On the grounds that it never did me any harm, I sometimes force our children round
a stately home. Recently we were in Bodnant Gardens in North Wales. And what is
amazing is the utter confidence of the families who built the place. They laid down parks,
water features and avenues of trees, knowing that they would never live to see the garden
completed. It would take 200 years for the oak trees they planted to reach maturity.
But that didn’t put them off – they knew that their children, or grandchildren or great
grandchildren would still own it and would appreciate their foresight. This long term vision
is only possible when you have utter confidence, not in yourself but in your family, and in
the social structures that surround you. Putting it bluntly, if you are very wealthy and very
powerful you can plan a hundred years ahead.
If you are a little less wealthy and powerful, you can probably look twenty or thirty years
ahead. This is what many people do today. They plan for retirement: pension plans, nest
eggs, cruise money. Maybe some money for the kids, so they can put a deposit on a
In our disadvantaged area people don’t save for pensions or retirement. The financial
horizon is much closer – maybe saving for the Christmas hamper, or a holiday next year.
If the books are balanced, it is week by week or month by month. Some others have an
even closer horizon – today’s fix, the next meal, enough to pay off the debt collector. Hand
to mouth, getting by. It seems to me that the distance to your financial horizon is a good
measure of your confidence, wealth and power.
Where does godliness come in? I’m constantly challenged by the generosity of many in
our area. And I think their financial horizon partly explains it. There is less saving going
on. Less worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have enough worries of its own. People
who are saving for retirement soon find an infinite number of good reasons to keep more
of their wealth today – economic uncertainty, growing aspirations, more things to leave
for the kids. The wise storing of the ant morphs, unnoticed, into the rich fool’s bigger
and bigger barns. This is the danger of wealth that the Lord Jesus spoke of, frequently.
So what is a godly financial horizon? The short answer is “eternity”. This is what we
are to learn from the shrewd manager in Luke 16: have an eye on eternal dwellings
as you use your money. It’s just that people who have less of it find it easier to do.