In the world of finance, investment is important – our entire economy depends on it. Let’s look at the definition of investment to determine the similarities between our financial and spiritual investments.
The encyclopedia of investment, Investopedia, says:
Investing, broadly, is putting money to work for a period of time in some sort of project or undertaking in order to generate positive returns (i.e., profits that exceed the amount of the initial investment). It is the act of allocating resources, usually capital, with the expectation of generating an income, profit, or gains. One can invest in many types of endeavors.
But beyond putting money to work, we also have the opportunity in this life to make spiritual investments – as these two quotations by Baha’u’llah from the Baha’i writings testify:
All praise and glory be to God Who, through the power of His might, hath delivered His creation from the nakedness of non-existence, and clothed it with the mantle of life. From among all created things He hath singled out for His special favor the pure, the gem-like reality of man, and invested it with a unique capacity of knowing Him and of reflecting the greatness of His glory.
O servant of God! With a pure heart unloose thy tongue in the praise of thy Lord for having made mention of thee through His gem-scattering pen. Couldst thou but realize the greatness of this bestowal, thou wouldst find thyself invested with everlasting life.
The “positive return” on those spiritual investments, which the Baha’i teachings describe so beautifully, is everlasting life.
Of course, human history is full of examples of good investments and bad investments, and sadly, humanity still makes very profitable yet incredibly unjust investments – a prime example being the investment in making weapons of war.
When we invest our capital in weapons, in bullets and in bombs, President Dwight Eisenhower said in 1953, we hang humanity from “a cross of iron:”
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. … This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
In the spiritual sphere, our soul and mind’s energies represent our precious capital, and our physical life span on this Earth defines the duration of the investment. Our goal for return on our capital: not only everlasting life for the individual, but the achievement of the oneness of humanity, built by love and unity. This kind of investment asks how we can further those goals with our character and souls, and how to make those investments more effective by purifying our intentions. We invest our limited and precious capital wisely to bring the best return in this world and in the next, fully aware that thoughtful investment is the key.
Sadly, when it comes to our spiritual energies, many may have no plan and haphazardly throw them in any direction – or they make a terrible investment by abusing those energies, which creates far more problems than it solves, harming ourselves, our families, friends, and the community itself.
The root cause of that poor investment is a lack of self-knowledge, which opens the door for selfish desires to replace well-intended energies. Some of these actions may be primarily unintentional, but they nevertheless hurt the individual and the community and become counterproductive in the process.
To avoid these dangers, knowledge of some prerequisites can help us to navigate through the stormy waters of life.
The mismanagement of our spiritual energies, which are gifts from the Creator, is sadly one of the biggest tragedies of life – because well-meaning efforts due to the lack of fundamental principles of selflessness, empathy, caring, and love can translate into disunity, arguments, and adverse effects on the mind.
I’ve observed, in my years of working in communities in different parts of the world, that those that exemplify their ideologies and deep spiritual principles of faith, without having mastered the principles of administration or organization, tend to function better than communities where the emphasis is on the administration at the cost of the spirit of the faith. This loving spirit in which the work and efforts were rendered usually proves to be a wise investment of their energies.
Before doing anything, we must go to the basics of any faith, understand them, and apply them to our daily lives so that they become part of our souls. Only then can we proclaim our beliefs, with or without words, and hope that our actions will speak louder than our words, significantly affecting the observers.
Our fast, modern life and its formulas for success have deprived us of enough time to meditate and plan for investing our spiritual energies, which has led to many problems in the world. The easy way to invest materially or spiritually does not necessarily lead to great returns; if we do not sacrifice a little, we do not deserve the returns.
Our scarce and precious human and spiritual energies deserve recognition and attention to be wisely invested with great care since our lives are not long enough to continually correct our mistakes and start again. In the blink of an eye, this life will be over, and we will answer to our Creator what we have done with His gift of life and spirit.