I received a cheque in the mail this summer for $13.65. It took me a while to figure out where it actually came from. Turns out it was the final payout from a failed investment more than 10 years ago. I had invested $5000 in a fund that was actually a Ponzi scheme and ended up with $13.65 in my pocket.
by Rinus Janson, King's Fold Board Chair
Not exactly a fantastic return on the dollar. But it made me wonder about investments, especially in these uncertain economic times. How should I use the money I have? Where should I invest?
It turns out that Jesus—as if anticipating western, capitalist culture—had much to say about our attitude toward money and how we use it. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt.6:19-21). The first thing Jesus points out is that treasure on earth does not last, a statement that seems somewhat out-of-step with our culture. But years ago—back in my early youth pastor days—I remember taking a group of Jr. High boys to a BMW dealership, letting them sit in various models, most valued over $60,000. They were impressed. We then drove down the street to an auto wrecker and wandered around empty shells of what were once brand new cars. The lesson taught itself: These things will not last.
Instead Jesus challenges us to invest in “treasures in heaven” or, to clarify, things that hold lasting value. What are those things? Clearly not financial investments or the latest iPhone. Slowly I am realizing that what Jesus had in mind was investing in things that change the lives of people. Things like donating to the Food Bank or Opportunity International (an organization that provides micro-credit to people overseas). These investments are unlikely to yield monetary returns—indeed they are unlikely to yield anything that benefits me—which might actually be the point: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our use of money says a lot about our priorities. For example, I recently bought a mountain bike from a guy who literally had five such bikes hanging in his garage… not one of which was under $2000. Clearly mountain biking was a priority.
So let me offer a few practical suggestions: (1) I am not suggesting that buying things for ourselves is wrong. But I am wondering how to move away from this being my focus. Over the past few years I have been experimenting with giving away as much as I spend on myself. This is relatively easy when I buy a $4 latté; quite a lot harder when I buy a $600 ping pong table. But this practice forces me to pause before I buy something (not a bad thing) and keeps kingdom priorities before me (a good thing). And (2) Donating to King’s Fold is one way that I can invest in lasting treasure. I can guarantee that your investment will not make you financially richer. But I can also guarantee that your investment will help create a sacred space that will make others richer.
And this is a far better return than $13.65.