Summary: What kind of investment advice have you gotten lately? In Ephesians 5 we learn about what REAL investing is!
There is a lot of talk lately about what is wise and unwise. We see this especially in relation to the financial world. With economic times being tough, it seems that there are “experts” popping up everywhere like weeds to tell us how to invest wisely. They tell us that we need to diversify our portfolios, or that we should be buying only gold and precious metals, they say we should sell off our houses, or we should buy more houses. You hear that we need to buy cars, or that we should avoid buying cars, and on and on. It’s hard to figure out which advice is wise and which is foolish. Sometimes, what is wise and what is foolish changes! A good investment in a strong economy may not be a good investment in a poor economy. Investing in an audio cassette tape factory would have been smart in 1981. It would have been a bad idea in 1991!
Talking about wise investing often times seems like trying to hit a moving target! But something I read recently changed my mind. I was read a book a few months ago that talked about an island off of the coast of Georgia that became known in the late 1800’s as the Jekyll Island Club. It was a place where the richest of the rich in America would go to play. They built, “cottages” on the island, and by cottages I mean palaces. And they had all the creature comforts that anyone could imagine. The list of members was more like a list of the Titans of Industry. They were almost all household names: Henry Hyde, Marshall Field, J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, William Vanderbilt, just to name a few.
I caught myself wondering what it was that all these men had in common. I thought, “How great would it be to listen to their conversations and learn what made them so successful to listen to their wisdom on life and investing!” And then a thought hit me. I do know what they all have in common. And this thought challenged how I think of wisdom and investing. Do you know what they all have in common? They are all dead. What they have in common is that none of their investments, or their money, or their houses, or their business mean anything at all to them now. All of them had great earthy investments that were worth a lot of money, but not ONE of those investments can last, or will last forever. I pray that they invested in the Grace of God and not just in the material world.
So what does it mean really to “invest wisely” when it comes to our faith? My prayer is that in our time together, God would use his Word to answer this question for us and to guide us and direct us to value and invest in the things that HE says are valuable and important and worthwhile. Or maybe to put it another way, that we would have the kind of focus that our reading from Proverbs leaves us with in the last verse: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
This seems like such a simple thing to focus on, but too often as a church and as individual Christians, we lose sight of the things of God, we lose touch with the wisdom of God, we end up investing in the things that don’t matter as much as God.
We see this in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. The people of this church lived life with a certain amount of tension. I think we can all relate to them. On one hand, they dealt with all the pulls and pressures of the world around them, and on the other hand, they had another calling, a higher calling, to live life with a focus on the Gospel. And we can see right at the beginning of the reading, that there were those who were trying to divert them from the Gospel: Let no one deceive you with empty words. Paul is saying to them; don’t let anyone or anything distract you from what really matters. Easier said than done! They had all kinds of distractions. In this pagan town, sin ran rampant, sexual immorality, drunkenness, blasphemy, shady business transactions, you name it, you could find it in Ephesus! You can find it in Columbus too. You can find sin wherever you go.
The thing that all of these sins have in common is that they are all focused on immediate gratification, on self-indulgence, on what do I feel like doing right now. They all focus on the almighty ME. But how much does the world tell us that we need to “focus on ME?” The message is plastered on billboards, on television shows, in magazines; it bombards our senses every day! And the worst part is that we buy into it. We internalize it. We love it. We even bring this garbage into the church sometimes.