April 12th, 2016

I’m pretty sure it’s not proper English, maybe not really a word, but we understand the principle of things “compounding:” the idea of building something on the growth generated from a previous investment, leading to a result over time that exceeds simple addition.

Compounding is most talked about in the areas of finance and economics with the benefits of compounding interest. Earned interest is added to the principal so that the interest also earns interest. The principal balance grows, leading to more interest being earned over time. A 20-year old begins investing $100 each month and earns 10% interest in the stock market, which she rolls back into her investment. If she chooses to retire at age 65, her investment will have grown to over one million dollars. She invested $54,000!!! In finance and economics, compounding can be a wise choice.

Compounding is often on display in less than flattering ways in our lives. As children, we learn the consequences of compounding a lie. My children (and sometimes their parents) start out exaggerating or stretching the truth in the retelling of a story because it makes the story seem so much grander. When the details get questioned we, I mean they, quickly begin to cover their tracks to avoid the embarrassment of being called out. If pressed, embarrassment leads to defensiveness, and it becomes personal. They will lie and act deceitfully and possibly even throw a fit, leading to much greater consequences than the original offense would merit. Compounding a lie is always a bad choice.

As you can imagine, it’s really not just my children. I suffer from compounding stupidity. I was leaving an airport early one morning and needed a restroom stop. I saw a sign for Chick-fil-A, and it was an obvious choice. At the time, I was on a pretty serious diet and exercise regimen. My dieting habits aren’t great, but they work; so I avoid certain things and cut back portions. On this particular day, I felt like I needed to buy a drink since I was using their facilities. As I stood waiting in line, I noticed a chicken breakfast burrito, which I’d never seen on the menu. It looked delicious, and I decided I needed one but as I ordered, the word “two” mysteriously came out of my mouth. I looked at the great price and thought they must be miniature portions. As I got the first one out of the bag, it was bigger than my fist. The chicken in it was fried and definitely not on my diet plan. It was incredible.

Now I had a serious dilemma. Not only was I stuffed at 9:00 a.m. and had consumed more bad calories than I typically ate in a day, I still had another one in my bag! I quickly closed it up and put the bag in the passenger floorboard where I was certain it couldn’t see or taunt me. Within 30 minutes, I had devoured the other burrito and rationalized it as good stewardship. The result was not only a day of not working toward my goal, but I compounded it with frustration, guilt and an upset stomach. Compounding stupidity… you follow me?

The principle of compounding can also apply to the stewardship of our resources and how lives are affected. When we practice the principle of tithing, giving the first 10% of our income to our local church, the first blessing comes to us as we align our hearts with God’s plan for our finances. In doing so, we acknowledge, as King David said in 1 Chronicles 29, that everything belongs to and comes from God’s hand. The blessing of faithful stewardship then begins compounding as it encourages church leaders who are charged with making decisions about how those dollars will be used to accomplish the mission of the church. The compounding effect continues to build as God impacts other people’s lives through the ministries and mission efforts of our churches. Often those who are serving are initially more deeply impacted than the people being served, hearts are drawn into deeper discipleship, leading to greater involvement and generosity, and the compounding continues.

May your joyful obedience and faithfulness lead to compounding generosity and discipleship.

This post first appeared on the Horizons Stewardship Blog

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