This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 17:28-35. These verses describe the return of Jesus, but almost every teaching about them teaches the wrong things. It is not about rapture but how we live our lives, day-to-day, and where our hearts are focused.
28 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.
30 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”
I’ve heard countless sermons by preachers on these verses, mostly on the radio or end-times religious TV fundamentalists, using these verses as a scare tactic to save unbelievers. Some people have made quite a good living doing so, such as the author of the “Left Behind” books. With so much focus on being raptured, I fear that many people may miss the really important messages being conveyed here. Keep in mind, there are many verses about the 2nd coming of Christ, but the word rapture is never used in the Bible.
No one knows for sure how exactly the end of times will happen, or all of the world events that will proceed it. Why is this a mystery? It is a mystery because God chose it to be. Not all mysteries have to be solved; some things are just plain mysteries. This is a challenge for many people to accept, because humans love to solve mysteries and puzzles. Millions of people are captured by mystery novels, soduko, and problem solving video games. We are curious people, for that is the way God made us. However, even Jesus doesn’t know the day or hour (Mark 13:32). There is a reason God keeps this a secret–he wants us to focus on other things instead, such as not waiting to change our lives and prepare our hearts!
The challenge we have when we read 2nd coming types of verses is to think that stewardship doesn’t matter since everything will be destroyed and will be made new (Revelations 21:1-4). This is the error I fear for my fellow believers who have heard too many end-times teachings, and who think nothing material in life has value–only the spiritual life and the coming Kingdom. Luke 17:28-35 addresses this ignorance head on.
There are certain key Bible verses to remember to solve the mystery of how temporal and eternal fit together:
- Mankind was set up to steward over the earth: Genesis 1:26-30
- Our stewardship over all things, including materials in our care, has eternal ramifications: Matthew 25:14-28
- Believers will rule with Christ in the new coming Kingdom: Revelation 20:4
- People’s eventual rewards may somewhat be affected by their present stewardship, the way they behave with money and possessions, and how they deal with the poor: Matthew 6:19-21, Proverbs 19:17
- Our lives don’t consist of our material possessions: Luke 12:15
Luke 17:28-35 is a natural extension of these verses. It is telling us that when Jesus returns (“when the son of man is revealed”), it will be a surprise. No one will know the moment before, for we will be going about life “eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building.”
That will be a strange day; we will leave everything behind, and we can’t take our nice homes and cars with us. We can’t take our careers with us. Our country, country club, and clubwear designer clothes will be left behind. You will not be able to take your present life with you at all (Luke 17:33). We are to be good stewards up until the day we leave, and we will have to give an account, but Jesus is warning us not to put too much value in things. He is warning us today that even though he values our stewardship, budgeting, saving, debt avoidance and generosity (and it has eternal importance), when the trumpet calls, we must not put too much value in the things of our present life. Then we won’t yearn for it “like Lot’s wife,” (v. 33) because we can’t take anything with us when he calls us home (Job 1:21).
Our yearnings instead should be for the coming Kingdom, and we will gladly leave those things behind for we didn’t love our life, money, our possessions and everything else. We will rejoice when we see Jesus coming to us (Revelation 1:7), our first love (Revelation 2:4), our only main focus of our affection and love (Matthew 6:24), and will run joyfully to him, leaving behind our prior lives. No one knows the time of His return, or our death, but with this mindset we live each day with a focus on loving Jesus.
*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fifty-first post in this series.