Image from The 11th Hour
I know, it's been awhile since my last Spiritual Sunday! But don't worry, things are still spiritual around here, there's just not always time to get all my deep thoughts down on paper.
This week there is something I wanted to share because it's been on my mind ever since I read it. This may come as a surprise to you, but did you know that the scriptures contain a complete financial plan? I stumbled upon it in my reading in Matthew. It is contained in Matthew chapter 25. Now, I know that there are many ways to interpret scripture, but for me, this chapter, with the parables of the ten virgins and the talents, perfectly set out a course for financial planning.
First, we come to the parable of the ten virgins. In this parable, there are ten virgins who are waiting, lamps lit, for the bridegroom to come. The scripture tells us that:
"...five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil in their vessels with their lamps."
The wise virgins, however, came prepared, and when the bridegroom came they were ready and able to enter into the marriage. The foolish virgins were left outside mourning their lack of preparation for the event.
When I read this again recently, I couldn't help but think of financial preparation. How many people there are who are being shut out from joy in their lives because they have lost their income, and were completely unprepared because they failed to secure their financial situation with sufficient savings? This parable shows us that we don't know how or when life's events may happen, whether it be the coming of the Son of God or personal crisis. We must prepare, so that when the storms of life come, we are ready and our lamps are filled so that we can see them through with confidence.
The next parable in this chapter tells of the talents, a story in which a master gives each of his servants a certain amount of money, measured in "talents." He gives the first one five, the next two, and the third one, "to every man according to his several ability..." Upon returning from his journey, the master checks in with these servants to see what they have made of their earnings. The first two servants were able to double their money and earned it back again. The third, however, "went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money."
Long story short, the master praised the first two for making more out of what they were given, and he rewarded them with a sort of promotion. The third, however, was reprimanded and his talent was taken away, the master telling him,
"For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." (v.29)
From this part of the story we learn that just squirreling away our money is not enough. We should work, within reason, to make more of what we are given, both financially and with our material possessions. That includes making smart investment choices, furthering our education to increase our employability, and using our creativity to stretch our dollars. We should be both conscious and grateful for what we have, otherwise, we will lose it.
The third and final part of this chapter, verses 35 through 46, talk about loving and serving our fellow men, as Christ says, "For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in." What the Lord is saying here can really be summed up by one verse, verse 40:
"...Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
This final financial lesson is possibly the most important of all: we cannot expect to succeed when those around us suffer. We must help and lift up our fellow man; we must give of our financial and material means unto others, or we will not prosper.
"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matt 22:37-40)
The whole chapter can be broken down into the three basic steps of the Lord's financial plan:
1. Save for a rainy day, and don't live beyond your means
2. Appreciate what you have, and do your best to increase what you've been given by being creative and managing it wisely.
3. Give unto others, and serve your fellow man as if they were Christ Himself.
I am grateful to the Lord for giving us such clear and precise steps to financial security, and I hope and pray that I can follow them. This chapter in Matthew was yet another testament to me that even scriptures written thousands of years ago can still apply to our lives today, and that the word of God is for us, now, to help us with our day-to-day struggles, whether they be spiritual, emotional, or even financial. May we all follow His plan that we might be prepared, make the most of what we are given, and strive to always give unto others.
To learn more about what I believe as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please visit www.mormon.org.