When you I have more than enough to live on, what should I do? Invest it or share it?
The guiding principle in answering this question is the statement of Jesus, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”( Matthew 6:21) The principle is, ‘your heart follows your money.’ That is, whatever your choice is on spending your money, this reflects the priorities of your heart. You allocate your money to that which is most important to you.
I remember, years ago, a wise mentor saying to me, “Peter, show me your bank statements and I will show you what you are living for.” The list of our purchases shows us what’s most important in our lives. Our priorities are written there in black and white.
So, when making financial choices, the first question to ask ourselves is, ‘where do I want my heart to be focused on?’ In His sermon on the mountainside, Jesus gave us a command. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19,20)
The Greek word, which was used by Matthew to write this, is ‘thesauros.’ This means a storage place in which precious things, valuables are collected and laid up, a storehouse. For us, today, this refers to our bank or investment accounts. Jesus is saying that our priority in allocating our money should be determined by the priorities of heaven, not of that of earth.
We want our hearts to be directed to heaven, and all that the Lord has in store for us.
Therefore, our very first priority in allocating money should be towards heaven. Giving a portion of our income to God’s purposes should be our first step. I believe a tenth is a solid Biblical principle. What we have left is the disposable income we have to use. The government has been given its first part and God is to be given His first part; just as Jesus set the standard. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”(Mark 12:17) To each, therefore, the very first part of our income before we get to use it.
The problems with laying up for ourselves treasures on earth, is that they will be consumed. That’s why we are living in a ‘consumer society.’ It means to be eaten up. That’s ok, when our second step in spending money is to sustain the life which God has given to us to enjoy. This involves spending the money God gives to us on food, clothing, shelter, rest, transportation etc.
How much is enough?
Our next step is to determine how much is enough to sustain that life which God has called us to. The answer will not be the same for everyone. It depends on the calling, responsibilities, and assignments, which God is giving us at this point in time. He always pays for what He orders, so we can be assured of receiving enough to do all He is asking us to do. Can we be content with enough? Paul gave a challenge to Timothy, in saying, “if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Timothy 6:8) I believe that we, as Christians should learn to live simple lives, enjoying enough, limiting our expenses so that we will have more than enough.
More than enough
Paul wrote to Corinthian believers about Gods’ generosity.” God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8) Through God’s grace we can receive not only sufficient for our living needs, but also more than enough, so that we can excel in ‘every good work.’
What should these ‘good works’ look like? I believe that this refers to both investing and giving!
Notice that Jesus says about our storehouse of money, our treasure, ‘lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.’ This means that any investment should have a ‘heavenly’ goal; a goal which is given to us by God and determined by our relationship with God, in prayer.
Investing for ourselves
The reward of investing in ‘treasures in heaven,’ as Jesus said, is that our hearts will become directed towards heaven – resulting in a more intimate relationship with Jesus, experiencing all He want to give us and do through us.
After we have given the first part of our income to the Lord, we can invest our surplus in the Lord’s work by supporting the poor and needy; to promote the spreading of the gospel and making disciples. A lot has been written about generosity, but I would like to concentrate here on investing ‘for ourselves.’
After determining ‘how much is enough’ and looking at our surplus, we can invest this surplus in God’s goals for our lives. The best investment we could make is to make a start on becoming debt free; especially consumer debt Not only is this financially the investment with the best return, but it will set us free from the burden of anxiety, worry, and the obligation to make debt repayment a priority, when giving God’s part first should be our priority.
Then we should invest in ourselves by building a buffer of between 1- and 4-month’s salary for unexpected problems or loss of income.
The next level of investing is to save for major purchases which you want to buy, such as a car, vacation, or home improvements.
The next level of investing is to out money into plans for long-term, God-given goals. I was able to invest in college education for our children so that they would not have to be burdened with debt. I was able to invest in helping one of our children to buy a home. I invested in the business of a web designer/evangelist in Cairo. I was able to invest in a retirement fund, so that after age 65, I could volunteer for Christian work without a salary and pay for mission travel. Other possibilities could be investing in a business to help young people start, or as a venture in a developing country.
Every investment opportunity should be for a God-given goal. Money, which is sown on the field of God’s goals, will be blessed by His activity to reach His goals!