A friend approached me not too long ago and boasted about how he had just won $20 playing the lottery. His face beamed with self-satisfaction as he shared with me his apparent good luck. His winnings served as proof to him that his investment strategy was an effective one. Of course, he had been a fool. The lottery just isn’t a good investment strategy. I asked him, “How many tickets did you buy before you got those winnings?” His beams of self-satisfaction faded into mild embarrassment. He responded with a figure that was somewhere north of $20. My foolish friend often complains of having no money to pursue some of his very achievable goals. He doesn’t have that money because he is always chasing momentary pleasures that spoil in the very moment they appear, or he is investing his time and resources in senseless, short-sighted fantasies that have no potential for a return on the investment he is making.
The goal of investment is to receive something of greater value than what you have invested. Jesus gives us an excellent example of how we can profoundly miss that wisdom (Luke 12:13-21). Using a parable he tells of a rich man with fertile land who produces more crops than his barns can hold. He decides to tear down his barns, and build bigger ones to store up all that his land is generating. He then says to himself that he has enough stuff stored up for years, and that he can now sit back and take it easy. God calls him a fool, and tells him that his life will be demanded of him on that very night, and then asks him who is going to receive all of the things for which he has been working. The point of that parable is that everyone who stores up things on earth, but does not store up spiritual riches, will lose the temporary, earthly wealth when they die. They will have worked too hard and long for benefits that will wisp away in the seconds of their dying moments. Of course, God’s problem is not with the man’s wealth. After all, God is the ultimate giver of wealth. His problem appears to be with the rich man’s attitude about the wealth, and with how that is preventing a real and meaningful life.
Your life is a vapor (James 4:14), and the material wealth you produce while on this present earth is of small relative value. Instead of solely pursuing material benefit, you should use your time to invest in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). This is because life is not found in material wealth. It is found in spiritual activity and connection with God and the people who love him. Investment in those kinds of things produces eternal wealth. Such investment is made through service to God and other people, and it always produces great returns. So in your vaporous life, don’t gamble on lottery tickets which produce rewards of transient value, and usually cost more than what you’ve invested. Invest your energies in service to God, your faith community, your family, your friends, and in people who don’t yet know the riches of Jesus Christ. Such a life is far more fulfilling and valuable.