By Jerry Bowyer, Crosswalk.com
Last time we talked about how to distinguish between different types of faith-based investing, and the importance of getting a good return and doing it with integrity. Most folks do their investing in publicly traded markets, not in the exclusive world of venture capital deals. But, as we said last time, this raises certain questions.
"In order to get a return one must venture out into investment markets. Markets, like all human endeavors, is infected with sin, which means that Christians who work in investment must contend with issues of morality in the markets."
Below we will focus on the issues having to do with dealing with the moral questions which arise when one goes out into those public markets.
- The conversation among Christians has focused largely on the moral aspects of investment, and we will continue to focus on that element here. However, the wisdom aspect deserves focused attention in the future.
- There are four strategies we see in the Christian investing discussion when it comes to dealing with the problem of sin and immorality in financial markets: avoidance of sin, embrace the morally praiseworthy, active engagement on moral questions with the companies we invest in, or deferral of the question due to confusion and lack of consensus.
- These approaches don't have to be mutually exclusive; one could employ negative sin screens, positive impact investing screens, engage with the sinful behaviors of companies that are not screened out, and also remain neutral on some of the individual questions involved.
- Since neither the Christian church, the evangelical Christian movement, nor the Christian financial profession have come to consensus on any of these topics, they are personal convictions and by definition debatable issues.
- Christians should not judge one another on such debatable issues. The New Testament controversies over eating with pagans, eating meat sacrificed to idols, the honoring of various holy days and other questions about the level of engagement with a pagan culture stand as an example to us when it comes to such questions. Such items have been treated in the scriptures as matters of 'liberty of conscience'. When the client has a conscience issue with a certain investment, they should not violate their conscience, and it is a good thing to make screens available to them to help them act in faith.
- In such matters, the only practice clearly condemned by Scripture is to act in such a way as to create a 'stumbling block'.
- The Biblical requirement is greater than merely refraining from creating a stumbling block; it is active love for the brethren.
- Our world is being torn apart by political and cultural conflict. Christians can either mirror the world's conflicts in microcosm or else we can mirror peace, love and unity to a world which is rapidly losing those virtues.
- I personally think that engagement is the approach to dealing with the issues of sin in financial markets which has been most neglected, whereas screening has gotten a great deal of conversational attention. At the recent Kingdom Advisors conference I presented my research, which looked at the life of Jesus as presented in the Gospels as an example of engagement.
Want to learn more? Keep posted to this spot for a series about Jesus and how he dealt with sin in the marketplace as our example.