Why are some countries better than others about saving money? This question has irked economists for decades. The Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Scandinavians are careful about putting money away for the future. Brits and Americans, on the other hand, hardly save at all.
Recent research indicates that the language one speaks is an indicator of savings habits. Why is this? Seemingly, it is because some languages, like Chinese, do not distinguish between the future and the present. In contrast, the English language forces a person to make a sharp division between what will be and what is.
So what difference does this make? A recent experiment will help to clarify. A researcher observed a company as employees were interviewed about how much money they wanted to invest in their pension fund. As one set of employees were interviewed, there was a current photo of them at the top right corner of a questionnaire on the desk. For a second set of employees, there was an aged photo, showing their likely appearance at the time of retirement. The results are as you would expect. The second group was much more interested in investing money than the first group. Why? The answer is because they could see the link between the future and the present.
Now what is the relevance of this for Christians? One of the greatest threats a Christian faces each day is not recognizing the link between the future and the present. If we lose sight of eternity, we begin to waste the present moment. Pleasure, comfort, and selfish ambition steal our time and temper our spiritual zeal, leaving us with a lifestyle, which – while rewarding in the moment – is without value before God.
How do we overcome this danger? The answer is by erasing the line in our thinking between the future and the present. This is what Paul is constantly exhorting us to do. In I Cor. 15:58 he encourages us that our present work is not in vain. He wants us to see that there are eternal rewards for a carefully invested life. In 2 Cor. 4:16-18 Paul has us imagine that our inward man is already being renewed day by day and that our current affliction is an investment in eternal glory. In Col. 3:1 Paul declares that that we have already been raised with Christ and gives the startling teaching that our present life is found in Christ, not in the world.
Example could be piled on example, but the point is clear: the key to the Christian life is a future-present mindset. It is only the degree to which we recognise the link between the present moment and eternal life that we will be willing to resist the immediate rewards of pleasure and comfort, anticipating – and therefore investing in – the glory yet to be revealed.