by Franklin L. Kirksey
The conclusion of the whole matter is the true bottom line. In accounting, the bottom line is reached when all expenses have been subtracted from all income. Understanding the means required to achieve a desired end and accepting the relationship of cause and effect is essential to arriving at the true bottom line. We must consider the conclusion of the whole matter in life, in death, and in eternity.
Initially you can ask, "How will I be regarded in life?" It's wonderful to have a good reputation, but it must be rooted in reality. For example, the Pharisees had a reputation of being godly, but our Lord referred to them as "whitewashed tombs, full of dead men's bones." They were concerned about cleaning the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they were filthy. They had "a form of godliness but [denied] its power" (2 Tim. 3:5).
Reputation is what people think about you, but character is what God knows about you. "The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7b). As Adrian Rogers, pastor emeritus of Bellevue Baptist Church, put it: "When you turn the lights off, the character shows up." Character is what you are when no one is looking. It has been said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time. You can fool all of the people some of the time. But you can't fool God any time."
Also, we should ask: "How will I be remembered in death?" Will you be remembered as a blessing or as a blight on society? Max Jukes and Jonathan Edwards present a study in contrast. Max Jukes became an atheistic alcoholic adulterer and Jonathan Edwards became a revival preacher, theological professor, and college president. It is interesting to trace the descendants of these two men to see how much Jukes and his descendants cost society and how much Edwards and his descendants contributed to society.
We remember Judas Iscariot as a betrayer, Benedict Arnold as a traitor, and Cain as a murderer. In contrast, the memory of Abel is still a blessing. According to Proverbs 10:7, "The memory of the righteous will be a blessing."
Finally, we must ask: "How will I be received in eternity?" Will I receive retribution in hell or reward in heaven? Jesus will say to some who profess religion: "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" (Matt. 7:21-23).
Peter exhorts believers: "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:10-11). Likewise, Paul admonishes believers to "Study [be diligent] to show yourself approved before God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).
If you are a believer, you will either hear Jesus say, "Well done good and faithful servant" (Matt. 25:21), or you will be "saved, yet so as through fire" (1Cor. 3:15).
Solomon presents the true bottom line in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14: "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil."