Most heresies consist of a truth taken to an extreme or misapplied. One teaching of Jesus possessing the potential for this type of abuse is found in His instruction in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34 ESV)
Jesus is teaching that we should not worry about tomorrow, but He is not negating the need to plan for tomorrow or to consider the impact of today’s behaviors on the future. In Proverbs we are instructed to discipline ourselves at planting time so that we will have something to eat when harvest time comes. Frequently Scripture teaches us to consider the consequences of today’s actions on the future, warning that failure to do so will lead to disaster.
One such passage is provided for us by Jeremiah, prophesying at the point in Judah’s history when the Babylonians were about to conquer Jerusalem, an event during which thousands were slaughtered and most of the rest were carried off as slaves. The Babylonians broke down the wall, burned the city, including the temple, and took all of its riches.
Jeremiah identified the reason for this outcome in Lamentations 1:9: “She took no thought of her future; therefore her fall is terrible.” He had warned the nation repeatedly for decades that if they did not repent and recommit themselves to the Lord and His righteousness this would be their fate. Yet, they failed to take seriously the future consequences of their present actions.
Disregarding the future impact of one’s lifestyle has been embraced as a rule of life by America beginning in the sixties, when we adopted the philosophy of the “now generation.” Norman Mailer, a leading literary light of the movement expressed the rationale for ignoring the consequences of our actions by describing life as:
… a changing reality whose laws are remade at each instant by everything living, but most particularly man, man raised to a neo-medieval summit where the truth is not what one has felt yesterday or what one expects to feel tomorrow but rather truth is no more or no less than what one feels at each instant in the perpetual climax of the present.
In essence, Mailer is asserting that reality is totally unstable, that no laws govern the universe, and therefore tomorrow’s world is totally disconnected with one’s behaviors today.
Of course, life does not offer a direct connection between today’s behavior and tomorrow’s results, as any investment commercial is required to tell you. However, Scripture and experience both teach us that a strong connection exists. I love the concept adopted by Jerry Rice: “Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.” His record-breaking career demonstrates the existence of a vital connection between today’s performance and tomorrow’s results. Likewise, from the negative perspective, taking drugs today places tomorrow at high risk.
Therefore, both Scripture and experience show Mailer and the hippie perspective to be clearly erroneous and dangerous. Our society has nonetheless adopted it because of its powerful attraction. Human nature has always craved immediate gratification, and therefore an approach to life espousing it as a major principle presents an offer too appealing to refuse.
We saw this principle at work on a personal level during the hippie era with the prevalence of drugs and promiscuous sex, practices that opt for immediate gratification without regard for long-term consequences. These trends continue and proliferate today. This philosophy also manifests itself in overeating, smoking, and other American societal trends.
Perhaps more dangerous, we see government employing this disregard for future outcomes in its unsustainable spending. Very few elected officials seem to wonder or care about the impact of this practice on our children. We have also watched this indifference regarding the future at play in the government’s uncontrolled growth and its permitting of unbridled illegal immigration.
We might assume that the brilliant people in Washington really have thought about the future and have a game plan to care for the consequences of their actions that is unknown to us, one perhaps that we are just not smart enough to understand. That this is not the case has been graphically displayed in the current perplexity regarding what to do now that North Korea has nuclear weapons and a delivery system. For years we have “negotiated” with them as they developed these capabilities, seeming oblivious to the future inevitable outcome. However, now we are confronted with the disastrous results only to discover that past administrations had no plan to deal with this situation. As the rulers in Jeremiah’s day, they gave “no thought to the future,” caring only about “peace in our times.” Even more disconcerting are the initiatives taken by the Obama administration to enable Iran to develop the same capability.
We can take some encouragement that President Trump is seeking to deal with these issues, showing the concern for tomorrow that has been missing in Washington for so long. The question is whether his efforts will be too little, too late, and whether he can overcome the opposition of the Washington insiders who still only display concern for the immediate moment.
Perhaps most troubling are indications that the evangelical church in America has adopted this same hippie perspective warned against by Jeremiah, the failure to consider the impact of present behaviors on the future. As our society becomes increasingly evil, as our nation becomes increasingly weaker, as America becomes increasingly more vulnerable in a hostile world, as our country increasingly qualifies to be recipients of the wrath of God, it would seem that the church would be assessing the danger toward which we are headed and committing extensive time to prayer each Sunday morning to plead for God’s mercy and guidance. It would seem that church leaders would be developing a strategy for functioning most effectively as salt and light in our society.
The absence of such responses, the failure of most evangelicals and their leaders to consider the precipice toward which we are heading and act accordingly, reveals that like the prophets and priests in Jeremiah’s time, they are taking the position that tomorrow will not come.
I’m betting that it will. If it does, it will bring the same result experienced by Judah, “Her fall is terrible.”