Tinsley: Risk and risk tolerance
By Bill Tinsley
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Investors talk about "risk" and "risk tolerance." A few years ago, even the most conservative of investors could expect to receive a return of 5% percent, or more, by simply placing their money in certificates of deposit or savings accounts. But times have changed. Those kinds of risk-free investments have disappeared. Savings accounts usually earn fractions of a percent. CDs do little better.
Those who want to invest for the future, including retirement funds, are left with higher risk options. But for many of us, risk leaves our stomachs queasy. Our introduction to 2020 has been gut wrenching. The Dow Jones industrial average recorded its worst-ever loss in March, with many economists predicting the "greatest depression" in history. But a massive $3 trillion infusion of money by the government created an immediate rebound. The stock market, since that time, seems disconnected from the economic indicators.
Stocks, investments and economics have always confused me. I have never been able to figure it out. I guess that is why I find Jesus' story in Luke 19 confusing. He told of a wealthy owner who left his servants in charge of his money while he was gone. To each he gave the same amount. Let's say he gave each $1,000. When he returned, one servant had invested and multiplied the $1,000 into $10,000. Another had invested and multiplied it into $5,000. But the third was afraid of losing the $1,000. Maybe he wrapped it in some newspaper and hid it under his mattress.
The wealthy owner commended the first two, but he was furious with the third. "You should have at least put it in the bank so it could earn interest," he said. He then took the $1,000 from the last one and gave it to the one who had $10,000. He said, "I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away." (Luke 19:11-27).
As with all of Jesus' stories, there are many applications to be made and much to learn. Of course, I don't think Jesus was all that concerned about money. After all, when he died all he had were the clothes on his back. But he clearly understood how the world works. And he clearly understood how life works.
So, what was his point? It seems to me that Jesus wants his followers to learn to take risk for the Kingdom's sake. Whenever we grow fearful and withdraw into ourselves, we shrivel up. What little we have is taken away from us. I have watched people do this. I have even seen churches do this, pinching pennies and worried they will not make budget. But when we lay it all on the line, when we give our lives away for others, we experience pleasure and joy unspeakable. This is why he said, "Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, shaken together and running over." And, again, "He that will save his life shall lose it, but he who will lose his life for my sake and the gospel shall find it."
Jesus' early followers clearly understood this. There is no evidence that any of them became wealthy. But there is abundant evidence that they were willing to risk everything to serve God and help others.
During the coronavirus pandemic we should all wear masks, wash our hands, practice social distancing and continue to live our lives with courage and joyful service to others.
Bill Tinsley reflects on current events and life experience from a faith perspective. Tinsley's books are available at www.tinsleycenter.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.