When we invest in the stocks of companies, we get some benefits as part-owners.  As the companies produce earnings, some of those earnings get paid out to us as shareholders.  They get credited to our investment account in the form of dividends or an increase in share price.  Of course, there are periods (such as the past few months) when we can see losses show up in our accounts as well.  It’s at these times that stockholders appreciate their dividend payments all the more.  We like to see deposits show up in our accounts, knowing that the investment is still producing earnings.

While the stock market didn’t exist when the Bible was written, there are numerous accounting references throughout.  One such instance is in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  Paul had received some financial gifts from the Philippians, and wanted to let him know how thankful he was for their generosity (4:10-19).  He gushes on them for a while, so much that he has to let them know that he wasn’t looking for any more help (v. 17).  Rather, he was “looking for what may be credited to [their] account.”

Credited to Your Account

The word “credited” is one of those accounting terms and refers to a few verses earlier and the “matter of giving and receiving”.  Paul is using commercial language to describe additional and subtractions from a ledger.  And he’s intentional with this language because that is how our giving works.  When we give to others from our accounts, not only does it help their physical needs and accounts, but our spiritual account gets credited.

This is the same imagery that Jesus uses in Matthew 6 when instructing “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”  How do we store up that treasure in heaven?  By doing exactly what Paul was commending the Philippians for doing – giving generously to help others.  It’s the way to get the double blessing of helping ourselves as we help others.

This is why the prosperity gospel (“Give to God and he will increase your checking account ten-fold!”) seems a bit believable, because there’s some truth at its core.  For Paul goes on to say to the Philippians that “my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (v 19).  When we give, not only does it get credited to our account, but God will also supply all of our own needs.

The prosperity gospel takes that truth and twists it to make the blessing from God the thing that is to be desired.  In other words, give money away so that you can have more riches for yourself.  When our motivation for giving is selfish, that’s when we lose what would have been credited to our account.  However, when we give out of love for others and God, we find ourselves more blessed than when we began.

Spiritual dividends

Money is a good word picture of the spiritual reality because we have all experienced credits and debits to our accounts.  But ultimately God cares about way more than that.  The credits He offers us are not just additions to a bank account; rather they are spiritual dividends.  These take many forms, but I like how Paul put it best to Timothy when he was encouraging the rich Christians to be generous: “Then they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”  When we are generous, we receive spiritual dividends that result in the life that is truly life.

One of the benefits of where we live is that it’s right around the corner from The Homeschool Room – a boutique store of gently used curriculum, books, and resources for homeschool families like ours.  We consign some of our own resources there, and there’s a great joy going to The Homeschool Room and discovering that some of our items have sold.  There’s credit in our account!  This is a bit how I picture heaven will be one day.  We’ll get there and realize that there are credits in our account for all sorts of generous acts we did that we had no clue were eternally rewarding us.

So give freely and generously, knowing that it will all be credited to your account anyway.  It reminds me of what Jim Elliot once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”