Guard Against Short-Term Thinking

This morning, I was re-reading some chapters in Isaiah and read about Hezekiah’s impending death (Isaiah 38). Isaiah tells Hezekiah, who was ill at the time, that his time is up and that he won’t recover from his illness. After Isaiah leaves, Hezekiah prays. God sends Isaiah back to Hezekiah with news that God heard his prayers and cries and tells him that he’ll get 15 more years to live.

Some time after Hezekiah recovers, he does something really stupid. He welcomes foreign leaders into his kingdom and shows them everything, including his armory. Afterward, Hezekiah receives another visit from the prophet Isaiah, who informs him …

Days are coming when all that is in your house, which your ancestors have stored up until this day, will be carried to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. Some of your sons, your own descendants whom you fathered, will be taken to become eunuchs in the king of Babylon’s palace. (Isaiah 39.6-7, CEB)

Hezekiah’s response?

‘The LORD’s word that you delivered is good,’ since he thought, That means there will be peace and security in my lifetime. (Isaiah 39.8, CEB)

Because of Hezekiah’s poor judgment, God’s people would suffer in Babylonian captivity. But Hezekiah doesn’t mind because that will happen long after he’s gone!

Leaders must guard against short-term thinking and think long term. It’s easy to take short cuts to avoid paying a higher price. This is a challenge for United Methodist pastors, who tend to move from church to church every few years. If something needs to be done, but the payoff is years down the road, why bother? Or if there’s a problem that needs addressed, just let the next pastor deal with it. That’s short term (not to mention selfish) thinking.

A few years ago, I remember reflecting on Abraham, the father of the faithful. I thought about the fact that virtually of Abraham’s descendants came after his lifetime. While Abraham heard God tell him that he would have countless descendants, he never saw it. What if that’s true for us, too, that our greatest fruit will come after our lifetimes? Shouldn’t we live with the long view?

I’ve always loved Hebrews 11.13-16. After talking about the great faith of our spiritual ancestors, the writer states …

All of these people died in faith without receiving the promises, but they saw the promises from a distance and welcomed them. They confessed that they were strangers and immigrants on earth. People who say this kind of thing make it clear that they are looking for a homeland. If they had been thinking about the country that they had left, they would have had the opportunity to return to it. But at this point in time, they are longing for a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God isn’t ashamed to be called their God—he has prepared a city for them.

They lived their lives always moving forward.

If leaders are really committed to God’s mission, we will do what’s best, not what’s easiest, even if it means paying a higher price in the short term!

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