Categories: Personal Growth and Progress
One day while I was taking a journey to a distant place, a person approached me with an investment opportunity that seemed too good to be true.
"I can offer you something that will multiply your investment, has zero risk, and is guaranteed never to decrease in value!" the man said. I considered his offer reluctantly. At the least I wanted to know the answer to two basic investment questions: What credibility does this person have? How much was he investing in it himself?
At the time, however, a personal advisor was traveling with me and answered on my behalf. "If the investment is as valuable as you say, than it is certainly too expensive for my client!" my advisor said. Then he pulled me away, so the strange man would no longer bother us.
"Wait!" the man hollered. "Your investment has already been paid for! Someone who loves you dearly has already purchased as much of it as you could ever need." At this point, I had to make a choice between following my advisor and turning back to talk with the man.
This incident might seem strange, but it has not happened to me just once. Actually, this happens to me constantly throughout every moment of every day. And, it happens just as often to you! For the investment I was offered was not in any material asset, but it was the opportunity to serve God. It is an investment choice that everyone gets to make with every decision throughout the day.
Christ Jesus is the person who offers this investment. The advisor, who tries to convince us to ignore the opportunity, is our personal ego, claiming that the cost of serving God is too great.
Serving God - which is done, as Jesus declared, by loving all mankind - certainly meets the investment criteria promised: high return, zero risk, and never decreasing. "God…giveth us richly all things to enjoy" (I Tim. 6:17), Jesus promises and nothing can have greater return than that. "Charity never faileth" (I Cor. 13:8), so there is no risk in unselfishness. "No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Ps. 84:11), so there can be no decrease. In addition, the liquidity of this asset is unsurpassed - love knows no space or time, so it is always instantaneously available.
The question naturally arises: "If investing in spiritual qualities is so wonderful, than what prevents us from doing it all the time?" Because our egos claim that investing in intangible, spiritual qualities requires paying too high a price. An investment in spiritual qualities (such as love, faith, charity, and humility) requires abandoning a position in highly regarded material assets (like sensuality, pride, greed, and popularity). The cost of spirituality often includes sacrificing cherished physical pleasures. We may have to forsake the comfort of some of our most valued material securities. We may fear losing business opportunities if we refrain from morally ambiguous practices. We may even risk looking foolish to our peers.
Given all these apparent costs, it is reasonable to want a deep trust of the person asking us to make this investment. A wise person does not naively hand over his assets to a stranger, no matter how good a deal the stranger promises. That is why it is so important to know our Saviour, Christ Jesus, better. To believe his promises are credible, he should not seem like a distant stranger, but rather as a loving friend. Fortunately, there are many ways to have a close, personal relationship to Christ: studying the Bible, praying, doing charitable works, resisting sin, and loving your neighbor are a few obvious methods.
The wonderful thing about committing ourselves to know Christ Jesus better is that we are quicker to take advantage of the investments he promises. And, the promises Jesus made are truly amazing when you think about them: "Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7). Basically, this means that you will never lack anything, never lose your way, and never be denied access to anything good. This promise is available to everyone - but you must "ask," "seek," and "knock." In other words, you must turn to God.
Earlier, I mentioned two questions that a person should find answers to when presented with an investment opportunity. The first was: "How credible is the person offering it?" Jesus demonstrated his credibility by doing works to confirm his words, including healing and miracles. The second question was: "How much did he invest himself?" Even a perfunctory knowledge of Jesus' life makes it clear that he invested his entire career - and his very life! - in what he promoted. He relinquished all worldly possessions and sacrificed his life on the cross because he believed so firmly in what he was offering: namely eternal salvation and the kingdom of heaven.
If we agree that what Jesus offers is valuable, than let's return to the issue of how much it costs. I already mentioned some of the material assets that we need to forsake in order to make the investment Jesus offers. Then how can I make the claim: "He already purchased it for us"? Because Jesus' sacrifices removed forever the belief that there was any value in the material assets we are relinquishing. Throughout his life, Jesus showed the empty, fleeting, unsatisfying results of trusting in matter as well as the bountiful, eternal, joyous results of trusting in God.
In Jesus' time as well as ours, wealthy men trusted in material treasures that could be stolen or decay. Jesus trusted only in God; yet, by multiplying fish and bread, finding money in a fish, turning water into wine, etc., neither Jesus nor those with him ever lacked anything.
Sensualists turn vainly to the body for pleasure, finding a temporal mixture of pain and pleasure. Jesus turned away from the body to God for health; yet, by healing the sick, blind, and lame as well as raising the dead, Jesus revealed perfect men and women where matter had sentenced them to suffer. Most people believe their life is in matter. Jesus was willing to sacrifice his material body; yet, by his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, he showed that God was the only true source of life. Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus even ascended into heaven, completely abandoning his position in matter.
Jesus forsook all worldliness to show that all goodness was from God. This is the structure of his deal: his love was so great that it removed the sins of the world. As the Bible states, "He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:2). Sin comes in many forms (hate, envy, fear, greed, etc.) and claims that we are doomed to be indebted to matter - an indentured servant of sin. Yet, any debt that we seemed to owe was repaid by Jesus' unconditional love, so we do not have to be servants of sin. Jesus purchased our freedom, but he can not make us live freely. We need to do that by following him. "I am the way," Jesus declared (John 14:6). What could be more wonderful than the fact that God not only provides us with immeasurable goodness, but also sent His son to purchase this goodness for us and then to show us the way to collect this goodness?
One of the Bible's most pithy stories is that of the Good Samaritan - Jesus' parable about a man who helped a stranger he passed on a journey. The Samaritan bound the stranger's wounds and then brought him to someone who could care for him. Before leaving, the Samaritan paid the man who was tending for the stranger and said: "Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee" (Luke 10:35).
This is this type of "blank check" payment that Jesus used when he paid for our sins. Christ Jesus was really the Ultimate Good Samaritan, offering to care for all people at all times. No matter how large our bill is, it will always be "paid in full," because there is no limit to Christ's love which comes directly from God.
Each time we sin, we are increasing our debt to this bill which Christ promised to pay for us. Should we take advantage of his generosity, enjoying the opportunity to sin because we know that he will pay our debt and we will be forgiven? Not if we love our Master. If we really love Jesus, we will not sin, because we do not want to add to his account. Contrarily, we would want to invest wisely - no longer serving matter, but serving God. Jesus even suggested just such an investment: "Love one another; as I have loved you" (John 13:34) - an opportunity that God provides for us at all times.
You may ask: "If God gives us infinitely valuable opportunities, and Jesus has already paid for them, why does it often seem like I am lacking?"
At the beginning of this article, I stated that I was on a journey when I was offered the investment opportunity. I said this because any evidence of Christ in our lives is part of a spiritual journey. Acknowledging spiritual qualities in our lives inevitably reveals paths to the kingdom of heaven which Jesus promised. This idea of traveling to a new kingdom is a good analogy to help explain why our lives sometimes seem lacking.
If you went to Europe, you would exchange your money for euros. If you went to Japan, you would exchange it for yen. Likewise, on your spiritual journey you will need to exchange your currency. We already discussed how God gives us abundant riches and all our debts are paid. We have an open account filled with goodness. Therefore, there is only one way in which we can be lacking: if we are not accepting the currency in which we have our wealth.
Currency is a method of measuring value and it can take many forms. For example, financial currency can take the form of cash, checks, or credit. And it is always clear which government has issued the currency, for example, whether it is American, European, or Japanese. Matter has its own forms of currency, which rely on matter for value: physical possessions are assessed for wealth; the body is observed for health; and human relationships are relied on for joy.
But, matter was not the currency that Jesus used for valuing things. He did not count fish and loaves when thousands of people were hungry. He did not give people a physical examination when they came to be healed. He did not look for happiness in relationships, career, or popularity. His currency was spiritual and consisted of Christlike qualities, such as forgiveness, wisdom, strength, and love. This is what he valued. This is what he measured. This is what he used to conduct his business.
When you take a journey to a foreign country, you do not get to arbitrarily select what currency you use. You cannot use one currency for food and another currency for clothing. The only way to do that is to live near the border and constantly travel back and forth between countries. Our spiritual journey is the same, and requires us to rely on spiritual currency for all our needs. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8); so vacillating between materiality and spirituality has the effect of destabilizing our currency - our standard of valuating things - which in turn determines the decisions we make. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 7:21).
Jesus declared the importance of selecting spiritual qualities as your source of value in many parables, referring to the "pearl of great price," your "treasure in heaven," and the need to exchange "the new and old." Even when he healed people, Jesus did not deal with their material situation, but rather with their spiritual qualities. He attributed healings to qualities such as faith ("thy faith hath made thee whole"), forgiveness ("thy sins are forgiven"), and reformation ("go, and sin no more"). These qualities are forms of the spiritual currency used where Jesus lived, in the kingdom of heaven. And, this is also where our spiritual journey must lead, since Jesus stated: "the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21).
But sometimes in our daily lives there does not seem to be a market for spiritual currency. How can you possibly use spiritual currency when those around you do not seem to value it? A friend may have betrayed you, a boss may expect you to bend the rules, or life might just seem unfair. At times, the temptation for anger, dishonesty, or jealousy might seem quite justifiable. But, as soon as you accept these forms of currency, you are devaluing Christ's currency, which takes the form of unconditional love, integrity, and forgiveness. And this is the only way that evil (whether you name it error, the devil, or the serpent) can hurt you! Nothing anyone does to you can harm you as long as you keep your investment in spiritual currency. But, if you exchange it for material currency, you are no longer fully accepting the infinite gifts that God promised and Jesus purchased.
We need spiritual currency because it is what repays our debts. It takes the form of forgiveness when we make mistakes; and it takes the form of unconditional love when we sin. The fact that we need this currency makes evil desperate to convince us to exchange it for material currency, such as fear or hate. This is especially important to remember in situations in which spiritual currency seems inappropriate. For example, how can we forgive a terrorist or love an evil dictator? This seems to require an unreasonable amount of forgiveness and love. It is Christ's "blank check" that makes this possible, even imperative.
"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34), was Jesus prayer for the men who crucified him. Are we going to put a limit on the love Christ Jesus puts into our account? If we do this, we have journeyed back to where material currency is accepted. But, on the other hand, if we recognize that the source of our love is God, we realize that our love also has no limit. The wonderful thing about love is that an attack on love simply provides an opportunity to love more. It is the only investment that never expires and never reaches a point of diminishing returns.
In finance, each successful investment allows you to invest more the next time. Wise investments cause your assets to expand exponentially. In the same way, a small investment in spiritual currency (whether it is love, forgiveness, gratitude, etc.) always results in a greater faith in God. Each evidence of God working in your life leads to more reliance and understanding, and greater successes in your next spiritual investment. In the short-term, this investment yields comfort and healing. In the long-term, the investment results in eternal salvation.
As a Christian, it is crucial to study Christ Jesus' life so we trust him and are quick to invest in the opportunities he promises. There will never be a moment when you do not have the chance to invest in spiritual qualities. And, when your currency is spiritual, there is no lack to the goodness you will have. Your account is paid in full!