Investing is the “use of money for future benefit or advantage.” Simply put, investing is a means to an end. It is the process of committing resources in a strategic way to accomplish a specific objective. Three issues need addressing: vision, values, and strategy.
Regarding vision, here are a few questions to consider: What are you willing to give up now for the future? What do you want to accomplish with your investment? Why do you want to delay immediate gratification for long-term benefits? What do you see as the best use of your investment for future purposes? (By the way, there are only two financial investments: One, for your family, and, two, for others. Interestingly, the Bible says little about financial investment for our families. Yet most of us spend almost all of our resources in this area.)
Concerning values, reflect on these questions: What are those things that are important to you? What goals are you willing to make hard choices and sacrifices? The best values are always firmly rooted in Scripture and have a kingdom focus that impacts eternity.
About strategy, ponder these questions: What steps will help you accomplish your vision? A careful approach starts with planning and an understanding of your current situation, where you want to go, and how you can get there. At the heart of a good strategy are wisdom and discipline. Wisdom comes from God’s Word. You have to must up your discipline. And, by the way, formulating an effective strategy is a detailed and time-consuming process.
With those ideas as a foundation for kingdom investing, now put the resources God has entrusted to you to work following biblical principles of solid money management.
Invest by the Book, not by your emotions.
Unfortunately, when it comes to investing, many people revert to their emotions. Solomon wrote, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Prov. 21:5 NIV). Hasty investors are not practical or rational. Often, they base their decisions on emotionalism.
Warren Buffett, whose personal fortune exceeds $86.6 billion, per Forbes, is the wealthiest person in the world, aside from Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. Buffett is considered by many financial experts to be the most significant investor of all time. When his partner, Charlie Munger, was asked what Buffett’s secret was, he responded, “We’re rational.”
Munger was indirectly confirming a portion of the first principle: Invest by the Book, not by your emotions. Although he would not refer people to the Bible, Munger understood the dangers of investing according to one’s feelings. Emotional responses to investing are likely to cause poor results.
It takes time, not money, to make money.
King Solomon articulated well the investment principle that time makes money: “He who gathers money little by little makes it grow” (Prov. 13:11 NIV). The amount of money you have available for investing may be small, but the key is that you continually save over time, even with small amounts. The accumulation of financial resources is not difficult—it merely requires patience, self-discipline, and time.
Ron Blue reported about meeting with a retired pastor to discuss his financial matters. The pastor never made more than $8,000 in one year. He wanted to know if he had enough financial resources to live out the rest of his life. At the time of his question, he was 80 years old; he had been retired for 20 years, and his wife had entered a full-time nursing facility. His question was a justifiable one.
Blue asked if the pastor had any debts. The man’s response was, “No.” And, he went on to say he had never borrowed any money. “Why not?” asked Blue. The man said that if he borrowed money, he would have to pay it back someday, and he couldn’t afford to pay off debt, feed his family, and tithe.
Blue’s second question regarded what resources the retired pastor presently had. He indicated that in his and his wife’s name, they had approximately $250,000 in cash, money market funds, and certificates of deposit. Additionally, in his name, he had another $350,000. Years earlier, he invested $10,000 in the stock of a new company, with the market value of his share in that company was over $1 million. Count it up, over $1,600,000 in cash and stock accumulated by a couple that had never earned more than $8,000 per year.
Time uses the magic of compound interest to your advantage. There’s an old math class problem that helps one understand the incredible power of compound interest. Suppose you had a choice of two jobs, each lasting 35 days. One pays $1,000 a day; the other pays a penny the first day and doubles the amount each day. Which would you take?
If you took the first job, at the end of the 35th day, you would have $35,000. But if you took the second, you would have $171,798,691.84. That’s the power of 100 percent earning with daily compounding of a salary that began with a penny. Of course, investments don’t draw such rates, but a little money with time and the magic of compound interest can accomplish some amazing things.
Avoid get-rich-quick schemes
There has never been a “get-rich-quick” scheme that didn’t sound terrific on the surface. The promoters of such are a great deal better at disguising the bad deals than most people are at detecting them. The Bible issues this word of warning, “Trying to get rich quick is evil and leads to poverty” (Prov. 28:22 TLB).
Harvey Mackay, in How to Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, warned, “When a person with money meets a person with experience, the person with the experience winds up with the money, and the person with the money winds up with the experience.”
According to CNBC, senior adults lose more than $2.9 billion each year to investment scams, according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging. A good rule to follow is: “If a thing sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” You cannot live right and get things the wrong way. It is better to grow rich slowly than to grow poor in a hurry.
Dave Ramsey, in his book, Financial Peace, reported of visiting a gentleman in his seventies that had acquired much wealth over his lifetime. Ramsey was asking, digging, and probing him for answers as to how he might duplicate the older gentleman’s success. The man finally looked Ramsey square in the eye and said, “Boy, it seems to me you want to know how to get rich quick.” To which Ramsey replied, “Of course.” The gentleman paused a long time to add suspense and then said, “The best way to get rich quick is not to get rich quick.”
Seek good counsel.
The Proverbs is replete with our need for advice and counsel. “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice” (Prov. 12:15 NIV). “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors, they succeed” (Prov. 15:22 NIV). It is amazing how quickly someone who is not emotionally involved, not caught up in a get-rich-quick mentality, understanding the principles of Scripture can spot the flaws of a bad investment deal. Good, objective Christian counsel should be a prerequisite to any significant financial decision. And, men, one of your best sources of sound, unbiased counsel, comes from your wife. Most women are generally more discerning and more conservative than men and can provide a healthy balance.
George Foshee wrote, “Before buying a house, purchasing a car or just borrowing money, pray about it and seek the counsel of godly people. They can keep you from making a lot of mistakes. The reason so many persons don’t seek counsel is that they don’t want to be told by someone an intended action is unsound—they just like to do what they want anyway.”
God’s glory, not personal riches, matters most
You might say that the primary goal of investing is to increase your wealth. But for believers, the highest goal is to glorify God. If the rate of return does not largely determine a steward’s effectiveness, what is an appropriate way to measure investing success? How does God decide who an excellent and faithful investor is? Success in any endeavor, financial or otherwise, can be achieved by following the apostle Paul’s simple guideline: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31 NIV). Good and faithful financial servants glorify God by showing his character in their stewardship. The primary goal of godly investors is God’s glory rather than personal increases.
Use your money to get people to heaven.
A strong case can be made from Scripture to invest in tomorrow. You have a responsibility to prepare for the future and provide for your family. But Jesus advised us to invest for another reason. Jesus said, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9 NIV). Before we come to an understanding of what Jesus was saying, let’s make it clear what Jesus was not saying. He was not saying that money will buy your way into heaven, or that money will pay for your salvation, or that money can bribe God.
He was saying that perhaps the highest use of money is to invest it in getting people to heaven. You should use your money to build relationships that will last forever. When you give money to a church or a Christian ministry, you help win people to Christ and make friends for eternity. While you may not witness or preach to them directly, indirectly, you had a hand in seeing people come to Christ. The same thing goes for the support you give to missions, nonprofit ministries, and the ongoing work of your local church.
Giving to ministries and organizations in line with your vision and values that seek to expand God’s kingdom is the most significant investment of your money. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus, the ultimate investment counselor, said, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven were moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:20-21 NIV). This insider tip should radically affect your investment strategy. Jesus was saying there is only one safe place to invest your resources, and that is in the Kingdom of God. Here’s his point: “You can’t take it with you,” but he added a life-changing result, “but you can send it on ahead.” That’s the treasure principle that Randy Alcorn wrote about in his book by the same name.
Things don’t last, but people do. The way you spend and invest your money can and will determine where people will spend eternity. If you want to invest in heavenly treasures, then invest it in people who are going there and those who can lead others there.
Maybe this story will help in your understanding of this vital principle. A man shipwrecked on an unknown island, found, to his surprise, that the island was inhabited; a large tribe of people occupied this island. To his pleasure, he discovered that they treated him very well. They placed him on a throne and catered to his every desire. He was delighted but perplexed. Why such royal treatment? As his ability to communicate with the tribe’s people increased, he discovered that the tribal custom was to choose a king for a year. Then, upon completion of the king’s term, he would be transported to a particular island and abandoned.
His delight turned into distress. Then the man hit on an ingenious plan. Over the next months, as the king, he sent members of the tribe to clear and till the other island. He had them build a beautiful house, furnish it, and plant crops. He sent some chosen friends to live there and wait for him. Then, when his time for exile came, he was sent to a place carefully prepared and full of friends delighted to receive him.
Followers of Christ aren’t destined for a deserted island but the Father’s home. Yet the preparations you make here on earth follow you to heaven. If you are shrewd, there will be eternal friends and eternal rewards to greet you. Fools serve money and leave it all behind. Astute believers serve God and invest their money in ways that bring endless profit. And, that investment will pay dividends for all eternity.
To get more information and join the South Carolina Christian Chamber of Commerce (SC-C3) movement, go to www.sc-c3.org and become a member today!