Last night, I needed a jacket to wear during a workout in a cold garage. I reached way into the back of the closet and pulled out my old track & field sweatshirt from high school. As I walked downstairs, I realized it had been 17 years since I had first worn that sweatshirt. My first thought was, “Wow, it still fits!” My second thought was, “Wow, a lot of time has passed.” 17 years ago, I was a freshman in high school. I didn’t know my wife. I had no idea I had a son and two daughters in my future. I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do for a living. I never expected to leave my hometown. I used to laugh at people who said time speeds up as you get older, but they were right. Seventeen years have passed in what feels like one or two. And while I’m grateful to God for bringing me to the place I’m in, there are definitely some things I wish I could go back and do differently in those years.
I wish I’d been kinder to that person.
I wish I’d taken that risk.
I wish I’d told that friend how Jesus could change his life.
I wish I hadn’t fallen in front of everyone on the stairs at Parker Hall.
We all have those things we wish we’d done differently. Maybe those things are small, like paying more attention while climbing stairs. Maybe those regrets follow you every day. But the greatest regrets of all will be the ones we face when our time on Earth is finished and we stand before God to give an account for our lives. Is there a way to avoid that regret? Absolutely. In the parable of the dishonest manager, Jesus teaches us how to spend our lives wisely until we reach eternity.
The Parable of the Dishonest Manager
Now he said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who received an accusation that his manager was squandering his possessions. So he called the manager in and asked, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you can no longer be my manager.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do since my master is taking the management away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig; I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do so that when I’m removed from management, people will welcome me into their homes.’
So he summoned each one of his master’s debtors. ‘How much do you owe my master?’ he asked the first one. ‘A hundred measures of olive oil,’ he said. ‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘sit down quickly, and write fifty.’
Next he asked another, ‘How much do you owe?’ ‘A hundred measures of wheat,’ he said. ‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘and write eighty.’ The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light in dealing with their own people. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:1-9)
Time is Short
The manager is about to be fired. He knows he has very little time to prepare for the next stage of his life. Because of that, he takes significant action to get ready. As far as we can see from the parable, all of his thought is fixed on how to avoid manual labor or begging when he is turned out of the master’s house. The coming transition is that important and he knows his time is short.
Our time is short as well. James compares the human life to your breath on a cold morning. Here one moment, gone the next. Seventeen years can pass in the blink of an eye. Seventy can pass in two blinks. But eternity is, well, eternal. We are given very little time on earth to prepare for what comes next, and just like the manager, the transition is important enough that it should consume our thoughts and actions.
Prepare for Eternity Now
That sounded ominous, didn’t it? Let me illustrate. The manager needed people to take him in and care for him after he was fired. He had obviously grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle and he didn’t want to beg or work with his hands to survive. So, being the clever manager he was, he used the resources at his disposal while still in the master’s employ to prepare for his future. In forging the invoices and reducing what the master’s debtors owed, he ensured that someone would feel enough gratitude to take him in later. The manager used the resources available in his present to prepare for his future. Will we?
Our time is short, but we have been given many resources. Your bank account, your talent for music, your degree in education, your desire to travel the world, your access to the other parents who bring juice boxes for the Little League team. These and other things are all resources you have been given. The responsibility of the Christ-follower is to use those resources in the present to prepare for the future.
Prepare yourself for eternity. What will you have to show God when you stand before Him? What will your life amount to? In his famous “seashell message,” John Piper spoke of the waste of standing before God with the seashells we collected in our retirements. Will we bring God seashells, corner offices, sports cars, and t-ball trophies? Or will we bring him a testimony of a life poured out in an effort to make the gospel known?
Prepare others for eternity. Will you use your resources to make the gospel known in your home, office, community, country, and world? Thousands die every day without ever hearing of the Savior who came to Earth for them. Will you leverage your life to make Him known? Will you work in the power of the Spirit to prepare others for the moment eternity begins?
The manager knew his time was short, so he used his resources to prepare for his future. If you are a Christ-follower, your time on Earth is short, but you can spend the rest of that time using the resources God has given you to prepare yourself and others for eternity. Don’t reach the end of your life full of regret over time wasted. Instead, pour your life out for the kingdom of God. He is worth it.