Why It’s So Hard To Keep The Five Capitals In Order

Our world works as a network of relationships where we invest different kinds of capital, expecting some kind of return on...

Our world works as a network of relationships where we invest different kinds of capital, expecting some kind of return on our investment.

We see in the Bible, that Jesus takes us beyond our normal ways of thinking and trains us in how capital and investment work in the bigger picture of life with God (or, as Jesus calls it, “the kingdom of God”).

So as we look at Scripture, the life of Jesus, and our own lives, we notice that our capital can be put into five categories.

  • Spiritual capital: the “spiritual equity” we have to invest. It’s the most valuable of all the capitals, and it’s measured in wisdom and power.
  • Relational capital: the relational equity we’ve built up over time with others. It’s measured in the quality and depth of relationship we have with our family, friends, and associates.
  • Physical capital: the time and energy we have available to invest. It’s measured in hours and minutes.
  • Intellectual capital: the creativity and knowledge we have available to invest. It’s measured in concepts and ideas.
  • Financial capital: simply the money we have available to invest. It’s measured in dollars and cents, pounds and pennies, etc.


Seem pretty easy. Right?

Just live that out: Love God, love people, take care of your body, live with wisdom, steward well and away you go! For many of us though, it’s not that simple. Oftentimes, the order of the five capitals gets distorted.

One of the reasons this is so difficult is because our culture speaks loud messages telling us to prioritize different aspects of lives. All the different sectors and aspects of the world encourage us to live our lives in a different way. And with the reality of evil and the evil one, this is one of the prime ways satan gets us off track.

Let me give you a few examples to show what we’re talking about….


The Corporate World

I come from a corporate background. How does the corporate world say you should live your life? What priority do they say is the most important?

1. Financial Capital

I think we can all agree that for the most part, corporations and secular companies are saying, “The number one thing is the bottom line.” It’s all about financial realities and financial results. They’re not too interested in how you get it done or how you make it happen, but that you deliver on those results.

2. Intellectual Capital

Usually the person who’s the sharpest or the most competent is the one that gets noticed for advancement. Even if you have to run over some people or do some difficult things, the smart and skilled people get promoted.

3. Physical Capital

After that, what do they want the most of? Probably your time, which is your physical capital. Most companies aren’t too upset if you’re a workaholic putting in long hours, getting in early mornings, staying late into the night.

I remember being so thrilled when my boss at my corporate jobs gave me a smartphone. I realized pretty quickly the joke was on me when early morning and late at night I end up texting or emailing my boss or my team back and forth.

4. Relational Capital

Relationships are important in the corporate world, after all it’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know. Frequently though, these relationships are one of using each other to gain what we need.

5. Spiritual Capital

Then lastly there is spiritual capital, of course you can worship and do whatever with your God that your want. However, it’s at the bottom of the list.

If you live in the corporate world the message is to live your life in the exact opposite order.


The Academic World

Let’s take another slice of a sector in western culture. The intellectual world or academia. What do they say is the most important?

1. Intellectual Capital

Usually it’s about how many letters you have behind your name: PhD, MD, DVD. What are those wise things, those competent things that you’re contributing either to the university or to the intellectual world at large?

2. Financial Capital

Universities need their endowments, institutions need their money, tuition, whatever it may be. Having money and getting more money is very important in the world of academia.

3. Physical Capital

With land, grand universities, big beautiful buildings, physical capital is next up! Gotta put in the time and energy to keep the campus looking great.

4. Relational Capital

How many students can we get attending? As well as how many alumni can we get contributing? How can we keep up relationships with these new and previous students?

5. Spiritual Capital

Again, this capital is often at the bottom of the list in this culture.

We see with intellectual world again, it’s a pretty difference set of priorities.


The Sports World

What about the sports world? What does the western sports world say is the most important?

1. Physical Capital

Physically you have to be pretty good if you want to play in the professional leagues. That’s oftentimes the number one priority or capital we see in the sports arena.

2. Financial Capital

Every franchise wants to make a lot of money – that’s usually the end goal of the whole world.

3. Intellectual Capital

Those coaches need to be smart and sharp. Figure out what the competition is going to do, how you can win those games, know which players are going to pay off in the end.

4. Relational Capital

How many fans do we have? Are those fans buying merchandise, coming to games? Are they big supporters of the franchise or the institution?

5. Spiritual Capital

You can have your faith, but again it’s often after everything else.


Competing Messages

Just looking at these three sectors, you can see what it’s so hard for us each every day to live these capitals out in the right order. I’ve even found working with a number of churches that even their metrics sometimes communicate a different priority. For many churches, it’s about how many people are attending on Sunday and how much money came in this past week.

The world tells us to live a different way. But Jesus calls us to something better!

To keep these priorities in order, take some time this week to think through and process:

  • What sector am I in?
  • What priority are they telling me to live out of?
  • What do I need to do to keep these capitals in the right order?

We would love to hear your thoughts and reflections to these questions in the comments below!