More and more Christian investors are making intentional steps to glorify God by aligning their investment portfolios with biblical values, and the biblically responsible investing (BRI) movement continues to advance at breakneck pace as a result. However, I still routinely come across Christian investors and financial advisors who have not yet decided to adopt BRI into their portfolios, instead keeping their money invested in the same secular funds they have always used.
A frequent reason they share with me for their reluctance to invest with BRI principles is that they are concerned that doing so would be legalistic of them. They rightly value their freedom in Christ, and in their view, biblically responsible investing screens are akin to “straining out gnats” from a portfolio while “swallowing a camel” of legalistic slavery. They are quick to point out that the Bible does not provide specific rules for screening investments, and despite the broader scriptures concerning moral business dealings, they consider it a bridge too far to say the Bible teaches that Christian investors have a moral responsibility for the actions and profits of the companies in their portfolios.
The essence of their position is that they believe the Bible does not require them to screen their investments, and therefore they don’t do it. This has historically made for some lively discussions among the Christian financial professional community between those who believe the Bible does teach the necessity of BRI and those who do not, each trying to convince the other side of their erroneous judgement on the matter.
But can I just interrupt that conversation for a minute? Can I take a humble step back and ask the question, “What if my interpretation of the Bible is wrong and the Bible really does give Christians the freedom to invest in anything without raising questions on the ground of conscience?”
Somewhere, a pin drops.
The natural assumption is that if the Bible does not say that you have to screen your investments, then you should not screen your investments. But is that actually a biblical assumption? If the Bible does not specifically prohibit an activity, does that mean that you therefore should do it? Or, if the Bible does not specifically teach that you should do a thing, does that mean you should refrain?
The Apostle Paul provides some Holy Spirit inspired wisdom on this topic, “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Cor. 10:23-24)
In this concise treatment, Paul gives us a very practical lens with which to make God-honoring decisions. He teaches here that there is something greater than the obligations of the moral law at work in the life of a believer, another law at work with a superior claim on the Christian than the Law of Moses. This other law he calls the “law of Christ”(see 1 Cor. 9:21and Gal. 6:2), pointing to the teaching of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself.
Applied to our context of investing, this verse might read, “’All investments are lawful,’ but not all investments are helpful. ‘All investments are lawful,’ but not all investments build up. Let no one invest for his own good, but for the good of his neighbor.”
Does your portfolio only seek your own good, or the good of your neighbor as well?
Instead of asking whether Christian investors “have to” screen their investments to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law, shouldn’t we first be asking the more important question of how we can best seek the good of our neighbor with our investments to fulfill the love-motivated law of Christ to the glory of God?
Let’s consider some examples together. Which investor is more fully “seeking the good of his neighbor”…
To truly invest with Christian freedom is to actively use our freedom in Christ to love God and love our neighbor with our investment decisions. A position that views freedom in Christ as freedom from responsibility, and in our context freedom from being responsible for the actions of the companies we own, is lacking in appreciation for the great opportunity and responsibility to glorify God that our freedom in Christ is meant to create,
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Gal. 5: 13-14)
So then, we are set free not so that we can do whatever we want, but in order to glorify God by loving our neighbor as ourselves. We are set free not so that we can invest in whatever we want, but in order to glorify God by loving our neighbors through the companies we invest in.
“Does the Bible say I have to screen my investments?” is ultimately the wrong question. The right question is, “Am I loving God and loving my neighbor with my investment decisions?”
For the record, I do believe the Bible teaches a moral obligation to avoid profiting from and participating in immoral activities, including through a Christian’s investment account. But I also believe that there is a greater, even more compelling motivation that should inspire every Christian to invest differently than the world: to seek the good of others.
Christians around the world are choosing to be intentional about loving their neighbors by pouring billions of dollars into biblically responsible investments. Will you join us and invest for the good of others to the glory of God? (Even if you don’t “have to”?)
Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing and frequent contributor on FOX, Bloomberg, New York Times and other major media. Read more from Robert in his #1 bestselling book Biblically Responsible Investing, available at Amazon.com and other major retailers.