Christian investors face many questions, some of which are ethically complex. Should they seek to avoid “sin stocks” as a top priority? Should they seek to benefit from unfortunate market events that caused financial loss to others? Should they see the purpose of investing as simply maximizing wealth? Such questions cannot be answered by pointing to one single Bible verse. Instead, we need to address them with the help of a biblical worldview. Tim Keller has pointed out the link between a Christian worldview and the story of the Bible. “The term ‘worldview’… means the comprehensive perspective from which we interpret all of reality… It is essentially a master narrative, a fundamental story…”
The story of the Bible has been summarized in four key words: creation, fall, redemption and restoration. In creation we see a good, loving God form a flawless world, brimming with life and abundance. People were made in his image to know him and to serve each other while they cared for the creation. In the fall we turned our back on God’s gracious provision and brought the world into the corruption of sin. God’s promised rescue (Gen 3:15) was ultimately realized in the coming of Christ. As people redeemed by Christ, we are called to join his mission proclaiming the good news, working to restore what was broken, and reconciling the world to God.
We await Christ’s return when he will renew creation, establish justice, and overcome death forever. Seen through this redemption story, we can understand our stocks, bonds, ETFs, and mutual fund investments in a new way.
Investing is good
In Genesis, we see God designing the creation to grow and be fruitful over time. Our world was made to reproduce and multiply as God made “plants yielding seed” and “trees bearing fruit” (Gen 1:12). Seen through the lens of fruitfulness, investing is an act of confidence that seasons of harvest will come – that our world will experience fruitful yields over time.God also designed us to reflect his character and to care for creation. In creation we see God’s generosity and wisdom at work.
Our investing can seek to reflect these God-like qualities as we pursue growth by investing in products and services that promote human flourishing. We can show our care for others by investing in medical research, community development, affordable housing, and businesses that seek to steward the earth’s resources well. Genesis also highlights the goodness of the world God made. Within moral boundaries, God invites us to freely enjoy what he has made.
The goodness of investing can be seen as our resources support not only our own needs but the needs of others by supporting markets, jobs, and business growth. Our investments enable others to earn a living and enjoy greater access to God’s material gifts. Growth and productivity are prominent in the creation story. But as we seek to reflect God’s character, we will be motivated to pursue purposes broader than just maximizing returns.
Investing is broken
Because sin has the power to turn even legitimate activities into idols, investing itself can become a snare. None of us are beyond needing this reminder, as Martin Luther famously wrote: “Christ… willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” But even when we keep investing in its proper place under God, the financial markets are still impacted by sin’s corruption. Some business ventures fail. Some investments disappoint.
Since we live in a broken world, we are not ready to invest until we can deal with the reality of risk: we might lose something in the process. Sin has a corrupting influence not only on individuals and communities, but on financial systems as well. This pervasive corruption highlights the need for accountability, advice and regulation. Accountability in the markets can be seen in regulatory bodies as well as in the role of financial counselors and advisors to help investors stay on track.
Investing is missional
The story of redemption shows that God has purposes greater than restraining and judging sin. In redemption, God rescues what was lost. Redemption through Christ was not restricted to the wise, intelligent, or popular, but given to sinners (Romans 5:8). As Christ-followers, we must seek to invest for the long-term wellbeing, dignity and livelihood of others, all of whom are sinners.
A redemptive approach to investing may not focus so much on what to avoid, as on what it seeks to accomplish. Investing is a way to show neighborly love in and through the benefits it can provide to our entire society. Believers can also leverage investing as a tool to support specific kinds of purpose-driven endeavors. For example, some mutual funds leverage their influence in working to stop forced child labor in the production of chocolate. Other faith-based funds work to support causes like low-income housing, international business development and renewable energy.
Investing is hopeful
We invest, in part, because we believe that God is not done with this world. What we do with our portfolio matters to our neighbor and to God. But our hope does not ultimately rest on wise investing, investor activism or portfolio management. In the end, we turn our gaze from the uncertainties of the markets to the certainty of the reward promised to “those who seek him” (Heb 11:6).
Through investing, we have the opportunity to bless our community and support human flourishing. How we implement this vision will differ from investor to investor, but the lens of a biblical worldview offers insight and focus for every believer. Individual investors must still address specific questions and will answer them differently. But all of us should consider faith-based questions regarding the shape of our stock, bond, and mutual fund investments. 1. Are we pursuing fruitful abundance by investing in products and services we believe promote creation care and human flourishing? 2. Are we addressing the reality of risk by seeking accountability and wise guidance for our investment strategy? 3. Are we embracing missional purposes by constructing our investment portfolio around a commitment to loving our neighbor as we love ourselves? 4. Are we displaying persistent hope by investing for outcomes that will still matter in 50 years as well as in eternity?
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared at The Denver Institute for Faith and Work. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. No investment strategy assures financial success or protects against loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Investing in mutual funds involves risk, including possible loss of principal.Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor, member FINRA/SIPC. WaterRock Financial, LLC is a separate entity from LPL Financial. Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor (New York, Penguin Publishing Group, 2012), 157.