What is a Good Return on Investment?

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?

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