Investment never meant much to me as a child. I liked beautiful things, delicious food, and well-planned adventures. But I didn’t understand much about how these things were produced. They were like the grass that sprouted up from the earth or the rain that fell down from heaven. They were the fruits of life, there for my enjoyment. And I felt little obligation to try and replicate their quality. In my mind, my mother made fantastic pizza because it was a natural outflowing of her being. I didn’t stop to consider the time and effort she put into the process.

Because we lived so remotely, when Christmas rolled around we hand made our presents. And I am sorry to say that mine were pretty unimpressive. They were filled with love of course. But my standard for quality was rather low.

As an adult, I can honestly say that one of the concepts that has impacted my life the most has to do with investment: what you put into it is what you’ll get out. It has affected my cooking, my work ethic, my hobbies, and my relationships. As a child my life was full of change. I saw life as a series of situations and circumstances that happened to me. My primary purpose was to adapt and respond.

And now I find myself learning this same lesson in my spiritual life: what you put in is what you’ll get out. There is something lacking if I am always expecting others to do the spiritual investment. Yes, my personal relationship with the Lord is arguably my first priority. But God did not intend for His church to be a giant archipelago of individual Christian islands. He described His church as a body–as part of the kingdom of light. Now obviously people have different roles in a kingdom. But I think it is too easy for me to focus on my material needs and responsibilities and neglect my kingdom investments. I live like I am a tourist of the kingdom of heaven, instead of a citizen.

As a white girl in Indonesia I was often mistaken for a tourist, and it made me angry. Let me tell you the differences between me and a tourist:

  1. Tourists didn’t speak the language, I did.
  2. Tourists came from rich countries. They would either hold tight to their wealth, or they would give handouts that didn’t actually help the people learn to provide for themselves. My family looked for ways to employ nationals and teach them marketable skills.
  3. Tourists were there to be entertained. They did not enter into the daily lives and struggles of the nationals. To me Indonesia was home, with all the good and the ugly.
  4. Tourists left when times got tough. We lived through drought and political instability along with everyone else.

I was indignant to be called a tourist. Yet, sometimes I am guilty of the same thing in the body of Christ. I have been guilty of sticking to my own language instead of learning the language of the local church. I have been guilty of holding onto my time, treasures, and talents instead of investing them in my church to see them grow. I have been guilty of going to church events to be entertained. And I have been guilty of moving on to a new church when I smelled struggle or conflict.

I will be the first to admit that life gets distracting. I was very recently in a season where life circumstances seemed overwhelming: my job was emotionally exhausting and my family was going through difficult trials.The Lord knows your circumstances. Investing in the kingdom of God and the body of Christ should not be legalistic. But I would like to remind you (because I also need the reminder) that what you put in is what you’ll get out. And when I see the direction this country and this world are taking, it is a very vivid reminder that I don’t want to invest in this physical, material world which is passing away. I want to invest my time, energy, money, and talents into things that will have eternal impact.