Dwelling in God’s word: a Christian perspective on ethical investment
For Christians, the life and teachings of Jesus and the word of God we find in the Bible more generally are the most important sources of guidance on ethical matters.
However, if you search through the Bible, you will not find the exact term ‘ethical investment’ anywhere. But does this mean that Jesus’ life and teachings and the Bible more generally offer us no guidance on how we invest our savings – assuming we are fortunate enough to have them? No, it doesn’t.
The most relevant biblical principle for us as we consider the topic of ethical investment is stewardship. The Bible teaches that everything we have to live on and prosper comes ultimately from God.
Read Genesis 1:26–30.
Where does every good gift we enjoy come from?
Read John 15:1,2 and Luke 13:6–9.
How does God want us to use these gifts?
In Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, we can infer that God wants us to put not just our time and our abilities to good use, but our money as well, and not to bury or hoard them where they are of no use to anyone.
Read Matthew 25:14–30 and Luke 19:11–27.
What do these readings teach us about what Jesus wants us to do with the financial gifts placed in our care?
Although Jesus didn’t say how the three servants in the Parable of the Talents invested their master’s money, we mustn’t read the parable as saying that Jesus endorses profitable ventures of every sort. Jesus followed the prophets who preceded him in reminding the wealthy and the powerful that God wants them to use their money and power wisely and justly, and for the benefit of others. Jesus and the prophets spoke out against dishonesty, mistreatment of workers and animals, and other abuses of power and privilege – the same sorts of matters that concern ethical investors today.
The Bible also contains many warnings about the love of money. The rich are constantly at risk of acquiring feelings of pride and superiority over other people, and of putting their hope and trust in the power of money rather than God.
Read Matthew 6:19–21,24; Mark 8:36; Luke 12:15 and 1 Timothy 6:10,17–19.
What does each of these texts tell us about God-pleasing attitudes towards money and wealth?
Viewing our earnings as coming ultimately from God and accepting that we are accountable to God for how we use money shapes the way we use it. Yes, we can be shrewd in selecting investments that are likely to grow in value, and prudent in choosing investments that will hold their value over time. But we will make selfish investment decisions if being shrewd and prudent is all we care about.
God calls us to go beyond selfishness, to factor into our investing whether our money is, on balance, promoting good or promoting evil. Let us pray for the wisdom to properly discern these things!
We pray: Lord, we live in a fallen world! It is often difficult to know how to rightly divide our earnings into giving, spending and saving, and it can also be hard to know where to invest our savings so that they will, on balance, do more good than evil. Help us to use our money in ways that honour you and do good for our neighbours. As we do, save us from feelings of self-righteousness and moral superiority. Amen.
Nick Schwarz is the LCANZ’s Assistant to the Bishop – Public Theology and a consultant to the church’s Commission on Social and Bioethical Questions.