Long-Term Planning

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Every new morning is a new beginning of our life. Every day is a completed whole. The present day should be the boundary of our care and striving (Matthew 6:34; James 4:14). It is long enough for us to find or lose God, to keep the faith or fall into sin and shame.” I find his words to be at once both inspiring and motivating.

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In the American culture in which I live, there is much emphasis on long-term planning. We plan for retirement and financial independence. We make 5, 10, even 20-year plans for our lives, all the while knowing Jesus called it foolishness as none of us has a guarantee of even tomorrow (Luke 12:13-21). It leads me to believe we as disciples of Jesus are getting it all wrong.

It’s easy to get sucked into cultural norms. We become like those with whom we spend the most time, so when everyone around us is focused on the long-term, it’s no wonder we have abandoned the short-term. But there is a beautiful simplicity to the attitude Bonhoeffer proposes. What if we genuinely limited our focus to the day ahead of us? How much stress would drop from our backs if we no longer worried about tomorrow? What outrageous acts might we attempt on God’s behalf to further His mission?

I can hear an immediate objection to this idea, citing it as being cavalier and irresponsible. For how many years has the mantra of long-term planning been drummed into our minds? When considering it, I found it interesting to not find much Biblical precedence for long-term planning. Sure, God is the master of long-term planning, but since He exists outside of time, He is also the Master of the little moments. When looking at pure flesh and blood individuals, there are few examples of long-term planning. What you do find is obedience right now. You find long-term blessings resulting from short-term obedience. It’s a different take from our “plan for the long-term so we can enjoy blessings later” way of thinking.

There is wisdom in planning for the long-term. I am not advocating abandoning your 401(k) or other investments. I’m not saying you should never plan. What I am suggesting is we take a step back and look at it through the lens of Scripture.

We have competing stories in the New Testament. In one, Jesus says no man would begin to build a tower without first counting the cost (Luke 14:28-30). But I think Jesus is demonstrating the human side of things. He’s saying, of course a man will plan before beginning; that’s what men do because they want guaranteed outcomes. The other side of the coin is a more spiritual story. When Jesus called the man a fool for hoarding wealth for the future because He could die tomorrow, He was showing the futility of our human plans (Luke 12:13-21).

I think we all need to consider Bonhoeffer’s admonition and practice concerning ourselves with today alone. What changes might such an attitude yield in our lives? How much more freed up would we be to serve the Kingdom? I’m certain there’s a balance there somewhere, but I’m just as certain it’s going to lean to keeping our focus on this day of our life (Matthew 6:25-34).