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Return on Investment

I remember back when interest rates on savings were in double-digits.  Of course, home mortgage interest rates were similarly high.  Over 30 or 40 years, though, that cycle has reversed.  At the trough, it was normal to make just a fraction of a percent of interest each year on fixed-rate savings, but home-buying had become more attainable.

Each of these circumstances is good for one group or another.  Earning interest on savings is a good feeling.  (As a teacher who I worked with some years ago described it, “you’re making money even when you’re sleeping”.)  On the other hand, when 90% of your home loan payment is interest during the early years, it’s tough to endure until the tide turns on the payments.  (As a reminder, those who seek to follow good financial practices as outlined in the Bible tend to weather both scenarios pretty well; however, that’s a lesson for another day.)

Regardless of how much money we may have, though, God makes an investment in us.  Of course, He’s not putting His retirement at risk, or anything like that.  He is God, and owns everything, anyway.  Still, He gives us a chance to be part of His plan for the universe, and tirelessly provides us with opportunities to follow His direction.

In reality, the key variable in this investment is us.  The difference between someone who produces results that God expects, and someone who squanders the chance to do so, is not God.  It is up to each of us, and the decisions that we make.  The call is available to each of us, but whether we step up and answer the call is our choice.

In a more corporate sense, God’s people in the Old Testament weren’t doing a very good job of following His instructions (which were encoded as laws back then), in the days when Isaiah the prophet wrote the following:

The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The people of Judah are his pleasant garden. He expected a crop of justice, but instead he found oppression. He expected to find righteousness, but instead he heard cries of violence.
Isaiah 5:7 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/isa.5.7.NLT

That’s not what I would want God to find in my own life.  Contrast this disappointment with the positive result yielded by the good soil that received the seed – God’s Word (from a parable Jesus taught):

Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
Mark 4:8 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/mrk.4.8.NLT

Later, in response to a question from His disciples, Jesus explained this parable more clearly:

And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
Mark 4:20 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/mrk.4.20.NLT

Note what is expected in the first case, and produced in each of these cases.  It’s not unbridled wealth, nor saccharine popularity and public accolades.  It’s not necessarily even a bustling megachurch attendance.

No, instead it is things like justice, and righteousness.  It’s the multiplication of disciples (as I interpret the latter parable).  We are called to produce a “crop” – lasting results from our actions – but this isn’t some unattainable goal.  These passages simply call us to live the life that God wants for us, and to capture the opportunities that He provides.  This isn’t a message just for ministers or missionaries.  It’s equally valid for midshipmen, miners, and moms.  And, unlike savings growth that seems to be afforded only to those who started really early in their careers, followers of Jesus have demonstrated that God can achieve great things in them even if they start later in life.

So, let each of us (including me, of course) consider what we are doing with God’s investment in us.  Are we striving to live righteously, and fulfilling Jesus’ command to make disciples (whether in a formal manner to a group, or one-on-one behind the scenes)?  Or, are we responsible for oppression, violence, or just plain fruitlessness?  I encourage you to spend some time with God today, asking Him to point out any places where you’re missing out on a really great opportunity that He has invested you with.  Then, practice following God to produce a return on His investment.

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