“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” – Mark 8:36
When asked by a reporter “What would you be worth if you hadn’t given so much money to charity?” the late George Jenkins short and simple answer – “Nothing.” Why did he answer this way?
Born in 1907, Jenkins began as a clerk at a Piggly Wiggly supermarket at the age of 17, and quickly worked his way up to a manager’s position. He was efficient and motivated, and sales in the store he managed quadrupled within a year. However, when the great depression hit, the store he managed was sold. Things were difficult under the new owner, and Jenkins decided to simply start his own business instead, incorporating under the name “Publix Food Stores.” The first year was hard, but after the competing Piggly Wiggly closed, business boomed and he began to open new locations. Thus, a supermarket giant was born, and Publix remains a top player in the supermarket industry today.
One of the drivers of Jenkins’ success was the investment policy he implemented on behalf of his employees. He believed that workers who were invested in the company would be incentivized to see it succeed, and implemented a system in which his associates (he didn’t call them “employees”) accumulated stock in the company and shared in its profits.
Just as Publix associates were better motivated because they had a stake in the company, we are better motivated to see a cause succeed when we invest in it directly. This is doubly true when investing in God’s kingdom, which yields a return in this life and the next. When you invest your time, efforts, and finances into ministry, you invest in something priceless, because the profits from your investment will pay dividends for eternity.
So why did Mr. Jenkins answer the reporter’s question the way he did? George Jenkins understood the value of an eternal investment, giving millions to charity over his lifetime. In the words of Jim Elliot, he gave up “what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose,” and his investment in God’s kingdom continues to pay off. He knew that a changed life is priceless, that material wealth isn’t everything, and that while he could have kept more money for himself, in the end it would have been worth nothing.