I really wasn't going to jump on the Harold Camping bandwagon, but I've been thinking about something my pastor, Eric Simmons, said on Sunday. In helping us process the controversy around Camping, Eric provided a broader perspective, which tempered my own (impatient) reaction to Camping's claims.
Of course Camping was (and still is) in great error and should be held accountable for his false prophecies that directly contradict Jesus' own words in Scripture (Matthew 24:36, 24:44 and 25:13; Luke 12:40, etc.). Yet there's also a responsibility that we bear as followers of Christ (not followers of particular human leaders) to know God's Word for ourselves. But as Eric pointed out, it's far more common for Christians to live as though Jesus isn't coming back anytime soon. Camping's false prophecy just highlights the errors on both sides.
That made me think hard. People who believed Camping's false predictions in 1988, 1994, and 2011 made some rash decisions and changed their lives dramatically in response to Camping's predictions. But is this what the Bible expects of us? As I study Matthew 25, and in particular the parable of the talents, I see exactly the opposite. We are always to be investing what has been given to us in order to be fruitful for the glory of God. Since we do not know when the Master will return, we aren't to live in a state of suspended animation -- giving away all we have and standing on a mountain top in white robes, awaiting Jesus. (See: Millerites. Interestingly, Camping is following the same recalculation model of William Miller.) We are to be busy multiplying all that we have, but for the glory of His name, not ours.
If I have to give an account of all that I have, do, and say in an hour I least expect ... am I ready? Have I squandered relationships, resources, spiritual gifts, and time? Or have I invested them? Do I denigrate what I've received because I covet something else? Do I judge God as a harsh taskmaster and do nothing with what I have because I deem it inferior in comparison to what I want (Matthew 25:24-25)?
If you want to prepare for the return of Jesus, then you should be busy multiplying what He's given you here and now with integrity and honor. Invest in your families, your church, your friends, your community. Be a wise steward of the money, time, and health that you have. Know that no matter how much or how little you have of anything, you can invest it and see a great return by the grace of God. And for that effort, Jesus promises you will not hear the dreaded words, "Depart from me." Instead you will hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Could our Savior's pleasure at our faithfulness be eclipsed by anything else here on earth? If so, here's a hard truth: we are living just as foolishly as Camping and his followers, and making just as much of a mockery of God and the gospel. Ouch. Time to prayerfully review my priorities...
(Photo: I saw this sign on a rainy road trip last week.)