Summary: When the master gave money to his servants, he expected them to invest what he’d given so that he’d have a return on his investment when he returned. Do we think of our tithe as an "investment opportunity" or simply as a chore to be fulfilled?
OPEN: His name was Timothy Dexter and he was born in Massachusetts in 1747. At the age of 20 he took his life savings – a grand total of $9 – and moved to Newburyport, MA where he met and married a wealthy 31 year old widow.
Fancying himself to be a shrewd businessman, he used his wife’s money to buy stocks because that was what the other businessmen in the community were doing. But he didn’t know which stocks to purchase, so he simply bought the cheapest ones available.
To everyone’s surprise his stocks rose in value and he sold them for a profit.
Apparently Dexter bragged a lot about his good fortune, and the other businessmen in town began to see him as an annoying fool. So they began to amuse themselves by giving him lunatic business tips. One merchant told him the West Indies (where colonization was booming) was sorely in need of warming pans, mittens and Bibles. Dexter was so impressed by what the man told him that he went out and bought more than 40,000 warming pans, 40,000 pairs of mittens, and 40,000 Bibles and shipped them out.
What Dexter didn’t realize that the West Indies were in an extremely hot part of the world and his investment looked extremely foolish to anyone who understood the region. But it just so happened that when his ship docked in the West Indies there was a religious revival taking place, and his Bibles were purchased at a 100% profit.
As if that weren’t enough, a fleet of Russian trading ships was visiting the West Indies and they had their agents immediately buy up the mittens to the last pair.
The warming pans sat idly in the warehouse until some inventive planter discovered that they made ideal skimmers for ladling molasses into vats and so each and every pan was sold for a profit. These incredible sales made Dexter enormously wealthy.
Now, the other merchants were not just annoyed by Dexter… they became extremely jealous of him. So they planned to purposely ruin him by urging him to invest every dime he possessed to ship coal to Newcastle, England. They did such an excellently job of convincing Dexter of the sure-fire benefits of this investment that he hired scores of sailing ships, and filled their holds with all the soft Virginia coal he could find, and sent them off to England.
What Dexter didn’t know was that Newcastle was the center of England’s coal mining industry. THEY DIDN’T NEED COAL! They had plenty of their own.
But instead of being ruined, Dexter’s amazing good luck held. Just before his ships arrived, the mineworkers of Newcastle held a massive strike. And with no one to work the mines there was a shortage of coal in the area. When Dexter’s ships arrived, his coal was purchased at enormous profit making him twice as rich as he had been before.
(Uncle John’s Supremely Satisfying Bathroom Reader p. 134ff)
APPLY: Timothy Dexter wasn’t particularly savvy in what he invested in. But he made money because he invested.
In the Gospels, Jesus tells this story of the wealthy man who left money with his servants to invest.