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June 30, 2024

Jesus Teaches Us How to Invest

Passage: Luke 9:18-26

When surveying the vast world of market finance, I like to read up on anomalies that pop up in the free market from time to time, such as the boom in GameStop and AMC stock a few years ago. In search for the next anomaly, I found this story from the Business Insider website: “College student Jake Freeman made a tidy $110 million profit on Bed Bath Beyond this summer when the meme stock skyrocketed and more-than-tripled in price. Freeman purchased a $25 million stake in the struggling home goods retailer, and later sold his shares for $130 million.”

Crazy, right? It seems that all it takes for investment gains these days is for a bunch of generation z and millennial kids to hop on social media and, through the magic of irony and sarcasm, influence their peers to do what’s called a short squeeze, encouraging each other to all buy shares and call options at the same time, growing stocks in a matter of hours.

That’s quite the strategy, but it’s not the best investment strategy I’ve ever seen. If you really want to make it big in the investing world, money won’t get you anywhere. That may sound paradoxical, but believe me, this best investment strategy of which I speak impacts your gains beyond this life. You can’t take your money with you in the afterlife, but with this strategy of faith at our disposal, that is okay, for we will reap benefits that are far more rewarding that Jake Freeman’s $130 M.

So, today let’s learn more about the best investment strategy in the world as we see how Jesus teaches us to invest.

(we pray…)

So, when it comes to investing for the afterlife, there are three points we must consider. They all start with a “p.” Number one is polarity, two is perseverance, and three: the product.

First is polarity, that is, a matter of having two opposite or contradictory aspects. And what is being juxtaposed here? Well, on the one hand, we have our product: faith in Christ; and on the other hand we have the product to compare: the world’s product, mammon. In this world, we are always tempted by greed, lust, covetousness, anger, pride to reprioritize our investments. Jesus gives us this strategy of comparison, of polarity, with a warning and promise, to demonstrate how to approach this aspect of our lives. We must practice the observation of polarity by comparing what the world offers and what Christ offers. First, let’s approach it from the world seeker perspective. Jesus says, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it.” In this phrase, Jesus is not condemning self-defense and preservation, but He speaks with a figure of speech, essentially saying, “whoever invests in this life will lose it.” The world’s investment opportunities are flashes in the pan. Money is left behind in death or burned up at judgment day. Sexual desire outside of wedlock is nothing but a carnal itch that translates into a burning itch after death. Power and fame, the goal of pride, mean nothing before God’s judgment throne. Therefore, Jesus says in summation, “what good does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and lose his soul?” The obvious answer is no good. This summary makes me think of the legend of Robert Johnson, a 1930’s blues guitarist from Mississippi who became a talented sensation seemingly overnight. Legend has it that he met with the devil himself at a crossroads to sell his soul for supreme talent. He was told that he had ten years to make use of this talent before the devil collected on the agreement. Spooky? Yes. Accurate? Doubtful. But what’s the point? When one seeks after this world’s goods and does not seek to invest in Christ, what did He gain? Heaven? No, for His soul is practically gone. It’s as if he sold his soul to the devil in order to get whatever he can from this world.

So, practicing polarity, we see that the world and its shares offers a future of destruction. Christ and His shares offer life eternal. But there is a feature that Jesus doesn’t want you to be unaware of. He says, “whoever loses his life for my sake shall save it.” Is Jesus talking about martyrdom? Not exclusively, though for some that may be what God has in store for them. To put it more simply, however, Jesus is pointing out that belief in Him, faith in Him, may involve losing certain aspects of this earthly life. This may look like losing ease of life because of persecution like our fellow Christians in India or Myanmar, losing honor because we hold to seemingly unscientific beliefs or because we are no fun for holding to every word of Jesus, losing friends because we simply don’t agree on the truth of Jesus. It’s painful, but this comes with the life of faith in Christ. But, despite the hardship, remember the polarity: the world’s shares will get you nowhere, the share of Christ’s kingdom has won for you eternal life, and the bliss that comes with that far outweighs the pains we experience now.

This then segways nicely into our last point in the strategy: perseverance. This perseverance we cannot produce on our own, but it is a gift of the Holy Spirit given in grace. And the Spirit further enlightens our understanding of this perseverance with the words of Jesus. With His words He describes the Christian life in this way, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” We know the product of Christ; we know the product of the world. We know that one leads to eternal life, and the other leads to shame when Christ returns with His angels. We know the end game, but what do we do until then? We endure the process of the Christian life.

Jesus describes this process of perseverance in three ways. Deny oneself, take up the cross, and follow me. Denying oneself makes me think of the prodigal son when he realized the rock bottom that he hit in his investments, losing all his money and left with nothing but pig slop to eat. He then turned back to his father’s loving arms. Dening oneself then involves turning inwardly from this sinful self and all its way, overcome with the conviction that its end must be eternal death. This is the constant reminder that the flesh and its desires only want to invest in doom stock. Seeing our sin and its end, we by God’s grace alone turn in repentance to hear that all is forgiven in Christ! He has won for us eternal life. And with this faith firmly rooted in Him, we now take up His cross. The cross that Christ speaks of is every bitterness which the Christ of God pours out for his followers; and this cross may well be taken as the burden intended by Christ for each individual follower. We all have crosses, and they are not the same. This is part of the investment game, and it’s not a downside, but an upside. The Christian’s cross is a mark of God’s favor. By simply clinging to Christ in God given faith, relying on Him for your salvation, God tenders to you a mark of high favor, the cross, that is the burdens you endure for being a Christian. It is not a bad thing! It’s part of the investment game. You will see seeming dips and detours in your life, those dips and detours being the challenges that come your way, but these are allowed by God almighty to strengthen you and your faith in Him. And with the cross tendered to us, Jesus says, “follow me.” This is a call of His grace that leads us to the active life of discipleship, keeping in thought, word, and deed close to the product of Christ: His will and word.

So, with this investment strategy of polarity and perseverance, is not this process of waiting extremely hard? Let us say at once, it is utterly impossible—for us and any ability of our own. But it is possible and is constantly done with success by all those who have been called by God’s grace into saving faith. The Gospel is the “power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.” The message of Christ crucified and risen for you is the power that gets this job done, assuring you that it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

And so, seeing that the Gospel provides the power and motivation to practice polarity and perseverance, we come to the last “p” in the investment strategy: what is it that we are investing in? What is the product and who is the producer? Many try to answer this question, and they have for millennia. So, to answer the question properly, let’s look at another successful investor’s story and see how he defines it. We go back to the days of the apostle Peter where we see him and his contemporaries asked by Jesus, “who do people say that I am?” As other’s investigated the product and producer, the conclusion that they made about Jesus is that he was not the anointed one, but a lesser prophet. Some called Him John the Baptist, who was dead at the time. Others called Him Elijah due to a misinterpretation of the Old Testament. Others called Him just another prophet risen from the dead. All these assessments fall short of the truth. And that is crucial.

This is a crucial detail because without this first step you’ve already lost the investment game, and you’ve lost it big time. This first step is essentially what do you make of the product and its producer, or to put it more clearly, in the words of Jesus: “and who do You say that I am?” It’s a matter of faith then. And what is the biggest temptation in this matter of faith? All around us are supposed “investment experts” the scholars of the world, the A-grade theologians of modern society who say that Jesus is just another prophet or good teacher providing yet another religion to the tapestry of beliefs found in this world. Yet perhaps we already know not to listen to them. But, when it comes to casual investing, don’t we more often listen to our peers than professionals? How many of our friends and loved ones think they understand Jesus, but they truly don’t. “Jesus would never condemn this.” Or the opposite, “I have to make Jesus happy or else!” There are a lot of influences, some more prestigious and others folksier, that Satan tries to use to influence your thoughts on Jesus, making you think of Him and His product as less than it is. Take heed lest you fall. Let Jesus define Himself and what He offers in His word. Don’t let others sell you short on what He provides.

And so, here’s the most important part to the strategy, investing in the providers product, namely having faith in Jesus and His saving work. So then, who is the provider if you will? Peter, solely by the grace of the Holy Spirit, said it correctly, “You are the Christ of God.” This is no ordinary product provider. This is no ordinary prophet of the street. This is no gimmick. Let’s not take that title for granted then. The Greek word “Christ” and its Hebrew equivalent “Messiah” are not surnames. They are titles that bear great significance. Anointed One is what it means. Jesus was anointed, set apart by God for a very special purpose. He is begotten of the Father, sent forth by Him into to the world and anointed with power from the Holy Ghost at His baptism to perform three essential functions. He was anointed to be a prophet, preaching the words of God’s will and grace in His day and in ours. He was anointed to be priest, offering His perfect life of innocence in death to atone for our sins and now in our day presents Himself before the Father as our representative. And He was anointed King, conquering sin death and hell on earth and ruling over us in a protective way now. This is the producer.

But what’s His product? What’s His work? Jesus tells His disciple not to disclose the investment strategy to the world yet, for His time had not yet come and neither had theirs. The disciples were still learning about their master and His ways. Yet Jesus gives them a sneak peek. “I must suffer many things. I must be rejected by the religious leaders and killed. And I must rise again the third day.” That’s a lot to invest in. What does that even mean? Well, you see, for the disciples and for you and me to reap the benefits of our shares after this life, Jesus had to make the stock worth more than gold. He had to offer something more precious than gold to buy your share in eternal life. He had to offer His blood. He had to suffer and die at the hands of those who seemed to know better all to take away your sin and offer you His perfect record that Your Heavenly Father may look upon you as blameless. And He needed to rise again to demonstrate that investing in Him is the only way to salvation. Faith in Jesus, the Son of God indeed as shown by His resurrection, is the way to be saved.

This is the product, the apex of the strategy. This is the winner of the polarity contest. This is the sole motivation for perseverance in denying oneself, taking up the cross daily, and following Jesus. And this is the product by which we must be saved: Jesus Christ crucified and risen. Here is your investment strategy then. Therefore, know that the return on your investment will be greater than Freeman’s $130M. Know that this investment is larger than life. It is life eternal. Amen.