I once sat on a board panel that was interviewing candidates for full Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) scholarships, a full ride that would pay for all tuition, fees, and even books.  I was an ROTC cadet myself at the time, but I was in my senior year at that college and was one of the leaders of the ROTC detachment at my school, so I was asked to serve on the panel by the Army captain that was in charge of the ROTC program at our school.  As we were interviewing one particular scholarship candidate, we asked him a question that we had asked all the other candidates:  “Why are you interested in ROTC?”  He gave a completely honest answer that somewhat startled me.  He said, “I kind of like the idea of serving my 20 years and then going fishing for the rest of my life.”  Of course, I was looking for answers that addressed love of country, honor, desire to give something back, etc.  However, when we were later discussing the various candidates at the conclusion of the interviews, I was rather surprised that the captain did not judge the young man’s answer as harshly as I did.  In his greater experience and wisdom, he recognized that sometimes in youthful immaturity, our motives are not completely pure even when we are doing the right and honorable thing.

But this young man’s answer to that question gets to the heart of how we view retirement in this country.  I think most of us have at least some time in our lives thought about those golden years as being times of complete leisure with no responsibilities and no activity except what makes us happy such as going fishing.  It is a life of complete self-indulgence.  It is alright to want to have fun and to do such things at any time of our life, as we all need a break from time to time, but I think we need to be careful that our lives do not become lives of complete self-indulgence and dissipation without any contribution back to the world or to those around us.  I believe it is this very attitude of complete selfishness and unwillingness to give back that is at the heart of the Parable of the Rich Fool, Luke 12:13-21.  In the parable, the rich man has reaped tremendous riches in his life, and instead of using them to help bless other people, he builds himself huge storehouses to contain all his riches so that he can simply possess these things for his own indulgence to self.

I believe it is this selfish attitude that is at the heart of what appears to be an angry response from God as He says to the man, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?”  What was his great sin that angered God and caused a curtailing of his selfish life?  Jesus explained, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”  Of course, the question is, how can we be rich towards God?  What is it that God requires of us?  What makes God happy in our behavior or our actions while we are here on this earth?  The answer can be found in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:31-46.  In this parable, Jesus explains that, whenever we do things to meet the needs of those around us, in loving service to all those within our reach and capability, then it is as if we are doing these things for Jesus Himself, for God Himself.  This is how we can be “rich toward God.” 

Another passage that also explains the same principle is in Isaiah 58.  While the people of God are trying to please God with their fasting, He chastens them, saying that the actions that they should be taking in order to be pleasing in God’s sight is in loving service to the people around them.  God speaks to the people, saying, “Is this not the fast that I have chosen:  to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?   Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?”  It is in these actions to serve those around us that we become pleasing to God, that we become “rich toward God.”  Granted, there is nothing wrong with having a little fun and taking a break to rejuvenate our spirits, hearts, and minds, but our life should never become one of complete self-indulgence, giving nothing back to anyone around us, serving only self every hour of the day. 

I pray that you will understand your talents and spiritual gifts and will find opportunities to serve those around you, making yourself “rich towards God.” 

 


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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 

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