Monday, the market’s up. Tuesday, back down. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Repeat.
I’ve heard it said the best time to invest is when everyone else is running away screaming in panic that the sky is falling. The keen investor calmly wades through the crowd toward the remaining value and ends up with a great deal.
Why haven’t I heard anyone compare this to the role of the church investing in the kingdom of God? I’ve heard the standard “seek first the kingdom of God” and “store up treasures in heaven” as well as other prominent people saying their main form of investing is giving money to God’s work. Even Crown Financial Ministries, a group of people who have a pretty good grasp of finance, actively promote that “There is no greater investment than an investment into the Kingdom of God.” (www.crown.org) But where are all the financial advisors and investment workshops for kingdom investing telling people how to get the best rate of return? Are we supposed to believe that it’s okay to expect an 8% on our money, but nothing on our spiritual investments? Or is that just a way of letting ourselves off the hook for not measuring how our investments in the kingdom are paying off?
One of the greatest things I’ve seen in scripture is the way God works in his upside down kingdom. He usually takes things that most people see as lame, worthless, or downright diseased and pours into them. The guy who was paralyzed had an encounter with Jesus that allowed him to walk out after being carried in. The woman at the well who apparently had used up her value in society was given a new value from a conversation with Jesus. Jesus touched dirty lepers that all the uber-religious Jews would run away from and made them clean. Is it clear that the dirty, poor, diseased and neglected of that day were the ones God’s chosen people were running away from and Jesus ran toward to invest in his kingdom?
I bring all this up because some people say that getting in while the market is down is a great place to make a big investment for the long term. A lot of people are running away from decent things out of fear that they will get hurt. They fear tomorrow without thinking about the great things to come in the next fifty years.
I think the same is true in God’s kingdom.
A lot of people avoid investing in people because of the risk. Some just think about tomorrow without thinking about sustainable ministry. Many people don’t care about God’s work or are only looking for what they can get out of it right now. We might not normally describe our spiritual investments that way, but if I’m concerned about whether I got a good seat at church, or if the sermon ran too long, or if they didn’t worship God the way I prefer, or the service trip to Timbuktu sounds too expensive and dirty, or I don’t like to help poor people because they make me feel awkward, or I can’t see myself helping out a meth addict because they might flip out and stab me or take my money, then I’m doing the exact same thing as a pharisee.
I think there’s an “aha!” moment here where I realize that I’m the person I’m writing about. I don’t really look forward to the next meeting with a crazy person. I’m not interested in touching lepers. But I don’t think I have to be ready for that tomorrow. I can handle going to Guatemala in March to hug some orphans and deliver letters to them. I can handle interacting with my neighbors’ kid who doesn’t get the concept of personal space. And God will grow me into the person who can handle what he has for me down the road.
So I guess I think I should boil this down to my 4 Steps to Being a Full-Time Investor in God’s Kingdom:
1.) Invest in Yourself
I’ve read a lot of business books that say you can only expect your business or income to grow when you’re growing. I’ve also heard it said that you invest in what you know and like. I haven’t met too many people who didn’t at least like themselves a little so I figure this is a low-risk, high-return place to start. It’s never too late to improve God’s Kingdom by making yourself a better follower!
Questions I ask myself to make sure I am growing: Who am I becoming like? What am I reading/watching/listening to? What challenges me? What do I care about most?
Potential dividends: You may just end up following Jesus where he leads you… and look where that landed the first disciples.
2.) Give Money
It’s low-risk to give numbers or pieces of paper away and it can make a great impact in any quantity. There’s also a lot of great advice printed about this and how to do it in the #1 bestselling book of all time: the Bible.
Investing wisely: Am I giving willingly? Is this in line with how/where God is working right now? Is the current amount difficult for me or will I not even miss it? How could I give more? Is God multiplying the money gifts through the organization I’m giving to?
The payoff: Everything we have is given to us by God. So I can invest God’s money he gave me in things he blesses people for giving to. Find a stock that you can do that with! You can still do something that is very lucrative and fulfilling in the “work-world” while transferring that lucre into a Kingdom 401k. God often illuminates areas of our life that we cling to instead of him by showing us opportunities to let go of them. Money is a spotlight for that.
3.) Give Time (a.k.a. Sweat Equity)
Investing has it’s basic meaning in some cool Latin words that have to do with taking ownership or control. I know of no better way to do this than by getting my hands dirty and spending my valuable time doing the things that build the Kingdom brick by brick. It also frustrates me to no end if I expend a lot of physical effort and have nothing to show for it- thereby motivating me to learn quickly and invest wisely!
Input: It can be uncomfortable and possible physically dangerous.
Output: Human relationships that show God’s love in ways that are almost unexplainable!
So a lot of people would think it ridiculous to call prayer an investment in traditional terms, but go with me here. The kingdom is not necessarily physical. There’s a passage in Revelation that talks about the prayers of the people being stored up in a huge bowl. Later it says that prayers went up to God along with the incense from an angel’s censer just before the angel threw down some God-sized stuff. So God’s got this prayer bank that we put ours in to be combined with all the other believers to “fund” God’s work on earth. Cool!
Prayer in: We can do this whenever and wherever. No limits.
Prayer out: God directs the action at the right time in the right place. We get clued into this as it’s happening and have the opportunity to participate! I don’t know any entrepreneur who wouldn’t get excited about knowing the right market to get into at the exact time it explodes…
IF this has stirred something in you and you feel like getting more info on partnering with us as we invest in the Kingdom, feel free to email us at: nate and firstname.lastname@example.org (no spaces between our names) and we’ll be more than glad to discuss ways to pray for us, give time & money, and invest in yourself!
Here’s to filthy rich returns where moth and rust don’t destroy!