But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it (afterward)? [Luke 14:28, parenthesis added]

When on vacation, charging things to your room is an easy, stress-free luxury. No need to carry cash, credit cards, or even your wallet. Simply say, “Please charge this to my room.”

But afterward…

My wife and I recently enjoyed vacationing on one of Hawaii’s beautiful islands. Our resort offered extravagant amenities and pampering expected in such a setting. One such amenity allowed us to charge everything to our room – dining, shopping, tours and excursions, whatever we bought on the resort property could be charged to our room.

However, the carefree ability to charge things to the room clouded the “but afterward” of getting the bill when we checked out. Fortunately, we are financially responsible and our final bill was what we anticipated. However, I’ve heard horror stories of giddy spending sprees ending abruptly when faced with a staggering and unexpected bill.

With a career in banking, I understand the benefits and consequences associated with easy access to charging expenses, credit cards, and other means of delayed payment. If managed responsibly, the convenience comes in handy; if not managed responsibly, the consequences can be damaging for years to come. Prudent foresight removes the regret of hindsight.

Counting the Cost

One of Steven Covey’s mantras is, “Begin with the end in mind.” Jesus encouraged first counting the cost before starting an endeavor. Even Solomon warned against starting something before considering the end result.

Living life with a long-term “but afterward” approach seems more prudent than a carefree, spendthrift, short-term orientation. Willfully choosing to touch a hot stove brings with it the resulting pain or scar. Our God-given freedom to choose doesn’t save us from the results. All the more reason to make wise, unregrettable choices.

Even when we think we know how something will end or believe we will get our desired outcome, Solomon warns, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25). Failing to align our desires and choices with God’s moral standard might leave us staring at a “but afterward” bill too high to pay.

God, please keep me mindful of the “but afterward” on all my decisions. Help me live within the blessings and resources you provide. May I be a faithful steward who pleases You. Amen.

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