Last episode, we discussed the concept of Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI). We discovered that BRI is complex and difficult, but extremely possible! In this episode, we will talk about what God expects from us as investors and how to participate in Biblically Responsible Investing. So how do we do Biblically Responsible Investing? First, we need to understand what God really expects of us.
What does God Expect from Me?
If Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI) is so hard, should I even try? What does God expect me to do about it anyway? There are several things that we need to keep in mind when thinking about the moral complexities of BRI.
- Personal Holiness – The first thing to keep in mind is that God expects you to grow in your personal holiness and obedience to his word/will. You are not responsible for the sinful acts of others. You are responsible for your own sin. Don’t be a drunkard or given to addiction. Keep your faith in God through good times and bad. Humility should also typify your life and attitude toward others who don’t share your convictions.
- Invest – The Lord expects his followers to invest and seek to grow his money. (Consider the parable of the Talents, Matt 25:14-30) Not investing out of fear that you may own a company that violates BRI principles (i.e. inaction) does not bring honor to God. The believer needs to participate in the market while continually looking for investments which satisfy his BRI desires.
- No Direct Participation – As an employee, your work is unto the Lord. That means that all work should be to bring glory to God. If an employer assigns tasks which are sinful, we must not obey.
- No Direct Ownership – When it comes to investing, I believe that God would not want his people to own companies whose primary purpose is to profit from explicitly sinful activities.
- Minimize Indirect Ownership – To the best of one’s ability, efforts should be made to minimize and eliminate mutual funds or other investments which invest into companies that are primarily in business to promote an unbiblical lifestyle.
- Avoid Obnoxious Social Offenders – To the best of the believer’s ability, he should try to avoid investing in companies which are at the forefront of the moral decay of society. This includes companies that significantly and/or publicly promote abortion rights and LGBT lifestyles (i.e. Target).
- Follow Your Conscience – If you are convinced that a particular company is promoting something that you want nothing to do with, you should not invest in that company. allow your conscience to be your guide. Don’t violate your conscience.
- Do Your Best – BRI is difficult but you should try to follow your conscience when it comes to investing. God expects you to do your best. Use the tools and the wisdom that God has given you to make the best choice you can.
- Be Charitable – Don’t judge others who do not share your convictions.
How to do Biblically Responsible Investing: There are several things that you can do to make sure that your investments are aligned with your Biblical values. First, you can own single stocks in only those companies that you believe don’t primarily promote explicitly sinful activities. While this approach has value, there are several challenges that you should be aware of. It is much harder to get adequate diversification when investing in single stocks than it is to invest in mutual funds. Additionally, there may be trading costs that would not be seen in mutual funds. This approach also does not include professional management.
Second, you can invest in services or mutual funds that screen for objectionable companies. It is important to understand how a mutual fund screens for such companies. They will be screening based upon their convictions, not necessarily yours. Some are more focused on avoiding socially objectionable factors such as environmentalism. Know what you’re getting into before you invest in such a fund. There are services offered by some companies and nonprofit organizations which evaluate holdings and recommend changes if they violate certain convictions.
Finally, you could seek the help of a Christian financial advisor who will honor your convictions. I will offer much more advice on this option in the next chapter.
Guidelines for Conscience and Religious Freedom: The final thing I’ll say about investing is that we must not look at BRI as means to earn God’s favor or avoid market losses. BRI does not guarantee a profitable investment experience. Clearly, investing according to Biblical standards pleases God, but there is no amount of good works that we can do to merit God’s favor. Our right standing with God only comes through our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for our sins and rose again from the dead proving he was God.
If your conscience is free then you have the right to invest as you see fit. You must not allow your freedom to be a stumbling block for others. Don’t flaunt your freedom.
If your conscience is not free on a particular issue then you should not invest in that way. For those who are married, you should honor the convictions of the most conservative person. If one spouse feels free to invest in pharmaceutical companies but the other does not, then you don’t invest in pharmaceuticals.
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