Investing for the Future

I’ve always been intrigued by investing…trying to develop an ideal portfolio that minimizes risk and maximizes return is fascinating to me.  There is no end to the number of financial pundits out there who, for a not-so-small fee, will manage your money promising sky high returns while assuring you that there is virtually no downside risk.  The Excel spreadsheets look so impressive on glossy paper, yet very, very few actually deliver on their promises consistently…that’s why virtually every investment solicitation you see contains some variation of the phrase, “Past results do not guarantee future profits.”  In other words, they have no idea how well or poorly they are going to do in the coming years and you, as the investor, bear all the risk.

What if I told you that there is one investment with an upside potential beyond your wildest dreams and absolutely no downside…guaranteed!  With this investment, there are no potential “black swan” events that could ever erode or destroy your principal.  There is absolutely no chance that you will be buying into a bubble that will soon burst quickly deflating your initial investment.  There are no accounting shenanigans, opaque newly developed financial “instruments”, or Madoff style investment managers who can deceitfully transfer your investment into their own coffers.   And even if the world were to melt away, your investment will still be secure and continue to provide you with a return…forever!  Are you skeptical?  You should be, because no earthly investment instrument or manager can deliver on those promises. Even if you decided to invest your savings in a FDIC insured bank account earning .25% you assume a high risk that inflation will slowly eat away at your savings buying power.  There is no such thing as a guaranteed risk-free return with no downside on this side of eternity.

Yet, a “too-good-to-be-true” investment does exist in reality and the Lord describes it in several places.  In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord states several times that rewards, even “great” rewards, await those of us who are more invested in living out our relationship with Jesus than in human accolades, prestige, or earthly wealth (Matt. 5:11&12; 6:4,6,18) and you will find NO disclaimer at the end of the Sermon on the Mount stating, “Past investment results with the Lord do not guarantee future rewards.”    In fact, when we “invest” our lives and our resources in this way our rewards are 100% secure and guaranteed! (Matt. 6:20)  We also see in I Timothy 6:18&19, Paul telling his young protégé to urge those who have been blessed with material resources to be rich in good deeds, generous, and willing to share thus storing up “treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age”.  How interesting it is to ponder the fact that our present use of material resources can influence the “foundation” of our experience of eternal life.

In a recent adult Sunday School class, we considered what these “rewards” actually will look like in eternity.  However, given the dearth of solid biblical evidence as to the nature of these rewards, we must generally remain content with speculation. (If you are interested in delving deeper into the nature of our eternal state, I highly recommend Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven ) However, I do believe at least one reward of using our resources for eternal purposes is clearly described in the Word.  Since I taught the parable of the Shrewd Manager in Luke 16 in early January, the Lord has repeatedly been bringing this “reward” to my mind.  In verse 19, the Lord gives the application of this parable to his disciples when he says, “And I tell you (a phrase used to strongly emphasize what would immediately follow), make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails (not “if” it fails!) they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”  As I have meditated on this verse I have realized that the size and the joy of our reception into heaven will be influenced by how well we have used the earthly “unrighteous wealth” entrusted to us to make eternal friends.

I don’t know about you, but I love homecomings.  When I have been away from my family for a period of time, it’s a great feeling to be mobbed at the door with the hugs and kisses of my wife and kids and to hear the pathetic whining of our schnauzer, Shona, as she awaits a greeting from me.  The Scriptures tell us that we believers are not at home at present (we are “aliens and strangers” – I Peter 2:11) and we are all groaning for our home in eternity according to Romans 8:23 (the older I get the more I groan!).  As we travel as aliens (citizens of another “country” – Phil 3:20) through this life, we get tired of the spiritual equivalent of sleeping fitfully on mattresses that are either too soft or too hard, eating fast food, being surrounded by strangers that don’t really know us, and getting lost in places we don’t know well.

How I long to finally turn the handle of my eternal dwelling and be welcomed home at last.  How great our joy will be when we are welcomed by our “family” which includes those “friends” we have been fortunate enough to make through the sharing of our earthly wealth! Your welcoming party may include natives from across the globe that you touched through supporting a missionary;  a single mom that you helped with a mortgage payment or medical bill;  a former addict that you helped through a rescue mission;  an orphan from India that you supported through the childhood years;  a neighbor across the street that you provided for during a time of unemployment;  a woman or man that would have been aborted had you not supported a crisis pregnancy center;  numerous people from a village that you helped provide with food and clean water;  a child you adopted using resources that could have been spent on some personal item; a young woman you helped rescue from human trafficking; a widow that you faithfully supplied with food when she was all alone; a native evangelist that you provided with education and training; etc. etc.  And the great thing is, these friends will literally be friends for eternity…how awesome will that be?!

Since I have been pondering this “reward” or “spiritual return on investment”, I have begun to think of the “opportunity cost” of the stuff I buy.  Those who want us to plan well for our retirement years often will show the “opportunity cost” of spending $15,000 on a fancy watch or new car instead of investing that money for our future years.  If someone is 25 years old that initial $15,000 would be worth $224,616 at age 65 if the money was invested for retirement at 7% per year.  When you think of a watch actually costing you close to a quarter of a million dollars, it makes you a bit more hesitant to just put it on your Visa!    In a similar way, I have tried to imagine the great eternal returns yet to come as I look at buying more stuff here and now.   Is this thing that I am currently longing for really necessary?   How could I spiritually invest those resources? Will this material thing provide me with more joy than the potential of an eternal friendship?

It is so easy to be lured into the materialism of our culture.  The advertising/marketing professionals make sure we are not long satisfied with our current stuff.  It is a rare person that doesn’t feel the tug of new/nice/cool/beautiful/fast stuff.  Yet, we need to remember that in the long run what is new will soon become old, the nice will soon become worn, the cool will soon become dated, the beautiful will soon become faded, and the fast will soon become slow. (Remember your first computer?)

May Jesus Christ, our great Lord and Savior, who desires our lasting joy, give us the resources, the desire, and the will to invest our earthly, temporal possessions in ways that will make our final homecoming richly overflow with eternal friends!

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”   – Jesus