When I say God appreciates us, I mean something more than just the common usage of the term. For example, I might say that I appreciate the extra cup of coffee in a restaurant or my wife’s patience with me when I’m late for dinner, and often I write to tell you that I appreciate your donation to our ministry. When I use the word appreciate in that context, I mean that I am thankful, that I have recognized or enjoyed the graciousness extended to me. On the other hand, when I say that God appreciates us, I mean something entirely different. I mean that He adds to our value.
Yeshua (Jesus) taught about that kind of appreciation; we read it in Matthew 25:14-30, commonly called the parable of the talents. In that parable, the master deposited eight talents among three people according to the ability of each. A talent was a measure of gold or silver weighing between fifty and eighty pounds, and even today, that amount would be considered a fortune. Each of the three people in that account realized that he had been entrusted with a great deal, but only two of them appreciated the amount their master had given them.
That is the kind of appreciation I am talking about when I say that God appreciates us. The two who appreciated the amount given them did so by investing their talents. They made the sum of what they had been given work for the master, and that sum increased. As a result, they heard the master say, Well done…,” which was the ancient equivalent of today’s “thank you.” The increase they gained was added to by the master. One of the three did not appreciate what he was given and did not invest it for the benefit of the master. Consequently, that servant was not “appreciated.”
I learned this other meaning of the word appreciate at an early age, but not from the Scriptures. When I was a boy of ten, I opened a savings account with one dollar in a downtown Denver bank. Ignorant of the adult world of finance, I didn’t know about such things as interest. To me, a bank was merely a safe place to keep one’s money. I had no idea that a bank ever did anything with the money deposited by its customers except store it for them in the vault. I thought that it was mighty nice of the bank to be so kind to people like me who might otherwise impulsively spend all their money on comic books, as I had been tempted to do on occasion. Whenever I saved up enough dimes and quarters, earned by doing chores for relatives, I deposited a big dollar’s worth of coins in my very own bank account. That usually happened every couple of months.
One day, after I had pushed my coins and passbook under the bars of the teller’s cage, I noticed that he was messing around with my passbook much longer than usual. Finally he handed back the book, and I looked to see what he had written. The last entry was $.26. I knew that I had given him a dollar. I had been to that bank eleven times, and each time they had written in the amount, $1.00.
“What’s that?” I demanded indignantly.
“What’s what?” the teller asked.
“This twenty-six cents. I always put in a dollar; I never put in twenty-six cents!”
He smiled down at me and said, “Your money appreciated. That’s interest. You now have $11.26.”
I went home, puzzled over what the teller had said. I thought I knew what words like appreciate and interest meant. After dinner that evening, I had a consultation with my father on the economic situation. He informed me that the word appreciate didn’t always mean what I thought it meant. It could also mean an increase in value. The fact that I was twenty-six cents richer than I had thought was good news to me, but as my father explained all about banking, I discovered with horror that the bank was lending my money to strangers and making them pay for borrowing it. However, my horror at what the bank was doing was somewhat lessened by the fact that I was now regarded as an investor. That made me feel important.
About a decade after that incident, I made another discovery. I found out that I was important to God, and I made another kind of investment. I invested everything I had—my whole life—in Yeshua. Then I found that God appreciated me. He regularly added interest on all of me that was deposited in Him, and I was worth more. So you see, in the sense of investment, I can say that through accrual, God had given me more than I ever gave Him. He does that for all who invest their lives in Him. God truly appreciates us.
Nothing that we give to Him will ever be lost or diminished in value. Businessman Maxey Jarman, head of the international conglomerate Genesco, knew this. A friend to many evangelistic causes, he was one of the few wealthy friends of our ministry. By outward appearances, some might have thought him too generous. In his wealth, he gave to many Christian ministries, but then he suffered economic reverses. Someone once confronted him with a very personal question, asking if he ever regretted giving away so much money now that he no longer had his fortune. He answered by saying that he had only lost the part that he had kept, but what he had given away for God, he still had. I agree. Surely, for him it is treasure laid up in heaven.
I like holidays in general—and Thanksgiving is perhaps my favorite. The spirit behind all holidays is, or ought to be, one of appreciation. Holidays ought to be occasions to contemplate what God has done for us, a reflection of, and thanksgiving for, what we’ve been given. The Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection, God’s daily provision, are all things that increase in their value to us as we give thanks. When we take these things given by our Master and invest them in our lives, they appreciate. The appreciation comes in the form of worship and witness that we are able to give back to God. Thus, the circle of appreciation ever widens to include more and more as we accept from God, return it to Him with interest and receive it again with interest; and each circle of that spiral has infinitely more value.
As recipients of God’s grace, we should be using the imperishable assets that He has entrusted to us and returning what we have received with interest. Right now Thanksgiving is a great holiday to remember that God appreciates us. It’s a great time to give back to Him our love and devotion as the interest accrued on His investment in us.