True Story: Investing in God’s Kingdom Yields 1000% Return

Like most others, I am regularly tempted to be distracted away from the more-important things in life – i.e. other people and their needs – to focus on my own well-being, particularly when the specter of financial distress rears its ugly head. I’ve lived with money and without it, and while I would agree that it’s entirely-biblical to say, “All you need is Jesus,” that statement – devoid of any practical assistance – is not a terribly compassionate response in the face of human need. In fact, Jesus seemed to be very interested in how we choose to meet the everyday needs of others; wine at a banquet, water on a hot day, personal hygiene, lunch.

Because I have actually lived through financial ruin – and all the real-world consequences that come with that – I know that the “non-negotiability” of cold, hard cash can seem threatening indeed when the heating bill comes due in February. Add the responsibility of much-loved small children to the equation and your worries seem to get together and have puppies.

Luke 6:38So when someone else comes knocking on our door in what seems to be discernible need, the temptation to be stingy is immediately at our elbow: “What if I help this person out…only to find out later that I can’t pay my own bills?” And it goes without saying that anything you give to another person – time, talent or treasure – should be given freely, acknowledging that as soon as the gift is made, you no longer have any control over whatever has been donated.

The promises of Scripture are deep and rich, infinite really…but the truth is that many of us (myself included) want to believe God’s Word right up to the point where we are called to open our wallets. It is at that precise moment we tend to think we better be prudent: “Yes, this person is in obvious need…but I might be in need later on, and I don’t want to have to ask others for help like this poor slob!” We may even start quoting verses that aren’t actually in the Bible, vesting them with the authority of God: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” is actually taken from Shakespeare, not the book of Proverbs. But it sure sounds good when someone has their hand out.

With my friend’s advance permission, I’d like to share just one instance of how God’s eternal investment plan tends to work. Numbers and decimal points can’t be easily refuted.

Back in March of 2014, a friend that I had not heard from at all for several years contacted my wife and I on Facebook saying she was in dire need. Her mother was in the hospital, her entire family was “coming apart at the seams,” she did not even have gas money to travel to see her ailing mother…and no one else would help her. Shelly and I listened to her long, sad story on the phone, but the truth is that I was paying far more attention to the unspoken desperation I could hear in her voice, more so than the details she was relaying. I knew this woman well enough to know what her “normal” tone of voice sounded like, when she was BS-ing both herself and (she thought) me too, and when she was truly in trouble, real or imagined. It seemed to me she was in a tough spot.

Shelly and I looked at each other and agreed to help, trusting God with the decision. We deposited $200 into her account, a resource the Mayer family could have used for a thousand other purposes. In spite of multiple promises to “pay us back soon,” we agreed between ourselves to give without any expectation of repayment. We pretty much kissed that $200 goodbye, knowing we may never see that money nor hear from this particular friend again.

The call seemed clear to both of us: “Trust God. Let go of $200.” Now flash-forward 30 months.

In the interim, we heard little at all from our friend, much as we had anticipated. While we had told her back in March of 2014 not to worry about repayment, I knew that a debt to another can serve as a source of embarrassment and shove a wedge between friends. In my friend’s case, I didn’t imagine we’d been conned, exactly, but I also knew that as long as she imagined that she was “failing us” by not returning the funds, she would not initiate contact.

Sadly, our friend’s father died, and we were not in her life at the time to offer her anything in the way of comfort. Upon his death, our friend inherited $2.7 million, and it came at a time when she very much needed to extract herself from some unhealthy relationships. That being true, she decided to buy a house for herself in a different part of the country. This would serve as a new start for her, an oasis for getting some much-needed distance from the dysfunction of others and the associated tendency to draw her into unhelpful patterns of behavior.

And that’s when something truly interesting took place.

As soon as our friend began talking to realtors and considering whether to build or buy a new home, her heart was struck in an emotionally-painful manner. Unable to sleep one night, she prayed and (according to her own account) distinctly felt the Spirit of God moving her to repent and settle her debts with others before moving forward with her own plans purchase a home.

She contacted us the next day, sharing this remarkable story, and insisted that she not only return the money we gave her over two years ago, but that she do so ten times over. No matter how many times we told her we had forgiven the debt and were at peace with her, she insisted on sending us $2,000. Our friend was emphatic: “Warren, this is between me and God. It has almost nothing at all to do with you and Shelly.”

What a strange, surreal thing it was to receive her unnecessary, unexpected, and certainly undeserved “over-repayment.” But it struck me as an unusually-clear example of God’s overflowing generosity. I really appreciate this particular example because it involves irrefutable dollar amounts, but of course I am not suggesting that every time we give money to someone else, we’ll profit financially in some other aspect of our lives. That would be an endorsement of The Prosperity Gospel, a currently-popular twisting of Scripture that excites our sinful desires to love the world and all that is in it: “Jesus loves you…and wants everyone to drive a Cadillac!”

No. Instead, what I am suggesting instead is that every time we give away our time, our talent, our emotional energy, our finances, our comfort – all the things that we tend to walk around pretending truly are ours – whenever we trust God in ways that are hard for us to do, but step out in faith and do it anyway, God generously does something with it far more abundantly than we can imagine.

Sometimes, though not always, He is even gracious enough to give us examples that come out of nowhere, with no rhyme or reason, and clearly demonstrate His presence, even after commanding us to give without thought of repayment.

Jesus in Luke 6:38 (ESV)
“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

James 2:14-17
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

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