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How does our vision of the future affect our choices now?

Faithful Finances, Week Three

The Rev. David Collins

Today, I want us to think about one simple, but powerful, question. It affects how we spend, save and give our money. And it affects all of our other choices, whether we’re conscious of it or now.

How does our vision of the future affect our choices now?

When it comes to personal finance issues like saving, it’s really easy to see how this applies. People who aren’t future oriented, either because they just aren’t wired that way, or because of consistent disappointment, don’t tend to save as much as those who are. Or when you have a specific, measurable goal that you’re saving for, like a car or a trip, it’s much more motivating, than just saving for a general rainy day. Depending on your personal vision of the future, you might be more of a grasshopper, or you might be more of an ant.

When it comes to money, some people are much more motivated by the past than by the future. I think some memories of the Great Depression might even have entered into our DNA. I think they have for mine. Why else would I wrap up the tiniest leftovers in Saran Wrap, that I have no intention of ever eating, forcing Megan to throw them away when I’m out of the house?

What I’m most interested in exploring today is OUR collective vision of the future. When we imagine what the world will be like in 50, or 100, or a thousand years…what do we see? What’s our vision? And how does that vision affect the choices we make, both big and small, today?

Is our vision captured by Star Trek, where humanity has solved most of its problems and takes off to explore the galaxy? Or is our vision more like Mad Max? Where we live as slaves in camps run by war lords and kill over the gasoline that’s left?

I think we’d all like to think our vision is Star Trek, but our choices indicate it’s probably Mad Max. We’re a little too comfortable with the logic of the cartoon below, With the man in the tattered suit explaining to children around a campfire in an wasteland “Yes, the planet got destroyed. But for a beautiful moment in time, we created a lot of value for shareholders.”

I think we’d all like to think our vision is Star Trek, but our choices indicate it’s probably Mad Max. We’re a little too comfortable with the logic of the cartoon below, With the man in the tattered suit explaining to children around a campfire in an wasteland “Yes, the planet got destroyed. But for a beautiful moment in time, we created a lot of value for shareholders.”

Our choices indicate that our vision of the future is pretty bleak. Maybe because we don’t think we can make a difference.

We’re not the first people to face a fork in the road like this, though. The ancient world when through many apocalypses, though they were more localized. The people of Israel weren’t capable of destroying the climate, but they did see their nation conquered more than once, and asked that easy question with hard answers…why?

Today’s scripture is the hopeful, later, part of that answer. The first, harder part was the truth that the prophets of God shared over and over again. That what God cared about wasn’t the appearance of holiness, but the hard work of goodness. Today’s scripture is a promise for the future from the prophet Micah.

Micah lived and served as a prophet during a tumultuous time in the history of God’s people. The northern kingdom of Israel had become so far-gone that he never even referred to it. He spoke for God during the reigns of good kings and evil kings, putting into context why God allowed Jerusalem to fall to the Assyrian empire. Through Micah, God told the people that what God truly cared about wasn’t temples and the appearance of righteousness and success, but that they “did justice, and loved mercy, and walked humbly with God”. Micah was the first to tell the people that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and would come to rule the world and bring peace. And like all the other prophets, Micah testified to the truth that peace meant enough for everyone, enough food, enough dignity, and enough love.

This passage is a vision of the future God intends for the earth.

Let’s look at Micah 4:1-4, together.

It starts out like this:

In the days to come

Now, let me break this down for us. These words in the original Hebrew mean exactly the same thing that they do in English. So in the days to come means in the days to come. Not a someday that will always be a someday. But actual days like today. We don’t put our faith in the sweet by and by, but in the real here and now.

In days to come

the mountain of the Lord’s temple,

shall be established as the highest of the mountains

and shall be raised up above the hills.

Micah is talking here about Jerusalem. That it would be restored to its glory, and no longer be tossed to and fro by conquerors with empires, and god-complexes.

Peoples shall stream to it,

2 and many nations shall come and say:

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

Now, this is partly a vision of the victory of the Lord, that formerly hostile nations will come to see the truth about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But it is also an oracle of reason one day winning the race, that nations will not just choose from among their preselected options, that they will move beyond the politics of the possible, beyond the tyranny of the next election, and be guided by the truth no matter what it is, or how uncomfortable it makes us.

Can you imagine? You should! Nations saying, “Let us go find out the truth that exists outside of our own structures and set ways of thinking? Let us be taught the ways of the One who is greater than us, not just the one we believe already agrees with us?”

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,

and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

3 He shall judge between many peoples

and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;

How does that work right now? Arbitration between strong nations? We know how it usually goes when there is a conflict between a strong nation and weak one. The strong one wins. Unless the other one is Ukraine.

But between strong nations? Who arbitrates? They have to figure it out for themselves, making compromises. But Micah promises that one day all of the nations will treat each other the way that God would have them do it.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation;

neither shall they learn war any more;

You’ve heard this verse before right? We used to sing it in elementary school. Remember “Down by the Riverside?”

What do you think about this verse? Is it just pie in the sky nonsense? Something to teach children to sing about while the grownups deal with reality? Or is this actually Gods vision of our future?

And if it is God’s vision of the future, how is it meant to come about? Will it only happen because Jesus comes back and overwhelms everyone’s free will? Or will it happen because everyone’s free will evolves and grows through changed hearts and minds touched by God’s spirit?

If this is God’s vision of the future, how does that affect our choices now? Do we have to be pacifists now? If so, what happens to the people only we can protect against evil? And closer to home, how does this affect our daily living, and our finances? For that, we need to look at the next verse.

4 But they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,

and no one shall make them afraid,

for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

The NRSV makes this verse plural, partly to make it gender neutral, which I’m glad they do. But the Hebrew is singular on the first clause. A more wooden translation is “Instead, each of them will sit under his vine, And under his fig tree, (and then it does go plural) With no one to make them afraid.” NASB

This vision that includes the politics of strong nations ends with the picture that individual people sit under the shade of their own food producing trees. And this is what prevents others from making them afraid. The future peaceable kingdom includes private property, self-reliance, and self-determination.

"No one can make them afraid" because no one is compelled by economics into military service.

"No one can make them afraid" because no one can take away their ability to feed themselves.

"No one can make them afraid" because "nation shall not lift up sword against nation" because the people have the ability to govern themselves.

Having a clear view of the future God promises affects how we make choices here and now. We are destined for a peaceful life here on earth, with enough for everyone, and with freedom and self-determination for everyone. It might not be Star Trek, but it’s close.

Speaking of Star Trek, did you see that William Shatner, Captain Kirk, recently went into space for real? He got a ride on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space shuttle on Oct. 13, 2021. At 90 years old, Shatner became the oldest living person to travel into space. He writes this about his experience,

“We got out of our harnesses and began to float around. The other folks went straight into somersaults and enjoying all the effects of weightlessness. I wanted no part in that. I wanted, needed to get to the window as quickly as possible to see what was out there.
I looked down and I could see the hole that our spaceship had punched in the thin, blue-tinged layer of oxygen around Earth. It was as if there was a wake trailing behind where we had just been, and just as soon as I’d noticed it, it disappeared.
I continued my self-guided tour and turned my head to face the other direction, but when I looked into space, there was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold . . . all I saw was death.
I saw a cold, dark, black emptiness. It was unlike any blackness you can see or feel on Earth. It was deep, enveloping, all-encompassing. I turned back toward the light of home. I could see the curvature of Earth, the beige of the desert, the white of the clouds and the blue of the sky. It was life. Nurturing, sustaining, life.
Everything I had thought was wrong. Everything I had expected to see was wrong…. I discovered that the beauty isn’t out there, it’s down here, with all of us. Leaving that behind made my connection to our tiny planet even more profound.
It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered. The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness.

My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral.
I learned later that I was not alone in this feeling. It is called the “Overview Effect” and is not uncommon among astronauts… Author Frank White first coined the term in 1987: “There are no borders or boundaries on our planet except those that we create in our minds or through human behaviors. All the ideas and concepts that divide us when we are on the surface begin to fade from orbit and the moon. The result is a shift in worldview, and in identity.”
It can change the way we look at the planet but also other things like countries, ethnicities, religions; it can prompt an instant reevaluation of our shared harmony and a shift in focus to all the wonderful things we have in common instead of what makes us different. It reinforced tenfold my own view on the power of our beautiful, mysterious collective human entanglement, and eventually, it returned a feeling of hope to my heart. In this insignificance we share, we have one gift that other species perhaps do not: we are aware—not only of our insignificance, but the grandeur around us that makes us insignificant. That allows us perhaps a chance to rededicate ourselves to our planet, to each other, to life and love all around us. If we seize that chance.”

Shatner went to space to catch the same vision that God gave to Micah. It might be one of the only good things to come from the billionaires little space race. Maybe the same thing would have happened to you. But even though probably none of us will ever see the earth from space, we can get the same vision of the future from the Bible.

So how do we live into it?

I think we’re often tempted to believe that we can usher in the future God promised with a few good choices. That if we all did justice, and loved kindness, that the kingdom would be built in and through us during the next century. And while I really really would like to think that…I know that human nature is sinful through and through, and whatever progress we make as a species will bring new problems with it.

But we also can’t cynically decide that it will never happen, so we’d best protect our own interests. There are many who would like to think that if justice and kindness were truly God’s will for this world, then they would be either be a product of the free market, or they should be something people do if they feel like it.

There’s another verse from Micah that you’ve probably heard. Micah 6:8.

"And what does the Lord require of you, but that you do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with your God."

Walking humbly is the key ingredient. When we think God’s plans hinge on the people in this room getting it right, we need to hear that the way we’re meant to walk is humbly. And when we think that nothing which involves human beings will ever work out, we need to hear that word, “walk”.

What we do matters. How we spend our money does too. The causes that we support, the financial choices we make, they all matter. To God and to the future God has laid up for us.


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