INVESTING IN THE KINGDOM
November 4, 1990
Today we are beginning a three-week sermon series around the general theme—Investing in the Kingdom. The series begins today, continues next week and climaxes on Sunday, November 18.
I am preaching these sermons for one simple reason. In just a few days you will be asked to approve the largest budget in the history of this church. The numbers in some ways are staggering and overwhelming. Only a church with great faith in God would ever attempt what we are attempting in 1991. Will we rise to meet the challenge?
I believe we will, in part because the people of Calvary have met even bigger challenges in the past. This church was started by seven or eight families whose beginning contribution was less than $100. Then in 1977 the church building burned out and we moved into our present facility. We took on a $500,000 second mortgage due and payable in 1984. That was more than a stretch; it was a giant leap of faith. At the very last moment—in a mighty miracle of God—the money came it and the mortgage was fully paid.
Several weeks ago Pastor Sergei Nikolaev from Leningrad preached on Sunday evening. His theme was “Open Doors.” What a tremendous message that was. At the end he told the story of the two boys with the pigeon. Would it live or would it die? The answer came back, it all depends on you. And the application to our situation—Will we go through the open doors God has placed before us? “It all depends on you.” If we have faith to believe and courage to take the first step, God will bless our efforts. The question is not, Are there any open doors? because the answer is always Yes. The real question is, Will we dare by faith to go through them?
That’s why I am preaching these three sermons. Along the way, we will also hear a testimony each week from someone in the church who is putting these principles into practice. The series comes to a climax on Sunday morning, November 18, when we will be challenged to make a personal commitment in the area of our giving.
THREE CRUCIAL QUESTIONS
During this series I want to ask and answer three crucial questions:
1. What has God said about the way I spend my money?
2. What difference will that make in 1991?
3. How can I invest my money so as to get the greatest return on my investment?
Today’s sermon addresses the last question; next Sunday takes the first question; on the final Sunday we will ask you to answer the second question.
$100,000 TO BURN
I’m sure all of us have daydreamed about what we would do if we suddenly were given a huge amount of money we weren’t expecting. Let’s suppose that you suddenly found yourself with an extra $100,000. How would you spend it?
The editors of USA Today asked that very question in a recent issue. The went to six of the leading financial counselors for their advice on how to invest $100,000 in today’s economy in order to get the best possible return.
The answers were revealing. One man said he would divide the money between telephone stocks, blue-chip stocks and zero-coupon bonds. Another advised putting $50,009 in stocks, $40,000 in bonds and $10,000 in cash. Yet another expert favored putting the whole wad in high-quality growth stocks and riding out the current recession. One man (Wayne Rogers, the actor who played Trapper John on M*A*S*H) went to the other extreme. He recommended putting the entire $100,000 in a money-market account at a safe bank. Andrew Lanyi would spread the money among ten over-the-counter stocks. Finally, Lilla Clemente (the only woman in the survey) called for an even four-way split among U.S. stocks, foreign stocks, global bonds and foreign currency.
Reading that makes me glad I don’t have $100,000 floating around right now. If the experts can’t agree among themselves, how will the rest of us know what to do?
The truth is, we live in changing times. The world has changed more in the last 18 months than it has in 45 years. The things we used to count on no longer seem reliable.
YOUR MONEY = YOUR LIFE
It may surprise you to learn that the Bible speaks of money (and the things that money can buy) in over 1000 verses of Scripture. As a matter of fact, Jesus spoke more about money than he did about Heaven and Hell. Sixteen of his thirty-eight parables deal with money. The Bible is a book filled with practical advice and solemn warnings concerning the awesome power of money.
Why? Because your money is your life. Take a look at your next paycheck. It represents a portion of your life you’ll never get back. It stands for one week or two weeks or a month of your life, time spent working and now gone forever. It takes your life to make money and when your life is over, your money will be gone. You’ll leave for some other place and your money will go to someone else.
Consider this. When you give someone a gift worth $75, you are really giving them that portion of your life it took to earn $75. You’re not just giving a gift worth such-and-such an amount of money; you’re giving that part of your life it took to make that much money.
Your money is your life. It costs your life to earn it. No wonder the Bible says so much about it.
PERFECT PUMPKIN PIE
What we really need, therefore, is clear instruction by someone who knows what he is talking about. Both qualifiers are important: The world is filled with people who cannot clearly explain what they know; it is also filled with people who can very clearly explain things they know nothing about.
This week I ran across an example in the latter category. Nicholas brought home a “cookbook” called “Perfect Pumpkin Pie Recipes” from the P.M. Kindergarten Class at Hatch Elementary School. Since we’re only a few days away from Thanksgiving, I thought I would read you a few of the recipes:
Put dough, vinegar and sugar together and a pumpkin.
Bake at 350 degree for two minutes.
By: Jeffery Bara
—Sugar, apples, strawberries and cinnamon and pumpkin.
Put more sugar on it.
Put in the oven and let it cook for four minute and 22 hours.
By: Stephanie Jeter
—Put some butter, get some sugar and some ketchup
Mix it up a little.
Then you put some pickles on it and then meatballs.
Slice the pumpkin and get some pumpkin pop.
Put it in the bowl and then the oven for four minutes.
By: Nena Do Nascimento
—First put oven on 40 degrees.
Put that in the oven.
Three minutes to cool. That’s all.
By: Elissa Anderson
—Apple, banana, lots and lots of sugar.
Put it in the oven for 100 hours.
By: Jessica John
—Get all the seeds out of the pumpkin.
Put it in a pan.
Get some dough.
Put sugar on the seeds. That’s all!
By: Nicholas Pritchard
—You cut the pumpkin with a knife.
With the the knife you swish it.
Then put it in the oven for 13 seconds.
By: Megan Kudo
Some of those recipes sound appetizing and one or two sound rather strange. All of them are perfectly clear as far as instructions go, but when you read them it is also perfectly clear that these children have never actually made a pumpkin pie (it’s questionable whether some of them have ever seen a pumpkin pie.)
It does drive home the point that when it comes to truly important subjects, you need someone to advise you who A. Can explain himself clearly and B. Knows what he is talking about. That obviously applies to how you should invest your money.
THE PARABLE OF THE POUNDS
With that we turn to the words of Jesus. When we do, we find that he meets both qualifications. When he spoke about money, his words were perfectly clear and easy to understand. And since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he knows what he is talking about it. In short, you can trust his words to be authoritative, accurate, and applicable to your own situation.
Our text is Luke 19:11-27, the famous Parable of the Pounds. Jesus told this story to his followers in the closing days of his ministry when many of them mistakenly expected the kingdom of God to suddenly appear. On one level this parable lays out an invest ment strategy for the followers of Jesus Christ; on another level it describes two different ways of looking at life.
The story begins this way:
A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king (Jesus was here speaking of himself) and then to return (a reference to his Second Coming). So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. “Put this money to work,” he said, “until I come back.” (12-13)
Here is the picture of a very wealthy landowner who is leaving on a long trip to a distant land. He expects to be gone for many months but eventually he will return. In the meantime, he calls ten of his most trusted servants together and gives them A. one mina each and B. some very specific instructions.
A mina was a Greek coin. The coinage system worked like this: The lowest level was the drachma, equal to one day’s wages. One hundred drachmas equaled one mina. Sixty minas equaled one talent. Therefore, a mina represented approximately 100 days’ wages, or about three months pay. In today’s terms, that might equal about $10,000. It’s not a fortune, but it’s enough to invest if a man knows what he is doing.
So each man has his mina. The master says, “Put this money to work.” Actually that’s a little weak. The Greek word (pragmateusasthe) comes straight from the business world and means to buy and sell and trade. It’s a word from the trading pit of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. It means “use your money to make more money.” Invest it! Don’t sit on it!
In our day it applies to stocks and bonds and gold coins and REITs and limited-partnerships and rentals and condos and investment art and even baseball cards.
If you have some money, don’t waste it or hide it or fritter it away. Use it to make some more money. That’s not heresy; that’s sound biblical advice.
THE DAY OF RECKONING
So off the master goes, his servants waving farewell as his caravan disappears over the horizon. Days pass, then weeks, then months, then years. Some say the master will never be back. Meanwhile, the servants wait patiently for his return. Then late one afternoon, just before supper time, a cloud of dust appears on the horizon, at first only a tiny speck, then billowing up until it seems to fil the sky. From the distance comes the cry, “He’s back! He’s back!” The master had returned, his long journey crowned with success. He left as a and came back as a king.
His first order of business is clear: “He sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they can gained with it.” (15) It’s been a long time but he has not forgotten. After it was his money they were investing. Now the master wants to know what his servants have done with his money.
Is he angry? No, not at all. Are his servants in trouble? No, not if they did what he asked them to do. Is he hoping to catch them goofing off? To the contrary, he hopes to catch them doing something right so he can reward them. For those who have obeyed their master’s words, this day holds no terror.
“TAKE CHARGE OF TEN CITIES”
The master gave ten minas to ten men with instructions to use his money to make more money. How well did they do? The first two give their report:
The first man came and said, “Sir, your mina has earned ten more.” (That’s a profit of 1000%.) “Well done, my good servant!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.” The second came and said, “Sir, your mina has earned five more.” (That’s a profit of 500%.) His master answered, “You take charge of five cities.” (16-19)
Now these two fellows have done all right. The first fellow started out with 1 mina and ended up with 11; the other started with 1 and ended up with 6. Who knows what the difference is? Maybe the first fellow went for real estate the second guy got into pork bellies. Perhaps the both played the stock market and one got a little luckier than the other. The point is, they both invested their money wisely and they both produced a healthy profit for their master.
Notice that the reward is all out of proportion to the work done. “You made ten minas? Excellent. Go rule over ten cities.” “Which ten?” “Oh, I don’t know. You pick them.” “Fine. I’ll take Miami, San Antonio, Brisbane, Australia, Athens, Greece, Atlanta, Seattle, and four little villages on the Riviera.” “They’re all yours.”
Just like that the servant is rewarded beyond his wildest dreams. All he did was invest his master’s money and, now that his master has become a king, he shares in his master’s kingdom. In his secret fantasies, perphaps he thought the master would let him keep some of the money he made, but now he gets to keep the money and rule over ten cities. You’ll never find a better deal than this.
One other man is yet to be heard from. His report is considerably different, as is the master’s response. “Then another servant came in and said, “Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.” (20-21)
Here is a man who tried to play it safe. He never invested his master’s money; he never put it in the stock market, he never bought a savings bond, he never even bought a Nolan Ryan rookie card with it. He didn’t even put it in the bank (a mistake which will cost him dearly).
Instead, he took the mina, wrapped it up in a bandana and hid it behind the couch. Once a week, when no one else was looking, he checked to see if it was still there. Week after week, he tiptoed in, moved the couch a few inches, peeked down until he saw the edge of the bandana. Satisfied that the money was safe, he went about his business without a care in the world.
Why would a man do such a strange thing? Why wouldn’t he at least put it in the bank and let the money draw interest? The answer is two-fold:
1. He didn’t understand the master’s character. He saw him as Ebenezer Scrooge, hoarding his money, foreclosing on the poor ready at a moment’s notice to get rich off someone else’s misfortune.
2. He didn’t believe the master’s word. That is, he didn’t think his master would really come back. The last thing in the world this servant expected to see was his master coming back to town.
A FOOL’S REWARD
Now Mr. Play-It-Safe knows the truth, but it’s too late. His words remind us of that old definition of an excuse—”The skin of reason stuffed with a lie.” He’s been caught—not crooked or deceitful, but something much worse, cautious, lazy and unbelieving. He was cautious when he should have taken some risks; he was lazy when he should have been industrious; he as unbelieving when he should have taken his master’s word. Now he’s going to pay the price for his negligence and foolish excuses.
His master replied, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant.! (Meaning, if you thought I was a hard man, well then, I’ll treat you that way.) You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could hav collected it with interest?” (22-23)
These words speak for themselves. The master’s anger centers around one unassailable point—the servant had not even bothered to put the money in the bank where it could gain interest. “You didn’t even care enough to do that.”
Listen carefully. The master is not angry because the servant failed to make ten minas. That is not the issue. Profit (or the lack of it) is not the point. After all, the king rules the empire. He’s got all the money he needs. He’ll never spend the money he has.
Then why is the master angry? BECAUSE THIS SERVANT DIDN’T EVEN TRY TO USE HIS MONEY FOR THE MASTER’S ADVANTAGE. It’s not the amount. That’s not the issue. But this man was first unbelieving, then disobedient, then overly-cautious, and finally just plain thumb-sucking lazy. HE DIDN’T TRY BECAUSE HE DIDN’T CARE. That’s why the master is angry.
USE IT OR LOSE IT
As I said, this man is about to have a rude awakening. The master is about to prove him right when he said, “You are a hard man.”
Then the master said to those standing by, “Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.” “Sir,” they replied, “he already has ten.” The Master replied, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given,but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.” (24-26)
These are shocking words. How can the master be so cold-hearted? How can he take away money from one man and give it to another man? The answer is, He can do it because it was his money to start with. It’s not like he’s taking away the servant’s money; he’s not. He’s taking away his money that the servant didn’t even bother to invest.
And who can blame him? The master naturally wants the greatest return he can get. So he takes the money away from the unproductive servant and gives it to the one who has gotten the greatest rate of return.
We do the same thing when we switch our money from one mutual fund to another in serach of greater growth and higher rates of return. And we never pause to think, “Well, I wonder how the people at my old mutual fund feel about that?” Sentimentality has no place when it’s your money.
I suppose the greatest shock is not that he takes the money away from the unproductive servant. The shock is that he then gives to the man who has the most money.