I’ve probably shared the story at some point about my first lesson in reasons not to gamble. I was ten or eleven years old, and my day-to-day relationship with my older brother and step-brother was, let’s just say, not the most positive thing in my life. They viewed me with about the same level of optimistic joy that attended waking up to find that a new zit had developed on their face overnight. It was actually a little worse than that because at least the zit would go away in a few days.
A Bull Market Possibility ~
Other than ensuring that they never had to wonder who to blame when things went wrong, I offered little possibility of “benefit” to them–until they got hold of a deck of cards and learned to play poker. Suddenly my potential for profitability went off the chart. They saw me as the key to a “bull market” eutopia and a plan quickly developed.
Our money stream was limited to a weekly allowance of 50 cents. Theirs was typically gone within a day or so, but my grandmother taught me that saving my money was extremely important. Her teaching, and the fact that I rarely got to go anywhere to spend it, had enabled me to accumulate a treasure trove of at least $2.00, a tantalizing enticement for them.
The guys had been uncharacteristically nice to me all morning. That should have alerted me to the approaching danger, but my senses were obviously dulled by the euphoria of living more than half a day without being accused of something. That afternoon, they invited me to play cards with them–another missed warning sign. “We’ll teach you a new game,” they said, and in less than an hour, you guessed it . . . I was bankrupt. “Lesson One” learned.
A couple more incidents along the way reinforced the lesson by replicating the outcome, so I developed an attitude toward gambling that protected me for years from some of the more obvious gaming enticements. Then I learned about the stock market. Let me rephrase that. I learned that gambling isn’t always called “gambling.” I also learned that classifying it as “investing” did nothing to preclude a reenactment of my familiar concluding scenario. The end result in both cases was about the same.
Ratings to the Rescue ~
Eventually, though, I did learn that doing some research can help, and I discovered that knowledgeable people were able to develop methods to evaluate investment vehicles. Their work led to assigning those now familiar “stars” to help investors evaluate risk vs. potential gain. More stars is good; fewer stars, not so much. There are no guarantees associated with these indicators, but the method at least ties the stock or the fund to a synopsis of its past history and helps novice gamblers–excuse me, “investors”–to make a more informed decision about where to entrust their resources. The practice has also spread to reviews of commercial products, allowing potential buyers a glimpse of past performance to help determine whether their new acquisition will be all they’re hoping for. I wonder how it would look if we attempted the same kind of thing from a spiritual perspective before choosing how to invest our lives. Here’s a brief shot at it:
- Investing in the Word of God ★★★★★
5 Stars: No history of failure–prospects indicate eternal stability and endless upward growth
Risk level: 0– No threat of enduring loss regardless of investment level or variable market conditions.
Basis for Evaluation: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God [investor] may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)
- Investing in Selfless Expressions of Love ★★★★★
5 Stars: No history of failure– prospects indicate priceless returns in any market climate.
Risk of temporary setbacks, but overall, returns eliminate any possibility of ultimate losses
Basis for Evaluation: Love never fails… I Cor. 13:8 (NKJV)
- Investing in Spiritual Growth of Others ★★★★★
5 Stars: Some fluctuation, but no history of ultimate loss for investors.
Again, risk of temporary adjustment related downturns, but ultimate profitability remains unchallenged.
Basis for Evaluation: Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Romans 14:19 (NKJV)
- Investing in Spiritual Self-Improvement ★★★★★
5 Stars: Returns vary, but results are eminently positive across variable climates and venues–no history of significant failure
Return levels automatically adjust to accommodate the degree of investment, but outcomes are universally positive.
Basis for Evaluation: But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Jude 1:20-21 (NKJV)
- Investing in Personal Pleasure and Popular Cultural Pastimes ★
“1” Star: Brief, short-term returns that fade quickly.
Risk level very high. No hope of ultimate profit and loss of initial investment eventually is 100%
Basis for Evaluation: For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:16-17 (NKJV)
This little exercise may seem frivolous, but if we paused long enough to consider a different view, we might find it helpful. Every new dawn demands that we invest the only life we will ever have in some kind of activity, some expression of who and what we are, some demonstration of the way we think the world works, and some exhibition of our confidence in the values we place on things.
Most of us just meander through life like novice gamblers, hoping the right cards show up, and that the lifestyles and values we “invested” in–that we “bet” on–turn out to be winners. The question is not whether we will “invest” our life, but how, and in what? So here are our choices . . . We can pour all we have into proven, five-star winners, or gamble it all on proven losers in the vain hope that in our case the outcome will be different.
© 2018 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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