Benjamin C. Maxson
Summary: Issues and principles to help us integrate our faith and our investment principles.
Exploring the issues. Most of us live in a world of wealth and plenty. Some of that wealth is real, some of it is temporary and some of it is just paper wealth. Market fluctuations build and destroy fortunes. The promise of fortune allures contemporary generations to look at investments in a way that is often compulsive. In many cases investing has become part of daily life. Yet there are very real dangers for the Christian working with investments. The temptation to pursue money can lead us away from God. As a result, we need to explore issues and principles to help us integrate our faith and our investment principles.
The command is simple and direct--So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). This straightforward instruction provides a comprehensive guide for anything a disciple manages, including investments. Yet few Christians think about this principle when planning their investment strategies. It is very easy to develop goals and strategies for financial investments in a way that is isolated from our walk with God. So let’s identify some principles to guide--not where a disciple invests but how a disciple makes decisions about investing. Let’s begin by identifying some of the factors that challenge a Christian approach to investing. Then we will explore key issues to consider as we apply biblical thinking to our investment strategies and important principles that will help us keep God first in our lives.
The first danger we need to think about is what Paul warns, For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Tm 6:10). The distraction of financial wealth can easily lead one away from God. Jesus said it in another way, You cannot serve both God and money (Mt 6:24). Because of the direct involvement with material possessions, investing presents a real danger to our relationship with God unless we manage our investing to God’s glory.
Our motivation for investing is another area we need to examine carefully. Greed, recognition, pride, fame or power can be driving forces for investing. Each of these can strengthen the hold of sin in our lives. We can grow to depend on our wealth rather than on God. We can shift our eyes from Him to our own abilities. What is our purpose for investing? What type of investments should we make? What principles should guide our investing? What are the priorities that shape or inform our investments? What is our focus? These are some of the questions we need to prayerfully think about as we plan an investment strategy.
Key principles in planning. I see three key principles that can help us in planning our investments in a Christian way. The first is to do everything to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). This principle is foundational and will guide every part of our lives. We obviously will not want to do anything that would detract from God’s glory. But I wonder if we should not go a step further. Shouldn’t we actively seek to bring Him glory in each step of life? Do we really want to spend energy and resources on something that would only be neutral?
The second principle to guide Christian investing is: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal? (Mt 6:20). This does not mean that the only place we can invest is in the church or in a mission program. However, this passage does remind us of the eternal reality. Considering eternity does bring a new dimension into thinking about investments. It helps us shape our purpose for investing. The final principle is perhaps most important: ?But seek ye first the
Putting it into practice. So let’s explore some direct applications of these principles. First of all, the money we invest is really not ours--it belongs to God. When we invest, we are managing His resources. He needs to be involved in the process. If we have put God and His kingdom first—if we have accepted Christ’s lordship—we can trust the Holy Spirit to guide us. Also, because it is God’s money we are investing, we will be careful and prudent. As we invest to His glory, we will carefully choose the types of investments that will bring honor to His name.
When we consider money in the context of God’s kingdom, we discover there are only three basic points that should guide our use of money—caring for the family He has placed in our care, advancing God’s mission on earth and helping others. As God’s kingdom is the primary consideration in determining the type of investments a disciple makes, we should ask ourselves the following questions: 1) Will the investment reflect Christian values? 2) Will it support something that would be contrary to God’s kingdom? 3) Is the organization or company in which the investment is made involved in an activity or product that is inherently sinful or damaging?
What does this all mean? Integrating God into our investment decisions can only work as we recognize God as Owner and Lord of every portion of our lives. From a godly perspective, wealth is an extension of our partnership with God—managing His resources. This gives us a unique view of investing as Christian disciples. And, as we follow His principles in making investment decisions, we will be inspired as we seek to do everything to the glory of God.