Whether our investments are small or large, they both do one thing: when our money is in a variable-yield account of some kind (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.), we become more interested in how that money is doing. We may check results quarterly (with a statement), or daily (to watch for market changes), but we’re usually more interested in the status of funds where we have money invested, compared to our level of engagement with thousands of other investment opportunities.
I end up doing the same thing, even for retirement funds that I can’t reasonably withdraw for years. Although this is just “potential return” until I actually retrieve it (hopefully) someday, those are more interesting to me than, say, my neighbor’s retirement fund.
Similarly, if we’re expecting a check in the mail or a deposit to our account, we probably watch that pretty closely, too.
This observation is obviously not new. Consider what Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, for instance. On a related note, the following verse from a letter to Timothy reminds us that our financial investments aren’t meant to be our source of pride and faith:
Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.
1 Timothy 6:17 NLT
When an investment goes down in value, or we find that we’re making 0.02% on savings (i.e., less than inflation), we are reminded that money is indeed unreliable. I have received two statements with multi-thousand-dollar medical charges this year, and while I hoped (and asked God) that the larger of the two could be negotiated down, that’s a big chunk of money potentially gone in one bill. Money comes and goes, but God remains unchanging.
While Paul’s note to Timothy is addressed to the rich, who probably know that money isn’t constant, I think that this is also a good lesson to those who aren’t rich. After all, the belief that having more money will fix all of our problems is a delusion. Backing up a few verses to 1 Timothy 6:9, we are reminded that wanting to get rich is a bad path to get on.
So, if we can’t trust money, what do we do, instead? The next couple of verses (along with verse 6) give us some direction:
Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.
1 Timothy 6:18-19 NLT
From this, it appears to me that, rather than trusting the stock market or Bitcoin to get us money, we are called to invest in other people. Good works, generosity, sharing: these often cost us money, but they also tend to benefit other people. Verse 6 mentions “godliness”, which implies living a righteous and God-honoring life.
Now, I’m not judging those who do a good job of making their money grow (see Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, for instance), and Paul doesn’t seem to imply that the wealthy can’t invest their money while also being generous. Still, if our goal is to just become a “401k millionaire”, or have more stuff than our neighbors, we’re not expecting enough from our investments. All that those goals can achieve is to get us money, stuff, and maybe some fleeting fame. Without including superior investments (including those mentioned in chapter 6 of 1 Timothy) in our “portfolio”, everything that we have earned will probably get burned up in the end (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
However, by investing in our relationship with God, as well as in other people who need to learn about Him, we can earn eternal rewards. That is an investment worth putting our entire lives into.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.