A good steward must device a method of preserving the investment capital and the seed to be sown. He must find a way to put them out of easy reach. A time of investment/sowing is a time of frugality. To be frugal in this sense and season has nothing to do with being stingy. We may easily save when we have abundance but this is not always the case. There are times when we have to engage self-denial in order to save the capital for investment.
Today, many people start investment by taking a loan. That is alright, but the best way to acquire starting capital is through “saving” and starting small so that we see the power of growth emanating from an excellent stewardship. There is a Kiswahili proverb that says: Haba na haba hujaza kibaba (Little by little fills a container).
A good steward must resist the impulses that urge him to live only for the moment. What we are living on today are profits accruing from investments we made yesterday; what we are going to live on tomorrow are the harvests of the seeds we plant today. The most important thing about sowing and reaping is not for the quick fixes but the long drawn sustenance, because of this, I do not wish the reader to read any immediacy in the ‘yesterday’, ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow.’ Some people will tell you to sow a seed when you are in a need, creating the impression that the seed will yield an immediate harvest. This is not to rule out any miracle in this regard, nevertheless, it is important to remember that miracles are called miracles because they are rare. My purpose in this book is not to advocate the miraculous but to promote consciousness to an everyday good management of what is at our disposal.
There are some forms of investment that can yield profit immediately. Nevertheless, majority of investments have the element of waiting.
It is human nature to want things instantaneously. The technological discoveries tell how man works so hard to eliminate waiting. We have fast-moving trains; speedboats; cruising cars and supersonic jets to quicken movements from one place to another. We have microwaves that pop the corns in no time; we thrive with fast foods. We have genetically modified crops to shorten the time between sowing and harvesting; we have animals that are fed with chemicals to make them grow fast so that they can be ready for slaughter within the shortest time possible.
The abbreviation WWW stands for World Wide Web, but it can also mean We Will Wait. In the earlier days of internet, it literally required the patience of we will wait for a computer to connect to the internet. Today, we can’t stomach a slow system—but patience is here to stay, we just have to live it. We may have gotten computer systems to work at desirous speed but there are things in life where we just have to wait whether we like it or not.
Despite all we do to minimize waiting, patience still remains a virtue. There are areas where patience cannot be circumvented. To benefit and get it right, there are things that must just take their natural course.
If what is meant for investment is used in any other way, it constitutes a misappropriation. We will come back to this in chapter 10. When I was a young boy, I didn’t understand the principle of sowing and reaping. And I never understood the adults most of the times. One of the things that puzzled me was why they would ‘bury’ groundnuts in the soil. I used to like groundnuts so much. I never knew that they were ‘sowing’ the seed and not just burying them. Because I didn’t understand the principle of sowing, I used to sneak behind the adults, dig out the sown groundnuts and eat them.
There is always a possibility that something would come up that wants to divert your attention from investing, or somebody who tries to eat away your investment capital. I had an experience where I put out a large sum of money to publish a book. After finishing the payment, the book was supposed to be published and printed within two weeks. Over two years, and the book was nowhere to be seen. That publishing company just ‘ate’ my investment capital. Because of that, many things went wrong.
We have already talked about planting a seed in order to harvest. This may not be difficult for a farmer because he understands the principle of sowing and reaping. Nevertheless, such wisdom can be representative of some forms of sowing that is not obvious.
Samwel Owiti, a friend of mine, once posted the following on Facebook: “In an orange you can count the number of seeds, but in a seed you can’t count the number of oranges!” That is a fact, but I had never thought about it before. The statement enthused me, especially considering the divine ingenuity, wrapped in what could pass for a comical paradox.
A good steward must be inspired enough to unravel the divine wisdom that eludes many people because they come in paradoxical packages. Let me explain the paradox of the orange seed and the orange fruit: the orange (fruit) is much bigger in relation to the seed, yet it has limited number of seeds. The orange seed is smaller in relation to the orange fruit, yet it has unlimited number of oranges. And that is not all—in the seed, you also have roots, stem, branches, leaves and flowers. Simply put, the seed is loaded. A good steward sees with a prophetic perspective. In this sense, he will ‘see’ what the eye is not seeing, namely, the orange seed is much bigger than the orange fruit. In one seed is a forest of orange trees.
If you were given an opportunity to choose between a seed and a fruit, you will be wise to choose the seed. You will however need to work hard and put in a lot of patience before you begin to enjoy the fruit.
A good steward does not look at a calf as competitor for the cow’s milk. A person who milks the cow dry, kills the calf and when the mother cow is done, he will not have any more cows to milk. It is a simple knowledge but a difficult practice.
A friend of mine, Esther Nduta, told me of a family that had a beautiful Frisian cow. At one time, the cow gave birth to a robust calf. The family would not let the calf suckle. They opted to feed her with some milk from the mother and supplemented it with corn porridge. However, the proportion of milk to porridge was about 1:20. The calf went through malnutrition while the family earned enormously from milk sales. The exquisiteness of money blinded them to the calf’s plight—she was getting thinner and thinner by each passing day. She died before becoming old enough to eat grass. Bad stewardship focuses on the short-term gains and closes their eyes to the long term benefits.
Esther also told me about a case where a newly married woman asked for something to keep her busy as well as a source of income. A cow was bought for her. She was however not kind with the animal. She often beat the cow using crude objects like stones. Her mistreatment of the cow probably led to the cow miscarrying. The husband fearing that the cow might die because of poor treatment, sent the cow to the butcher. More than 30 years later and the lady hasn’t stopped buying milk and being dependent on her husband yet she had the opportunity to nurture a cow that could have reproduced many more cows.
Investment is inspired by the hope of catering for the future. This has nothing to do with worrying about the future as the Bible discourages (Matt. 6:34). Rather, it means that we do what is natural and scriptural to plan for what is coming. Our future will soon be our present, our present will soon be our past—we must mind our future.