para-church organizations, support of missionary organizations, and long-term care of others as primary caregivers for elderly, sick or disabled persons. All of these and many more areas of service may the pre-ordained good works that God has for us.
In either category, serving others out of responsive mercy counteracts the never-ending dilemma of dire human need. Investing in others at any level avails refreshment and hope to our weary society. We can choose to live a life of giving and sharing. Although we may lose sight of what we did on behalf of someone last week or last year, those acts will be forever recorded on our ledger card when we have our appointment with Christ. Let us look forward to His words “Well done My good and faithful servant” as we invest in people now for a rich future someday.