By Derek L. Hastings
The parable of the Talents is widely recognized as a lesson on stewardship. And, it is a story about entering the Kingdom of Jesus Christ as well. In the parable – found in Matthew 25: 14 – 30, and Luke 19: 11 – 27 – Jesus uses “Talents” (Money) to illustrate the concept of rewards in the Kingdom.
In this case, each of the servants was entrusted (responsible for) with an amount of money to manage. Two of the servants managed to grow their funds significantly enough to enter into their master’s Joy. The third servant’s image of the master was a fearful one and he hid the money in an attempt to avoid risk. And, we all know what happened to him when the master returned. Didn’t go so well for him.
I want us to look at this parable from the lens of Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI). Which will require us to adjust our perspective on “Investment Returns”.
This is basic to understanding BRI. We can have two perspectives that will influence our understanding of this. First, we can take the worldly view and see this as another fad that competes for our attention and limits our ability to invest in the market. Second, we can adopt a Kingdom perspective and see BRI as an essential part of a proper approach to stewardship and fiduciary responsibility for those of us in the Financial Advice business.
Since this blog post is about the Parable of the Talents, let’s look at what constitutes “Investment Returns”.
From a worldly perspective, it’s all about making the money grow. Getting the best return on our investment (Return on Equity) as possible. Whatever it takes to beat the bogey/investment benchmark. Wherever you can find the next hot investment. The best dividend yields. The next investment guru! Bitcoin and Cannabis are a couple of the most recent hot choices. And, yes, I chose them because they are obviously controversial.
But as Christian investors are it all about Return on Equity? Is this what The master was expecting? Or was there something more involved?
These servants were entrusted with more than just investing The master’s funds in a great mutual fund or ETF. (considering the fact there was no such thing back then) He was entrusting his “Reputation” with these servants. They were in fact extensions of his person, his corporate identity as a merchant or farmer. He was entrusting these servants to be skillful in sowing capital into the society of that day. Sowing that capital – not only to earn a profit – but to increase his stature in that society. They understood The master’s desire to be promoted as a generous man. Successful investment of capital not only is profitable on a monetary basis, but it also increases the stature of the investor as his peers recognize his skill, generosity, and intelligence. Their image of The master was a correct one and they walked in the identity of Their Master and were rewarded for the risk they took. The third servant’s image of The master was incorrect (and most likely an insult to His Master) and was rewarded for his cowardice.
So, for us as investment advisors, what does that look like today? Equity investing gives the investor access, influence, and a sense of responsibility as a partial owner of the company invested in. Perhaps, the most important aspect of stock ownership is the responsibility as a partial owner in that company for the actions of that company in today’s society. Influence viewed from a Kingdom perspective can be seen a couple of ways. What is expected from us by The Lord as Investment Managers as stewards of the investment process and how we handle the fiduciary responsibility we have with our clients.
Just as the wise servants understood that there was more at stake with the responsibilities The master had given them. We must understand that there is more to investing our client’s money, our own money, and – in some cases – Kingdom money than just beating the benchmark we have assigned for that particular portfolio. There is an impact on our world by how and where we invest our client’s capital.
And, if the client is ignorant – as a large percentage of them are – it is equally important for us who understand the difference, to educate the client to the importance of investing their values.
There is an old parable (not sure where it comes from…possibly Native American) about the two wolves inside of us:
An old man is talking to his Grandson;
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.” Biblically Responsible Investing is like this parable. Our world contains forces of good and evil and these forces can be found at work within investment portfolios as corporations make decisions that either honor God or oppose Him. As investors seek out investment solutions that honor God, they are “feeding” the forces of good in the world and bringing glory to Jesus Christ. As believers, we cannot remain ignorant about this issue. Our investment decisions have real consequences. If we identify as stewards of the King of Kings, investing in BRI options is our Kingdom Responsibility.