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I’m not a professional investor, but I know folks who invest in stocks hope to make a return on their investment. The goal of buying a stock is that it will grow and be worth more later than it is when it is purchased. If I invest $100, I expect to receive more than $100 when I sell it. The “more than my initial investment” is the ROI.
In Galatians 6:6-10, the apostle Paul talks about investing with an agrarian analogy. Sowing and reaping. Planting and harvesting.
Before moving to north Georgia, I lived in a farming community where planters would take seed and bury it in the ground, with the expectation those seeds would grow, producing a harvest of much much more than was planted in the ground. It sounds like a risky business. But more often than not, God’s laws of nature prove consistent and farms all overturn from rows of dirt to rows of corn, cotton, and soybeans.
Paul doesn’t use the term, but in his investment lesson, he teaches the concept of the ROI—Return on Investment. Whether we buy a stock or plant a seed, on one hand, it looks like we're losing something valuable by letting go of it. But with investing, the principle involves letting go in order to gain. This principle works in practically every area of life, from stocks and farming to material possessions, relationships, and our spiritual lives.
Principles of investing teach us that actions have consequences. Every investment brings a return, whether it's a good investment or a poor investment. To put it in theological terms, we can say that sin has consequences and righteousness has consequences, as well.
Actions Have Consequences
In Galatians 6:6-10, Paul provides a couple of examples of what this looks like.
In verses 6 and 7, he addresses the most obvious application—investing money and sharing possessions. He writes, “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked a man reaps what he sews.”
The principle is clear. Every investment—every action—has consequences.
And we invest in all kinds of things, don't we? We've already mentioned stocks that we may buy for retirement income. We invest in our physical health. We purchase workout programs and gym memberships. We buy exercise equipment. We invest in our hobbies, whether fishing or camping or sewing or whatever. We invest money in food and use funds for entertainment. Many of us have multiple subscriptions to online streaming services and all kinds of apps.
But what about spiritual nurture? What priority do we place on the care and feeding of our souls? Am I investing there? What spiritual harvest am I expecting? What am I experiencing? What needs to change?
The Source of the Struggle
Before we can make any discernible change in our spending habits, we need to understand why we struggle to invest in our spiritual lives the way we do with our physical, material lives. Why will I spend hundreds on exercise equipment and entertainment but relatively nothing toward advancing the kingdom in the local church or helping to support those who preach the gospel and teach there?
He has already explained this in chapter five, but he reviews it a bit in verse 8 of chapter six, saying, “The one who sows [or invests] to please his sinful nature [the flesh] from that nature will reap destruction. The one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
We can imagine before us two separate fields which grow two different crops. I get to choose which of these fields I will invest my God-given resources: time, talents, and treasure. As I make investment decisions, there are two voices competing for my loyalty—the flesh and the Holy Spirit. The question is which investment advisor I’ll follow.
As Paul says, the flesh makes grand promises concerning a worldly ROI. Position, popularity, wealth, pleasure, and power. The world makes us think these are the ways to joy, happiness, and human fulfillment. While the harvest may look amazing for a while, but eventually, it rots and produces a dividend of destruction. The harvest of the Spirit may not seem as glorious in the present temporal sense. But rather than destruction, the long-term ROI of yielding to the Spirit is eternal life.
If there is anything that stands out in the text so far, it is that actions have consequences. We reap what we sow. This is true in my personal spiritual life, in my marriage, with my children, the workplace, and every place where I am called to invest.
In verses 9-10, Paul takes this principle and applies it to human engagement and interaction. He writes,
9 “Let us not become weary in doing good for at the proper time. We will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
So, what do we mean by “doing good” to people? Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 25, where he tells a parable about what doing good looks like.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Whoa! This puts random acts of kindness on an entirely new level. Even the smallest kindnesses are recognized by the King and will be honored, as we did good to him.
To Fellow Believers
So one application of the “doing good” principle is how we treat fellow believers. Paul says in verse 10, “Let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
We remember from Matthew 25 that to do good is to meet practical needs. But I think we need a heads up. After all, Paul says to love each other like we are a family (because we are—the family of God). When we think about the church as family, we smile and think, “Isn’t that sweet. To be a family. Aww.”
But we know that the hardest people in the world love are folks in our own families. Why? Because we are most aware of their sins and they are aware of ours. This awareness requires extraordinary humility and mercy for family relationships to co-exist without combusting in a relational explosion. Healthy family and church family relationships are dependent upon the power of the Spirit being at work to bring love to bear as a fruit of… the Spirit.
Again, we will listen to one of two voices. As we consider which one to follow, I think it's important to remember that the world is watching our family relationship as the church. Unbelievers are not judging us by the correctness of our theological positions but by how we love one another—whether or not we meet the practical needs of those in the family. Whether we are kind or hostile toward each other. Forgiving or resentful. Vindictive or merciful.
In John 13:34, Jesus says that the world will know people are his disciples, not by their doctrinal profession but by the love they manifest toward other believers.
In John 17, Jesus is praying to the Father as asks that his disciples would experiencing the bond of peace in the unity of the Spirit. Why did he pray that? Because he knew that our unity (amidst diversity) testifies to the world that the Son was sent by the Father. The implication is that division and divisiveness—a lack of love—in the family of God undermines the testimony of the Gospel of Jesus to the world.
To All People
In addition to “doing good” to fellow believers, we are called to apply the “doing good” principle to how we how disciples of Jesus treat those who are not Christians. Creekstone’s original philosophy of ministry statement was crafted to guide us as a distinctively gospel-driven congregation. Our primary tenent is that we would focus on the centrality and pervasiveness of the message of God’s grace in Jesus. It is that grace centrality that we hoped would create the atmosphere for building an authentic. community of believers who would be transparent and vulnerable about our need for the blood of Jesus. We wanted to live with the ground truly level at the foot of the cross, being peers in humility with confidence in the astonishing love of God for each and every one of us.
We also talked about how we would reach our community as a grace-saturated congregation. The term we used was “organic outreach.” The actual statement reads:
We will encourage all the members in the church in the family to see themselves as missionaries—word and deed ambassadors of Jesus. We will not view non-Christians as enemies, but precisely as the people to whom we are called to serve, love, bless, and offer the living hope of God's transforming grace.
That statement is totally in line with “doing good” to all people, especially non-believers. It also mentions a category of people that Jesus highlights in Matthew 5:43,
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
An enemy includes anyone whom we find ourselves set against (or who is set against us), whether theologically, philosophically, socially, relationally, ethnically, politically, or whatever the context might be.
But what does it mean to love an enemy? I mean, come on. That is a tall order.
Yes, it is. Especially when we realize that loving an enemy is not an emotional feeling as much as it is volitional action. To love an enemy is to say, “I may not feel affection toward this person right now, but I'm going to act in a way that blesses them. That does good to them by meeting practical needs.
Loving an enemy is doing good to the undeserving—to the unworthy who wouldn't do good to you. This go totally against the grain of the flesh. This kind of treatment is utterly counter to how the world operates. The flesh and the world look at enemies with contempt and disdain and demand justice, not mercy or kindness or blessing.
But isn't that exactly how Jesus has treated you and me? By showing mercy and kindness and blessing to enemies. In Colossians 1:21-22, Paul writes concerning our former status as enemies of God,
21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.
In my flesh, I definantly have rejected his wisdom and his ways. With my sinful, rebellious actions, I have said, “I know how to live. I know the best way to run my life and don’t need anyone like you, God, telling me what to do.”
What arrogance. What foolishness.
What Wondrous Love is This?
And yet Jesus enters the scene and looks upon us. We who had set ourselves against him as enemies. Instead of coming to judge, he comes to do good, to bless us with sacrificial, costly love. As the old hymn goes,
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul.
Think about it. What do we deserve? Speaking for myself, when I consider the record of my sin and what the crime of treason requires, I can easily say that before Heaven I deserve the death penalty for my sins.
And yet, wonder of wonders, Jesus takes my place and serves my death sentence. As the perfectly obedient Son of God, he deserved honor and blessing and kindness. Instead he received rebuke, rejection, and condemnation. All so I could receive the kindness, mercy, grace, and love of the father.
What the cross teaches us is what Paul has been talking about in this entire section. Actions have consequences. My actions have consequences. Thankfully, so do the actions of Jesus! With his righteous, sacrificial act, he overturned all of my sinful, unrighteous acts and reconciled me to God the Father as a fully forgiven, beloved child.
God’s Investment Strategy
The cross was God's investment strategy designed to produce a return for himself from the blood of Jesus. How does it feel to know that you are the ROI the Father most deeply desired? How does it feel to know that you are fully forgiven and have no more fear of judgment? How does it feel to know you no longer have to live as a spiritual orphan? Your Abba is the Sovereign Lord. How does it feel to know that he loves you so much he’d invest the very life of Jesus to reconcile you to himself as his own.
Whereever we look in Scripture and find “do good” principles everywhere, it will not take long to realize that you have not done good. When it dawns on you that there is only one who is truly good, our first reaction should not be to seek to fix ourselves.
No, do not look to yourself. Look to Jesus. For it is when I can see and savor his actions having consequences of excessive kindness and mercy for me, that grace becomes the motivation and power to invest my life in a new way.
That's the primary call to action from this text. In verse 10, Paul writes, “As we have opportunity, let us do good.” Opportunity. Abiding in Jesus and empowered by the Spirit, opportunity is all we need. And it will be around us every day. All we need to do it look for it.
Where's the opportunity? Maybe there will be an opportunity to do good for someone in my family, or the church family, or a friend, or even an enemy. Where's the opportunity to do good? Many of us are living online right now in the social media world. How are we representing Jesus there? How is my in-person or online presence helping others to see and savor the grace of God in Jesus?
All of this begins with seeing and savoring Jesus for yourself. That's really the bottom line. To see and Savor the kindness and the beauty and the grace and the glory and the mercy of the one who sees and savors you as his beloved—the one for whom he was willing to give his very life, that you simply might be his.
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