For nearly five years our family lived by raising support to accomplish our work. We worked as YWAM missionaries across four continents, seeking to follow God wherever He led us and to do whatever He asked us to do. It made no sense and it seemed like we were being countercultural to many of our friends. We sold or gave away nearly all we had and lived by what others gave us, not because we were so altruistic, but because we saw how God blessed us and others through it all. Now that we are back in the business world, I’m not so sure that there really is much difference. I definitely know we are called to live the same way, regardless.
What made it so fun and amazing is that we always had more than enough. We never went hungry and we were always able to give to others who asked us for something. We supported other missionaries on a regular basis and helped feed and clothe people along the way. The resources God provided us through others was more than enough to bubble over and supply even more people with their needs. We gave away more as missionaries than we ever did when we were making six-figure incomes.
Sometimes friends of mine in business struggled with what we were doing. The American system – capitalism – thrives on hard work for a profit, personal investment, personal property, saving, borrowing, lending, return on investment. It was hard for my business-minded friends to imagine not knowing where the next meal might come from or not having some steady cash flow. And they really couldn’t fathom how we could continue to give stuff away. Conventional wisdom suggested that we should begin to live more and more frugally, keeping as much as we could for ourselves to ensure that we didn’t go hungry.
The more I think about it, however, it makes perfect sense – especially in light of the way resources work and what makes capitalism work as well as it does.
God illustrates His principles for our resources well in the Parable of the Talents. There we learn of three servants who each receive varying amounts of money. Two of the three invest their talents (talent being the currency) while one buries his. When the master returns, the two who invested the talents have doubled their money. Naturally, the one who buried his talent can only return what he was given.
In the end of the parable we see the master punishing the servant who buried his talent, taking the talent from him and giving it to the one who had the most. It is the one who kept the money to himself (burying it) that we see being called wicked. Those who invested their money are seen as the ones who did the appropriate thing.
So, what does this mean? Does this validate capitalism?
No. What it validates is how God designed things to work in this world. It validates that God’s ways are always the best ways. God made it so that multiplication only occurs through giving.
Investment is a form of giving. I have resources. If I invest them, I am in fact giving the resources to another person to use as they see fit. I may not get them back at all. I may get them back with interest. Regardless, the first step to any multiplication always involves giving or transfer. If all I do with my resources is keep them for myself, then they will never grow or multiply. When I plant a dollar in the ground, it will never grow more dollars. Instead, it will remain the same dollar, and, over time, it will most likely be worth less when I unbury it than what it was worth when I buried it.
Isn’t this ironic?
To increase my resources I must give them away. This truth is true whether applied in business, non-profit, or personal life.
It is true with respect to every resource I have. I have to give away love to see my love grow. I have to give away my skills (use them for others) to see them enhanced.
I have to give freely to live freely.
Jesus demonstrated this. We need to live it to demonstrate Jesus to the world. And, as we do this we will begin to see less poverty, less crime, less needs across and around the world. It makes no sense that we can live with over 90% of the world’s wealth and feel good about the billions living on less than two dollars a day. If we begin to give away more of what we have, not only will we see a return, but we will also begin to see more justice and more of the Kingdom of God. We don’t live in a world of finite resources. We live in a Kingdom ruled by an infinite God. If we begin to live as though we only have enough for ourselves, we will begin to see our resources shrink and disappear. This is true whether we are living based on the support of others, have a paycheck, or own our own business.
Giving truly does make cents.