I remember as a child flipping through the toy flyers that came with the Sunday paper. I can still smell the glossy pages and cheap ink. As football played in the background I would spend an entire Sunday circling the items I soon hoped to buy. Money was no object, you see. Under my bed I had an old peanut butter jar full of dough. I was rich, and it was time to cash-in.
I’ll never forget the rainy afternoon I approached my Dad. Rain poured outside as he napped on his E-Z Boy. I informed him that I intended to purchase the item circled on page three. The toy? A battery powered jeep that was big enough for a kid to sit in and drive around the yard. It cost $349. As I handed my groggy Dad the flyer, he replied the same way he always did when I started sentences with “I want...”
“You got the money?” He asked.
“Of course.” I responded.
What happens next is my favorite part of the story. Dad could’ve waved me off. He could’ve bluntly told me that I had nowhere near enough money to purchase that plastic jeep. Instead, he said, seriously, and with a tinge of desperation in his voice,
“Bring it to me.”
I don’t know what was going on in his life back then, but I imagine with three kids and bills to pay it wasn’t always easy, and there was probably a place deep down inside that secretly hoped his seven-year-old had three hundred bucks to spare. Bless his heart.
I quickly ran to my room and returned with the jar. As I emptied the contents on the floor I explained to him that after all my counting, I officially had 411 coins. More than the 349 needed to buy the jeep. No, I do not know how I ever advanced to the 3rd grade.
Interest vs. Investment
Back then my financial approach was passive. I got money. I spent money. I did nothing for it. Money was meant to hold in a peanut butter jar. As birthdays passed and teeth were lost the amount in the jar would increase—but slowly. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I learned the power of investing.
Every fall my family held a yard sale and sold sodas and sandwiches out of an old camper. My parents offered me the chance to earn money by selling cans of pop. The problem was that to earn money I had to spend it. It took me a while for them to convince me to give up my $11.42 so they could buy the inventory. Why spend all my money on soda that I wouldn’t even be able to drink? In my immaturity I was selfish. Spending money in order to earn it seemed like a nasty trick. The irony was that my greed prevented me from receiving the very thing I was greedy for to begin with.
The Interest Attitude in Our Lives
It's easy to criticize a child for such immaturity, but how many of us make the same mistake in our own lives? How many of us have an interest attitude rather than an investment attitude? An interest attitude looks only to receive, never to give. It keeps all its wealth in a bank account so it can slowly, but safely, build wealth at .10% a year in interest. Like dimes dropped in a jar, instead of looking to what we can give to others we evaluate everything according to what it can give to us. We complain about our friends when they do something without us. We criticize our spouse when they fail to fit our idealized dreams. We leave our church when the music becomes boring or the preaching is no longer “relevant.” An interest attitude prefers what offers the most and requires the least.
This “interest” attitude is safe because it avoids risk. No one likes getting duped. We don’t buy her flowers because she might give us the cold shoulder later that night. We avoid helping our friends because we fear they might only like us for what we do for them. People by nature hate being tricked. Just like I feared my parents tricking me out of my peanut butter jar funds, we fear others taking advantage of our love, our concern, our attention. So, we avoid it, choosing an interest attitude that looks only to receive and never to give, like pennies that accrue in our bank account for no reason at all.
The Investment Attitude in Our Lives
But just like me and my peanut butter jar, the very things we want are often prevented by our selfishness for them. I didn’t want to give my parents my money because I wanted it for myself. What I didn’t realize was that buy giving it to them, I would have the opportunity to make even more money. Adults can be just as stubborn. A marriage consisting of two people only willing to receive love from the other is a loveless marriage. A church full of people only content to be passively entertained is a room full of folks staring at a wall.
God does not call us to a life of interest. He calls us to a life of investment.
We should not have the attitude of a man who hides his fortune in a savings account, sitting idly by each day watching the pennies add up in interest (Matt. 25:14-30). We must take what God has offered and invest it in others. We can do so because we trust the Giver of the funds and believe that they will not return void when used for others (1 Peter 4:10). We can give our time because we know that it is God’s time. We can give our love because we know that it is God’s love. This is not a health and wealth philosophy that promises fortune for those who serve Him. It is a growth philosophy that offers effectiveness for those who embrace it.
When Paul instructed Titus on leading effective change in the church in Crete, he did not just call for people to do good. Paul challenged the church in Crete to do good and invest what they have learned in others.
"Likewise teach the younger women... likewise teach the younger men..." Titus 2:3-8
Christians can have all the passion in the world. But, if they do not invest it in others the passion dies with the person. A church can be on fire for a vision, but without the commitment to invest that vision into others it remains just words on a website.
Investment Leads to Impact
Investment leads to impact. As Christians, we can post as many cute verses on social media as we want. We can sing as loudly in church as we please. But until that passion is funneled into real time, energy, and emotion spent on others, that passion will dim like the lights on the stage. It’s scary. It requires sacrifice. But it matters. It forges passionate marriages and vibrant churches. It generates life-changing Bible studies and faithful families. It changes lives.
The world tells us to never invest. To only take. To accrue from others. It urges us to play it safe. "Don’t be a better son, find a better family." "Don’t be a better wife, find a better husband." "Find a better church." "Find a better friend." "You deserve to be happy." But God says invest in your family. Invest in your spouse. Invest in your church. Because God has invested in you. Our peanut butter jars runneth over. Dump it on the carpet and invest it in others.
Resting in Him,