Values-Aligned Investing

Put your money where your heart is, and live your conscious with your finances. 

Christians often have a conflicted relationship with money. On one hand, Paul was a tentmaker who supported himself in ministry, and he tells Timothy that “a man who fails to care for his family is worse than an infidel (1 Timothy 5:8).” Many saints in the Bible were wealthy, from Abraham to Joseph of Arimathea, and they used their wealth to further the Kingdom of God.

Simultaneously, the Bible speaks often of money, and warns repeatedly against pursuing wealth. Paul says, “the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil (1 Timothy 6:9-10).” Agur advises “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain (Proverbs 30:8-9).” Jesus Himself warns, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23-24).”

With such a disparity in teachings, it is little wonder that Christians are often unsure what to do regarding money. Most Christ-followers work hard and provide for their families with employment. We marry and have children, buy a house, tithe a little, volunteer in church, enjoy our lives, save a little, and retire on small savings, government assistance, and perhaps a work pension. Millions of faithful believers follow such a course during their lives, contribute meaningfully to their families, communities, and churches, and go to their eternal reward. They leave their material possessions to their children and to their churches, creating a legacy that will outlive them.

Christians often struggle with money. Many never feel that they have enough, and spend their lives living paycheck to paycheck, worrying about the future, and depending on the government for retirement and health care. Others go into terrible debt, no matter how much they make. A third and smaller group builds considerable wealth but is faced with vexing problems nonetheless. They discover that financial anxiety is not eliminated even with plentiful resources.

Biblical Considerations in Investments

Investments should make money, but they should also reflect a person’s values. Money invested in a country or company helps them accomplish their mission, and their mission may not the same as yours. Investors should be aware of the moral underpinnings and ambitions of companies, countries, and individuals in which they may invest or with which they may do business.

Companies that promote societal stability, individual initiative, and personal responsibility generally do better in the long run, both for their stakeholders and their nation. Therefore, investing in companies that promote family-friendly values provides the greatest chance for a reasonable long term return on investment. Long term growth, not “getting rich quick”, is the goal. See also “Getting Rich vs. Growing Rich in Investments.”

Countries that promote these same things, and allow religious freedom, also prosper compared to their more dictatorial counterparts. As a result, investing in companies and sovereign debt in these countries may be prudent. No nation is completely consistent. Germany, for example, is terrific on religious freedom but not as good on family values and personal responsibility.

Individual action also matters. No business is more than the sum of the people who work there, and company leaders sometimes support bad causes in their work, as well in as their personal lives. No real conservative would argue that they don’t have the right to do what they want with their own money, because conservatives believe in private property and individual liberty. However, we all have a right to know where the rich and famous are putting their money, and then decide whether or not to support them and their causes.

The information below can help you make the best investment and purchasing decisions.

Companies

  1. Political bias – Review websites including political donations, public statements, etc. The Center for Responsive Politics has very good information.
  2. Personal Experiences (good, neutral, bad)
  3. Recent events

Countries

  1. Religious freedom – US State Department International Religious Freedom Report 
  2. Personal Experiences (good, neutral, bad)
  3. Political freedom – The Democracy Project identifies nations with little or diminishing democracy.
  4. Recent events

Individuals

  1. Political bias (conservative vs. liberal) – review of websites including political donations, public statements, etc. The Center for Responsive Politics has very good information, including an individual donor site.
  2. Personal Experiences (good, neutral, bad)
  3. Recent events

Universities

  1. Divest U at Turning Point helps people direct giving away from some universities and towards others. It features a Professor Watch List to identify the most radical professors and their schools.

2nd Vote has a mobile device application that ranks companies on their support of conservative or liberal causes. Companies in green such as Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A support family friendly issues, while companies in red such as Starbucks and the United Way do not. These guidelines are hard to follow when it comes to shopping. If you wish to buy a computer, for example, all of the manufacturers support anti-family causes, so conservatives are forced to pick the least bad company. Investing is more flexible.

Impact Investing is investing in a geographical area which is underprivileged in the hopes of making money for yourself but also raising the quality of life of people there. Though it may yield smaller returns or have more risk than other types of investing, impact investing is certainly something to consider.

Conclusion

No man’s life is merely about money; it is about contribution to causes greater than himself. Investing is as much a moral decision as a financial one. As people weigh priorities about where to invest (and to shop), they would do well to consider all of the factors, not only the monetary ones.

Author: MD Harris Institute

MD, MPH, MBA, MDiv, PhD, ThM, DECBA Colonel, US Army (ret)

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