If the End is Near, Should I Save for the Future?
Thoughts about your 401(k), the last days, and planning for retirement
|Jimmy Evans||Jun 13|| 38||3|
A few years ago, a young man approached me after I had been preaching on the end times. At his workplace, his employer was giving him the option of contributing to a 401(k), which is a savings vehicle for retirement. This young man knew it was important to plan for the future. But he also wondered if, in light of the Second Coming, that type of savings was an unwise use of money.
“What should I do?” he asked.
I don’t get asked for financial planning advice very often. Before I tell you how I answered, let me tell you a fascinating, historical story the young man’s question brought to mind.
Abraham Davenport and New England’s Dark Day
History remembers May 19, 1780, as New England’s “Dark Day.” George Washington and the Continental Army were still fighting in the Revolutionary War. Camped with his troops in New Jersey, Washington noted how the weather had been strange for several days. The sun had appeared to be red. The skies had grown yellowish and the clouds the color of rust. In his diary on May 18, he wrote about dark, ominous, “heavy and uncommon kind of clouds.”
On the morning of May 19, the clouds grew even darker. Fog and a shadowy sky settled across the region. By noon, the sun had been completely obscured, as if day had become night. Indoor workers took lunch by candlelight. Outdoor laborers struggled to see their work. Birds returned to their nests, farm animals reacted in terror, and commerce and stores began to shut down. Citizens speculated about the cause. Many wondered if they were experiencing the judgment of God. Had the sun been darkened? Was this the first sign of the Second Coming of Christ?
The state legislature was meeting that day in Connecticut. As the darkness grew, members of the governing body became uneasy. One legislator made the motion to adjourn their meeting, saying that everyone should return to their homes and families to prepare for the end of the world.
That’s when a 65-year-old councilman and militia colonel named Abraham Davenport stood up to calm the members. “I am against adjournment,” he said in a stirring speech. “The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”
Aides brought in candles and the meeting continued. The world did not end and the skies eventually cleared. Meanwhile, Davenport was hailed as a great hero and leader. The 19th century poet John Greenleaf Whittier even wrote a poem about the councilman’s resolve, noting how “simple duty hath no place for fear.”
Historians later determined that the darkness was the result of extensive forest fires in Ontario, Canada, which the wind had blown south into New England.
Should we plan for tomorrow?
This brings me to my answer to the young man. If the end is near, should we carry on with our daily business? Should we make wise financial decisions about the future? Or should we simply hunker down with our families, preparing for the apocalypse and awaiting Christ’s return?
I believe we should follow the example set by Abraham Davenport. When Christ returns, “I choose to be found doing my duty.”
In other words, hope for Christ’s return, but do the right thing today. Live as if you will experience a full life on earth. Go to school. Get married. Have children. Spend wisely and save responsibly. Contribute to your 401(k) or otherwise plan for retirement.
Live your life for the honor and glory of God. Do your duty—but do it with a constant awareness that the Day of the Lord may arrive at any moment, like a thief in the night.