Did you consult the Bible before you bought into your investment portfolio?
That may seem like a strange question, but the Bible has a lot to say to Christians about how to manage investments with both financial and moral implications.
Thankfully, in recent years there has been a resurgence of attention paid to the importance of applying the Bible’s commands and wisdom to our personal investment decisions. There has also been a corresponding proliferation of biblically responsible investing products and services that help make it possible for Christian investors to put that biblical teaching into practice with their portfolios.
Following are five Bible verses that every Christian investor should take to heart as they seek to be wise stewards of the money God has placed in their hands.
Investing For The Glory Of God
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
When you ate your oatmeal this morning, did you realize it was intended to be an act of worship? This verse says plain as day that our purpose for investing, and everything else in life, should be to glorify God.
This may seem like stating the obvious to some, but it is important because this verse is commanding us to intentionally pursue God’s glory in every investment decision we make. And God’s glory goes far beyond the financial aspect of investing and also includes issues of morality and ethics. To invest for God’s glory means that we must consider more than just our financial returns when making an investment.
If we can eat and drink to the glory of God, certainly we can and should invest God’s money for God’s glory.
God -vs- Milton Friedman
“Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.” (Proverbs 16:8)
This verse could not possibly be more subversively counter-cultural. It flies in the face of all that Wall Street stands for. It contradicts the foundational economic theses of some of the world’s foremost financial experts, who boldly proclaim that maximizing profits is the first and only duty of business and investing. (I’m looking at you, Milton Friedman).
And the influence of this worldly perspective on wealth has also infected the Church, resulting in many Christian financial experts regurgitating Wall Street’s profit-at-all-cost stump speech. Sometimes these Christian voices even attempt (unsuccessfully) to validate that viewpoint with scripture.
Often they point to the Parable Of The Talents in Matthew 25 to make the claim that God rewards those most who make the most money. But that parable is not making that claim at all, and even if it was, it does not follow that the Master in that parable does not care about how his servants made his money grow.
What the parable teaches is that God expects us to use everything that He has given us in accordance with His expectations, His values and His will. Newsflash: God doesn’t need more money. He certainly could care less about how much money we make “for him” in this life. US Dollars don’t spend in Heaven.
Proverbs 16:8 makes it clear that God cares more about how we make money rather than how much money we make. Indeed, God proclaims it is better to produce a lower return on investment in a righteous manner than high-flying profits unjustly. There is nothing wrong with earning high investment returns, but they must never come at the expense of holiness and certainly cannot be our primary directive.
Therefore, it is a biblical imperative that Christian investors consider the moral implications of their investments. Are you earning money from abortion, pornography, human trafficking or other unjust industries? We cannot ignore these issues if we are to be true to God’s word.
Indecent Investment Exposure
“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11)
Here is another, more direct command to Christians to not only avoid participation in immorality, but also to expose it for what it really is. We need to call a spade a spade, or in this case, call an immoral investment an immoral investment.
Enlarging your investment account by investing in the “unfruitful works of darkness” is not an option for Christian investors. This is not an issue that the Bible allows us room for personal convictions. It is commanded. Instructed. Required.
Let me also say that there is grace here, too. Some investors are new to this concept of screening their investments based on biblical morality and as such are profiting from activities that would make them shudder. Praise God that He is gracious and willing to forgive our trespasses, including those made in ignorance! Lord knows that I am need of that grace on a daily basis!
Not In My House
“You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 23:18)
Here we get a strong taste of the Lord’s disdain for the wages of immorality. “Abomination” is not a word to be tossed around lightly, and the Bible reserves that word for only the most, well, abominable activities.
It should be well noted by all Christian investors that the Lord does not simply have a passing distaste for the profits from sinful business activity, He abominates them. So much so that God even forbids the money earned from sin to be brought into the house of the Lord and given as an offering. This is no small issue in our Lord’s eyes.
I have heard some Christian commentators attempt to make the case that a Christian investor can justify investing in the stock of companies which earn profits from immoral activities as long as the investor donates their portion of the profits generously to ministry, like some sort of spiritual money laundering scheme. Indeed, this same thought passed through my mind some years ago when I first was presented with the unsettling truth that I was invested in and recommending investments in companies with serious moral issues.
This scripture soundly rejects that notion altogether. The ends do not justify the means in God’s economy.
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21)
Now back to Matthew 25. For all of the clear instruction to avoid profiting from and participating in works of immorality, there is also a great reward for those who have been faithful in stewarding what God has placed in their hands. And as mentioned earlier, faithfulness to God is not measured in financial currency, but by the measure of God’s glory.
There will be great joy for you when you stand before the Lord having faithfully honored Him in your life, by His grace and the Holy Spirit’s power. Our labor to honor God is not done from a spirit of fear of punishment, but from a longing to glorify our Lord and receive the “well done” as an eager child from a loving father.
“By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:17-19)
Honor the Lord with all that He has given you. Glorify Him to the utmost in every word, deed and investment. Joyfully submit your portfolio to the lordship of Christ, for it all belongs to Him after all. Eagerly look forward and strive to “enter into the joy of your Master”, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God in your life.
Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible impact investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!