Sherlock spoiler alert! Toward the very end of episode two of the fourth season, Sherlock Holmes and his best friend/sleuthing partner Dr. Watson are discussing the effect Mary Watson’s death has had on them. In the previous episode, Mary took a bullet meant for Sherlock, thus dying in his place. One of Sherlock’s statements has stuck with me longer than I expected:
In saving my life she conferred a value on it; it’s a currency I do not know how to spend.
This, naturally, made me think of Christ: In saving our lives through the cross, Christ conferred a value upon them. How are we to spend ourselves?
In the beginning of his letter to the church at Rome, Paul explains why he wants to travel to see them: “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:11-12). He recognized that he needed people to invest in him even while he invested in others. In many of Paul’s letters, he thanks the churches for they ways they have invested in him through prayer, gifts, and visits. He recognizes their value from Christ and is honored by their choice to spend it on him.
Recognizing the value placed upon us by Christ’s death and resurrection, we are tasked with finding ways to spend ourselves. Our “currency” of time, energy, prayer, labor, food, money, self is meant to be used for God’s glory and his purposes in the world.
Invest in Others
Financial planners will tell you that long-term investments are better than short-term, and that you’ll get a better ROI (return on investment) the longer you let money sit and grow. Does the same hold true when we invest ourselves in others?
Investing short-term can look like volunteering a couple times a year with an organization you love or spending every Saturday for a month helping a friend get ready to move. In these kinds of situations there is often a specific task or goal that someone needs help with (pack all the boxes!), and we usually see results quickly. This then frees us to move on to another activity and person. I volunteer at an annual conference each fall for college students. For this one weekend a year, I see God work in their lives as they consider what it means to follow Christ once they become an “adult.” I fully believe God blesses and honors these shorter-term investments.
We can also choose to invest in people or causes long-term. Working or volunteering for a non-profit can mean spending years laboring toward justice, peace, health, or education for a specific population. Parenting is another long-term investment. Promising to spend 18-plus years guiding another human, hoping he or she will not need regular therapy at the end of it, is a substantial and blessed investment. One of my long-term investments is leading an adult Bible study at my church every Sunday, which I’ve been doing for several years and will continue to do as long as people show up. Every week, I pray that those who sit with me and study Scripture are changed by God’s Word, but that’s often all I can do. Whether or not we see results, though, I believe God blesses and honors long-term investments as well.
The apostle Paul’s ministry was filled with investments both short-term and long-term. He stayed in some places for only a few weeks (or in at least one case just overnight) and in other places for years, investing deeply in community with other believers. And he never knew what the result of his investment would be. He could only pray that God’s people would respond to the Holy Spirit, recognize their value, and invest in more people. The Church has grown beyond what Paul could have ever imagined because he kept investing no matter where he was. What would life around you (your family, neighborhood, workplace, church) look like with increased investment?
Ask Others to Invest in Us
In order to continue pouring our energy, time, talents, and gifts into others we occasionally need more stamina, discipline, or patience than we have available within ourselves. It can be hard, but we may need to ask others to invest in us. My church is currently going through a significant struggle. We have lost three (of six) pastors and a worship director in the past eight months and are starting to look around and notice that things are not as great as we thought they were. I am part of a task force that will be working to help us rediscover who we are and who we want to be. It has been emotionally and spiritually exhausting. This is where my friends come in. They are investing in me by praying for me and my church, and by letting me vent my frustrations and anger. We also watch movies and play games for hours. Their investment allows me to relax, recharge, and rest so that I can continue to invest in the church I love and am heartbroken for.
It can be hard to ask others to invest in us. The US has an independent and individualistic culture. We don’t like asking for help; often we wait until the last minute when we have nothing left and are burnt out. We also can’t expect those around us to know what we might need without us telling them. That’s not the way this works. Paul was surrounded by people during his ministry, with only one or two periods of solitude. There were always others around to help him and support the work. We are to follow that example. Who do you need to ask to invest in you? Who is praying for you?
Where are you investing?
The Gospel of Luke includes a parable about a rich fool (12:15-21). After an abundant harvest, he builds more storehouses to hold it all. This does him no good, however, as he dies in the night and never has the chance to do anything with it. Jesus’ warning to not hoard things, but to be generous toward God and others, is still relevant today. We have been given something that is meant to be distributed to others: grace, mercy, love. What good is it to have it, but do nothing with it?
Investing doesn’t just happen. We don’t suddenly find ourselves volunteering in our neighborhood or church. There is often (at least) a few moments of thought and a conscious decision made. Investing in things that we are passionate about—things and people we love, causes and organizations—should be intentional and purposeful.
So, what or who are you going to start investing in? Who are you going to ask to invest in you? How are you going to start spending yourself?
Image by twentyonehundred productions team member Jono Gay.