Investors talk about “risk” and “risk tolerance.” Not long ago, even the most conservative of investors could expect to receive a return of 5% percent, or more, by simply placing their money in CDs or savings accounts. But times have changed. Those kinds of risk free investments are almost nonexistent. The best CDs now yield somewhere between 2% and 3%. Savings accounts yield less than 1%.
Those who want to invest for the future, including retirement funds, are left with higher risk options. But, for many of us, risk leaves our stomachs queasy. Those who ran from risk and pulled all their money out of the stock market in 2008 are still ringing their hands over their loss. Last week the stock market topped 13000 for the first time since 2008. Those who were able to stomach the risk have seen an increase of approximately 100% since the Market bottomed at 6547 on March 9, 2008.
Stocks, investments and economics have always confused me. I have never been quite able to figure it out. I guess that is why I find Jesus’ story in Luke 19 confusing. He told of a wealthy owner who left his servants in charge of his money while he was gone. To each he gave the same amount. Let’s say he gave each $1,000. When he returned one servant had invested and multiplied the $1,000 into $10,000. Another had invested and multiplied it into $5,000. But the third was afraid of losing the $1,000 so he wrapped it in some newspaper and hid it under his mattress. The wealthy owner commended the first two, but he was furious with the third. “You should have at least put it in the bank so it could earn interest,” he said. He then took the $1,000 from the last one and gave it to the one who had $10,000. He said, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” (Luke 19:11-27).
As with all of Jesus’ stories, there are many applications to be made and much to learn. Of course, I don’t think Jesus was all that concerned about money. After all, when he died all he had was the clothes on his back. But he clearly understood how the world works. And he clearly understood how life works.
So, what was his point? It seems to me that Jesus wants his followers to learn to take risk for the Kingdom sake. Whenever we grow fearful and withdraw into ourselves, we shrivel up. What little we have is taken away from us. I have watched people do this. I have even seen churches do this, pinching pennies and worried that they will lose what little they have. But when we lay it all on the line, when we give our lives away for others, we experience pleasure and joy unspeakable. This is why he said, “Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, shaken together and running over.” And, again, “He that will save his life shall lose it, but he who will lose his life for my sake and the gospel shall find it.”
Jesus’ early followers clearly understood this. There is no evidence that any of them became wealthy. But there is abundant evidence that they were willing to risk everything to serve God and help others.