“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-45)
Why did the two people in the parables sell everything they had to get what they had found? Because what they had found was more valuable than all they had.
A good point to walk away with from this is that we can put our all into the kingdom of God and we’ll still get a greater return than what we could ever invest because the ROI of Wall Street has nothing on the ROI of the street of gold!
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
How do we determine whether we get a good “return on investment (ROI)?” The question came to my mind when I read an article that named ten universities and argued that they did not give a good “ROI.” While I was greatly relieved to see that the schools I attended did not make the list, it intrigued me that several “Christian” universities were listed, primarily because the cost of their tuition was several times the average income for their students’ dominant major field, religious studies. Other universities listed focus on the arts; apparently the average income for an artist is less than the average income for a high school graduate with no more formal education. There are other areas in which such a study might adduce a poor ROI: supporting a missionary in an impoverished area, a degree in education (also mentioned in the study above as one of several occupations that society values, but reimburses poorly), or donating to a losing political campaign.
How do we determine whether we get a good return on investment? Time spent with our children may not produce apparent income, but may help mold them into productive, law-abiding citizens and faithful Christians who appreciate beauty in the world around us and respect authority. Money spent preparing for ministry may not yield a financial fortune, but may enrich one’s life with friends, faith, and hope. The basis for valuation in the article I read obviously was financial return. I suggest there may be areas in which this is not the only variable and some in which it may not even be a factor.
I baptized an man the first Sunday I preached at a church over thirty years ago. I remember it well because he was taller and heaver than me; I dropped him as I brought him up from the water. In the months that followed, I invested time in visits, study, and prayer with this person. Despite that inauspicious beginning, when I visited that church a few years ago, he was there and helped lead the service. I gained no money from the experience, but I was elated; I felt rich.
Near the end of the book of Hebrews, its author penned these words, “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Le us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:12-14). Money does not provide the only means of valuing success. Neither does popular acclaim. Some of the colleges mentioned in the study may be poor choices, but others may equip their students to introduce joy, peace, hope, and faith into our world despite their failure to enrich them. If we earn the respect of our family and those with whom we work, if we enjoy what God has given us, and if we look forward to the future (even to meeting God after death), then I suggest that we have an excellent return on investment. What do you think?
Goodness is the only investment that never fails.
Henry David Thoreau, American essayist and nature writer (1817-1862)