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Choose LIFO

October 11, 2021

But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:31

I took a course in law school called Accounting for Lawyers, which introduced me to the FILO and LIFO methods of accounting for business inventory.   FILO stands for First In, Last Out.  LIFO is an abbreviation for Last In, First Out.  These abbreviations occurred to me when Jesus said “But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:31).  In deciding who will be chosen for eternal life, Jesus said that those using LIFO will be given priority.  He said that those who are the least among us—those lacking in wealth, influence, and power on earth will be the first in line for the kingdom of God. They will be the first stringers, not the bench warmers, when it really counts. And vice versa—those who have put money, power, and prestige first during their lifetimes will be left on the bench. 

The Scripture texts for Sunday address the issue of wealth accumulation.[1]  Solomon writes, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income . . .  As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?” (Ecclesiastes 5: 10-11).  Note that Solomon says, “Whoever loves money . . .”   He does not say that the accumulation of wealth is a bad thing—but that the love of money is bad.  Instead of loving and hoarding money and possessions, many wealthy and powerful people use their money and influence to help those in need, and to benefit many laudable causes. 

This is the same point that Jesus is making when he tells the disciples, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10: 25).  As we discussed last week in the case of the rich young man, riches per se are not a barrier to eternal life, but the love of money is an obstacle to a real relationship with God now and after the curtain has closed on our time on earth.  

Both Solomon and Jesus emphasized how difficult it is for the wealthy to receive eternal life, because wealth is often a distraction from important kingdom work.  Some people are distracted by accumulating much more money than they could possibly need.  Others are distracted by the accumulation of real estate, jewels, or other possessions.  Scripture tells us that when a person is more excited about accumulating items than helping her fellow man, that is definitely a problem.  Remember, it was Solomon who said three thousand years ago: “As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?”(Eccelesiastes 5: 10-11).

Accounting is not just for lawyers and business people.  The author of Hebrews reminds us that we cannot hide our true motivations from God, and that we will all be held to account for our thoughts, attitudes and actions or lack thereof.  No amount of church-going or pious public praying will mask your true feelings from God: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4: 13).

We will all be held to account. Which method will you choose—life affirming LIFO—or FILO—first in, last out?  Do you want to be among the first drafts or sitting on the bench waiting to see if you will be chosen?  If your wealth has been a barrier to an on-going relationship with the living God, you can turn that around.  

But how do you choose LIFO if you have become distracted by acquiring material things and spending money on expensive nonessentials?  For one, you don’t let yourself get sucked into shopping for shopping’s sake.  There are better ways to spend your time and money.  Don’t get sucked into a mentality that you will never have enough clothes or money.  Don’t get lulled into thinking that more possessions will make you happier.  Don’t let your closet or possessions create a barrier between you and God.  Look around and find out where the need is and concentrate your efforts there.  You won’t have far to go.  

LIFO lives by the motto of God first, then family, then others.  Even if you have enormous wealth, if you humble yourself before God, and treat others as you would like to be treated, then you are well on your way to choosing LIFO.  

Give generously of your wealth, your time, your talents, and other resources to those with physical and spiritual needs in your home, community, and in the world at large.  Spend time in the Word.  Spend less time thinking about and listing your wants and desires and spend more time thinking about how you can help others.  Spend time with those who inspire and elevate your thoughts beyond your selfish wants.  Choose an eternity of love with the God of the universe over the accumulation of material goods.  You can’t take your possessions with you—they will only drag you down and away from the God who loves you fiercely.  Choose life.  Choose God.

Prayer:  Lord and giver of all life, we praise and thank you for your many blessings including life itself.  Help us to maintain a healthy balance between material things and spiritual blessings.  Lead us through faith to a generosity in stewardship as we grow to trust you more each day, and grow in our love for you and for our fellow man. Amen

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost are Ecclesiastes 5:10-20; Psalm 119:9-16; Hebrews 4:1-13 (14-16); and Mark 10:23-31. A similar version of this blog was published in October 2018.

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