What is the duty of a Christian investor? Many will answer along the lines of careful investment management to earn high financial returns with minimal risk. Often the Parable of the Talents is cited where the master rewards the servant who earns the most investment return as an example that God’s primary expectation of an investor is that they grow the dollars He has entrusted to them as a steward. But is that really the only consideration?
Jesus often criticized the Pharisees for having the outward appearance of holiness and obedience to God while inside they were actually dead, rotten, and sinful:
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:25-28)
We Christian investors can fall into the same trap if we only look upon the outward appearance of our portfolios, how well they are performing, the diversification and risk management statistics, the income yield they are producing, and so forth. These are the outside of the cup, the outer walls of the tomb.
But Jesus is more concerned with what is inside the cup.
What are the companies inside your portfolio and what products and services are they selling? Are there abortion drugs, pornographic video streaming, labor exploitation, or other immoral filth contaminating the inside of your portfolio?
To be good stewards worthy of hearing the “well done good and faithful servant” from our Master, we must clean the inside of the cup as well as the outside. We must first ensure that we invest in activities that glorify God, avoiding investments in immoral businesses. And then we can move on to consider the outside of the cup, shrewdly managing our portfolio for optimal financial returns. A good first step is to discover what’s really going on inside your portfolio using technology like www.inspireinsight.com or talking with a Christian financial advisor specially trained in biblically responsible investing like Inspire Advisors.
Making a bunch of money from immoral activities does not please or honor God. Likewise, making investments in companies with good morals but terrible business results that do nothing but make bad products and lose money is also poor stewardship and is not honoring to God.
DOUBLE BOTTOM LINE
A good investment steward seeks to glorify God by simultaneously ensuring the companies invested in aligning with God’s values while also earning respectable returns. Between the two objectives of holiness and profit, the Bible tells us that we should give priority to holiness, “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice,” (Prov.16:9). But as Jesus tells the Pharisees,
“First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean,” (Matt 23:26)
we need to consider holiness as the first importance while pursuing the best financial returns possible within the investor’s given risk tolerance and investment objectives.
Yes, this is a higher calling, a harder job, and greater responsibility than what the secular investor is faced with. But we serve a perfect God who calls us to be perfect even as He is perfect, so we shouldn’t expect obedience to be easy. Thankfully, He also promises to give wisdom to those who ask and to be with us always, even unto the end of the age. He also promises grace and forgiveness for all those who have trusted in Jesus when we inevitably fall short, only let us run the race in such a way as to win the prize.
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.