Early in 2009, my husband Jamie and I received a significant sum of money from an inheritance. We promptly did what you would expect a middle-aged, middle-class couple to do; we paid off our debt, helped our kids purchase homes and invested the rest in mutual funds. Within six months our mutual fund investment was worth half as much as when we started.
Later that same year, author and speaker Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove came to Winnipeg. He was here to speak at a couple of saint benedict’s table (sbt) events and to preach at Sunday night worship. He had just published his book God’s Economy (Zondervan), in which he challenges Christians to rethink our relationship to money.
At one sbt gathering in particular Jonathan wondered aloud about the logic of one member of Christ’s body investing her financial resources in mutual funds and the stock market while another member of Christ’s body suffers under oppressive credit card debt and student loans. The line that has stuck with me from that event is “Why don’t we use our money to make friends?”
Sitting in the church hall that day listening to Jonathan analyze the relative return on investment when we invest in people by offering low interest loans instead of investing the stock market, I felt all at once convicted and set free. There I was, sitting on $20,000 less than I had had six months earlier and what did I have to show for it? What would have happened if we had invested that money in a student or young family struggling under its own debt load I wondered?
On the way home Jamie and I made a life-changing decision; we would begin to invest what we could in making friends.
In 2011, we were once again blessed to receive a significant inheritance. This time we looked around our community and selected a family that we thought would understand what it means to participate in God’s economy and we invited them to dinner.
We knew Rachel and Mike (both in their thirties) were still working to pay off student loans. We told them we had received this money and we would like to use it to help them, in the form of a no-interest loan, to pay off their debt. They could then pay us back in a timeframe that was comfortable and allowed them to sleep more easily over the coming years.
We were already beginning to become friends with Rachel and Mike, but we didn’t really know each other well. That night, I wrote a cheque for $16,000 and we verbally agreed to the terms of the loan. In January 2012, Mike and Rachel had paid off their remaining student loans and were in a position to begin to repay their debt to us.
In 2013, we will have half of the “fund” restocked and will be ready to invest in another new friend. He’s a young student who will be graduating with a healthy student loan that year. God willing we’ll be able help him sleep better too. In the meantime, we’ll be waiting for our mutual funds to catch up.