I recently heard about “Biblically Responsible Investing.” My partner, who is not a pastor, and therefore not as cynical as I am, thought that such investment portfolios might be concerned with basic biblical principles like immigrant justice, anti-racism, alleviating poverty, and protecting the environment.
“Nope,” I said. “I bet its all about being against abortion and gay people.” Of course I was right. Though, to be fair, most of these funds also seem to be concerned with pornography, terrorism, alcohol, and cussing in movies.
It got me thinking, though. What if we did look to the Bible for guidance about our financial investments? What would our investment portfolios look like?
We’d have to avoid farm implements, for sure. Because God is very clear in Genesis 3 that man should toil and sweat to make crops grow.
And flood insurance is clearly a bad investment. Because God said “no more flooding.” (Genesis 8:21)
Surely any company that translates its material into multiple languages is out of the portfolio. If God had wanted us to understand each other, the languages would never have been confused at Babel in the first place. (Genesis 11:7)
We cannot invest in any business that gives loans—banks, mortgage companies, payday lenders, car dealerships—unless they have a policy of charging 0% interest to all Jewish customers. And poor people. (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36; Deuteronomy 23:19; etc.)
Leviticus is a land mine. Investments should not be made in businesses that: produce or serve pork (11:7); fail to pay their workers on a daily basis (19:13); manufacture or sell clothes made of mixed fabrics; cross breed animals and/or plant more than one kind of seed in a field (19:19). We must avoid barber shops and beauty salons (19:27); tattoo parlors (19:28); any place that does not close between sunset on Friday and sunset on Saturday (23:3); and real estate companies (25:23).
The teachings of the prophets, of course, prohibit any investment in firms that take advantage of the poor, the foreigner, the orphan, or the widow. Also, using false weights is not cool.
And there’s plenty of investment guidance in the New Testament as well. Looking to the life of Jesus, health care seems to be a good investment. Fishing, not so much. Water supply systems, yes. Swords, no. Wine is a questionable investment, but whatever you do, don’t invest in old wine and new wineskins. That will not turn out well.
Finally, we can’t forget the ultimate investment advice from Jesus: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Do we really want our hearts in some multinational corporation?
Given these restrictions, I’m not sure “Biblically responsible” money management leaves us with many investment options. Which is fine, actually, since, as pastors, we don’t have much money to invest anyway.
Rev. Joanna Harader serves as pastor of Peace Mennonite Church in Lawrence, KS and blogs at Spacious Faith. She has a biblically irresponsible–though hopefully Christ-honoring–investment portfolio.
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