For Christians, it is essential to understand that owning stock means you are an owner of a company. The more stock you own the larger your ownership of that corporation. As an owner you participate in the profits made from the activities of the company. You also have certain rights represented by the type and amount of stock you own, such as voting rights or influence regarding leadership and control of the company. Because you are an owner/participator in the profits you also are an indirect participator in the activities of the company.
When you buy stock, you are effectively partnering with all the other stock owners in that company. Though you may not be held directly responsible for the actions of the company as a minority stockholder, you are a participant just the same.
Let’s say for the ease of math you own 10% of company XYZ’s stock. If that company creates a cure for some terrible disease, you have the pleasure of knowing the company you have become a partial owner in created that cure. If you were sole owner, owning 100% of the company’s stock, you would be credited personally for making such a great breakthrough and would reap the rewards of the possible profits from the patents, rights and sales of this great discovery. As 10% owner you participate in the possible increase of the value of your stock and may receive dividends from the profits proportionately to your ownership in such a breakthrough.
The same, unfortunately, is true on the other side of the formula. If the company you own creates, distributes, markets and or promotes products or services that harm others and are clearly offensive to Christian biblical values, then you have the unfortunate privilege of participating in these activities through your stock ownership in that company. Some such products or services that most Christians would agree violate God’s basis of love, that harm or abuse His children, include:
- Pornography and Prostitution: The use and abuse of individuals for sexual activities.
- Abortion-Ending an infant’s life.
- Addictive products: The production and promotion of products, that harm even destroy the consumer.
- Anti-Christian, anti-God, entertainment and publications that promote, desensitize and program our society to reject God and the Bible.
- The promotion of immoral lifestyles that reject the biblical principles of marriage and sexual relations.
When we own stock in a company that develops, distributes or promotes such products or services, we become a passive participant in that Biblically offensive activity.
To illustrate this point more clearly, let’s pretend a company made a 100% per year return for its stock owners. Most people would love to have an investment portfolio full of those types of stocks. But what if this company made these great returns from the production of child pornography and prostitution activities in third world nations? Do you think most Christians would feel different about participating in such profits?
Some stock owners may argue that they personally did not exploit and destroy the children’s lives enslaved to prostitution and pornography. They just invested in a company. Yet by buying the stock, an investor has shown financial support for these activities and endorsed with their money the services and have profited directly from the abuse of these children. A stock owner may be a passive participant but a participant just the same.
To maintain integrity between our core beliefs and our investment actions, we need to know with clarity what we truly believe, have a strong commitment to our faith and then be conscious of what we are participating in when we invest in stocks.
Larry Burkett once wrote in his Money Matters newsletter, “We need to be careful about what our investment dollars are supporting. Some companies that typically offer strong profits prey on the weaknesses of others – gambling enterprises are a good example. Christians need to think twice about investing in any company that would be deemed socially unethical. My advice is to stay away from any company that makes money from activities that are morally reprehensible.”
The good news is many companies do not participate in such items or services and there are several free resources available to help investors learn more and discern what investments do and don’t align with their beliefs:
- Screen It Clean It: A biblically responsible data provider for investment professionals will screen investments for free, no strings attached. www.christianinvestingtool.com
- More Than Money Ministries: A nonprofit organization with a special focus on investment stewardship providing free screening, educational articles, videos and community for those interested in investing with biblical integrity. www.mtmministries.org
- National Association of Christian Financial Consultants (NACFC): The first organization formed to teach, train and encourage Christian financial professionals to provide biblical stewardship, including biblically responsible investing to their clients. www.nacfc.org
- Kingdom Advisors: Provides advocacy, training and community for financial professionals who are specialists in offering biblically wise advice. www.kingdomavdisors.com
(Mark Minnella is president and co-founder of the National Association of Christian Financial Consultants. He designed the first faith-based professional designation program, Christian Financial Consultant and Advisor, in the industry. He has extensive background as a leader in the faith-based investment movement, is the founder of Integrity Investors, LLC, and the author of “The Wall Street Awakening.”)