Investing in What Matters Most by Hayden Ericks
Time and money are two elements that we often wish we had more of. How often in life do we have a lengthy to-do list, finally get a free Saturday, and then proceed throughout the entire day without accomplishing anything on our list? More than we would like to admit. Although there was plenty of time, nothing got done on Saturday because a plan was absent. Just like time can disappear when we forgo planning our day, the same can occur when we neglect planning how to allocate our financial margin.
Financial margin is simply the difference between how much we earn and what we give, owe for taxes and debt, and spend on our normal living expenses. Depending on how we were raised and the experiences that shaped us along the way, we all typically have a “default” margin disposition: spend or save. When we have more financial resources than necessary to meet our short-term needs, we will normally either spend the money on our current desires or save the money for future wants or needs. However, saving and spending are not the only options. We can use our financial resources to invest in three types of capital :
- Financial Capital: Using financial resources to meet financial goals.
- Social Capital: Using financial resources to invest in people.
- Spiritual Capital: Using financial resources to further God’s kingdom.
Out of the three, financial capital is the most familiar to us; the concept includes spending money on current desires, paying off debt, or saving for future goals using personal investment accounts or retirement accounts. However, social and spiritual capital investments are often unfamiliar to most people, despite being some of the best ways to utilize our financial margin. The goal of investing in social capital is to enhance your relationships with others, enhance others’ relationships with those close to them, and support the healthy growth and development of other people. Social and spiritual capital investments should be viewed as such: an investment, not an expense. We are investing in others and God’s kingdom, which is often more impactful than investing in our 401(k)s.
Notable examples of investing in social capital would include:
- Mission Trips: Paying for a mission trip with friends or family will not only strengthen the bonds you have with each other, but it also will provide perspective and can play a key role in the development of each person’s faith.
- Experience Gifts: Concert tickets, weekend trips with friends/family, or Father-Daughter “dinner date nights” are just a few of the ways that we can use our money to “buy time” with others to deepen relationships.
- Book Reports : One of best ways to prepare your children for life is to encourage reading. Russ Crosson, the author of Your Life Well Spent, shares that he incentivizes his children to read by offering them $100 for each book they read and complete a report on. These books can be on the topic of Christianity (which helps validate and strengthen their faith), finances (which prepares them to be a better steward of their resources), or their preferred field of study (which provides clarity on where their talents and passions intersect).
Noteworthy examples of investing in spiritual capital would include:
- Giving to Your Local Church/Ministries: It is evident in Psalm 24:1 that everything, including “our” money is God’s. Instead of asking ourselves “how much of my money should I give,” we should be asking “how much of God’s money would he want me to keep for myself? ”
- Supporting Those in Need: Deuteronomy 14:28-29, along with numerous other passages in scripture, make it clear there is a special place in God’s heart for widows, orphans, and the poor. Randy Alcorn also shares that “too often we assume that God has increased our income to increase our standard of living, when his stated purpose is to increase our standard of giving .”
- Stocked Food Pantry : My favorite example of where social and spiritual capital intersect takes nothing more than a fridge, pantry, and hospitality. Having an “open fridge and pantry” policy is a sure way to enrich the relationships between our children and their friends. First, it will increase the number of times friends come over to the house and builds community. Secondly, for our children’s friends who may not know the Lord, it can lead to questions like, “why are you and your family so generous and hospitable to me?” This then opens the door for a conversation about Christianity.
The reason it is crucial to plan for our financial margin is because where we use our resources is a direct reflection of our hearts (Matthew 6:21). When we use our money to build social and spiritual capital, our hearts, attention, and efforts are focused on others rather than ourselves – what Jesus modeled for us during his time on earth.
 R. Crosson, Your Life Well Spent: The Eternal Rewards of Investing Yourself and Your Money in Your Family, Eugene: Harvest House Publishing, 2012.
 R. Alcorn, Money Possessions and Eternity, Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2003.