Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth,
where moths and vermin destroy...
Some people refuse to embrace the future, a sad, regrettable choice. I still remember reading about a woman who lived in destitute conditions, picking up clothes at the Salvation Army, begging door-to-door for food, and finally wasting away at a nursing home as a pitiful, emaciated shadow. But after her death, authorities discovered she had left behind more than a million dollars, including $800,000 in cash and several hundred shares of valuable stock, stored in two safety deposit boxes.
Though a much smaller nest egg, another example of failing to live with an eye on the future comes from a bequest made to Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) more than two decades ago. It involved the estate of John Duncan, a man who did not trust the government or banks. When he could not persuade his friend, Bob Lotz, to take $8,000 of the cash he had accumulated, he declared he would bury the money and did not care if it was ever found.
When Duncan – who had never married – died, he left BCH all his possessions. Appointed the
estate’s executor, Lotz spent more than a year looking for them. True to his word, Duncan had squirreled away his cash. The only easy find was $46.45, which Lotz located the day of his friend’s death. From there, he started removing doors, window trim and electrical wall outlet plates, and searching every nook imaginable. Three days later he found more than $2,000 beneath a potato bin. Then he returned a few days a week for months, usually leaving empty-handed. Finally, frustrated that he had not located the main cache, Lotz prayed, “Look, God, you know I’m honest. I tried looking. I’m tired of looking. I shouldn’t have to go through all this. Please let me find the money. You know I’ll turn every cent in; it’s for a good cause.”
On his next excursion into the woodshed, he noticed a plastic medicine tube against the foundation and a Wheaties box containing $1,580. He returned to the pump house, studying the thick concrete walls and removing the roof. This time he found four plastic bags with a total of $7,000. A couple of months later he found eighteen $100 bills in a peanut butter jar in a hog house. In the rafters above was a tobacco tin with seven more. Total cash discoveries came to just over $13,000.
Though these are extreme examples, it is too easy to cluck, “What fools!” while overlooking the
ways in which we cling to fear. Is choosing “stability” actually casting a vote for boredom? Or “prudently” piling up ever-larger retirement accounts in reality dreading that some old-age disease will suck away our life savings? Is a refusal to share with those who are less fortunate a reflection that we do not think there will be any more to replace what we give away? Only you can answer these questions truthfully as you search your heart.
What these stories show is that some enjoy life. Others endure it. In which category do you fall?
Truthfully, all of us are seeking direction. Most of us need help at one time or another during our lives. All of us have missed intersections and have taken wrong turns. Fortunately, we have not been left on our own to deal with life’s unexpected wrinkles. We have two precious resources to help guide our steps.
The first is experience. We do not have to plow fresh ground constantly. We can stand on
our predecessors’ shoulders. Each generation does not have to discover anew the law of gravity, invent the light bulb, or design engines from scratch. And, in a broader sense, the lessons of history are there to speak to us – if we will listen.
But experience is not enough. We also need expectation. Though we can recall the past, we
must be able to anticipate the future. We spend numerous years getting educated in hopes of
finding a good job. We follow a diet for weeks or months, keeping our eye on a trimmer figure. We spend hours at the keyboard, harvesting excellence at the piano. The effort is worth it because of expectation. Take that away and the present would lock us up in a blue funk.
Everyone needs to find something in life to look forward to, to anticipate. We make a mistake
if we think it has to be a trip to the Bahamas or a vacation in Hawaii. It could be welcoming home a child from college or watching a grandchild march in the homecoming parade. We all need to learn to find value in anticipating small events and learn how to make them special.
Michael C. Blackwell leads the ministry with vigor and enthusiasm. He has served as president of Baptist Children’s Homes since 1983 and has a record-setting 31-year tenure.