Is BRI the Only Way to Invest God’s Way
Imagine this hypothetical scenario: you, an average investor, own some combination of the top 10 holdings in the S&P 500, such as… Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Amazon.com Inc., Meta Platforms (Facebook) (Alpert, 2022)
Assume reliable news comes out that all of these companies are going to double in terms of market cap, sales, earnings, etc. As an investor, this is exactly what you cheer for. Your stake in these companies should theoretically double just like their influence on society. But is that a good thing? Will the world look closer to the way God’s Kingdom ought to be if the company you have a stake in grows?
According to research at Inspire Insight, a Christian Stock screening firm, many ventures of the above companies are gravely contrary to a moral society. For example, Apple derives revenue from the creation, sale, or distribution of pornographic content. They prolifically donate to LGBT advocacy and fund out-of-state abortions for employees. Microsoft also prolifically donates to LGBT advocacy and funds out-of-state abortions for employees. Amazon derives revenue from the creation, sale, or distribution of pornographic content. They donate greatly to LGBT advocacy, fund out-of-state employee abortions, and profit from the sale of some abortifacients. Meta (Facebook) has had many scandals including turning a blind eye to human traffickers and gangs using their platform to conduct operations. They give much to LGBT advocacy organizations and fund out-of-state abortions for employees (Inspire Insight, n.d.). Further, Facebook is known for taking steps to censor and remove posts espousing traditional Christian values (Nolte, 2017).
With the understanding that God ultimately owns everything, and that we simply steward the money we have, we must consider the question – does our capital allocation bring glory to God? When the companies we invest in do exceptionally well, does it advance God’s kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven? Screening companies with these types of questions before making an investment constitutes “biblically responsible investing” (BRI). There is no set standard among the Christian body on where the line ought to be drawn for what investments are “biblically irresponsible,” and so a well-formed conscience and dedicated prayer are necessary to find where God is calling you to use your capital.
My initial objection, and the objection of many, to screening investments based on Christian principles, is the fear that doing so may limit our returns in comparison to the market. However, from a practical perspective, BRI doesn’t necessarily lead to adverse returns. For example, Ave Maria, a mutual fund company utilizing moral stock screenings with a Christian worldview, has seen their growth fund track the index within a percent of annualized returns over a five and ten-year time frame (Growth Fund: Ave Maria Mutual Funds, n.d.). Depending on the year, Inspire ETFs have also tracked closely with their target index funds as well. Diligent research is always necessary but investing on principles does not mean sacrificing returns.
However, even if returns based on BRI were lower, I am reminded of Amos 2:6 which says, “This is what the LORD says: “For three transgressions of Israel, even four, I will not revoke My judgment, because they sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals.’” I have felt conviction that in fear of missing out on an extra annualized percent or two on my investments, I have invested, and therefore, hoped for the prosperity of companies that operate in ways contrary to Christian values. I have felt that by investing in companies that use slave labor, or profit on the sale of pornography, I am selling the righteous for capital gains, and the need for tax incentives.
There is great nuance to this issue of course because in some way, simply doing business in our interconnected economy will help some nefarious business thrive. But it is up to us to choose how closely we support corporations that operate completely outside of a Christian worldview. When selecting companies we wish to see prosper, we should ask ourselves -is this company bringing glory to God? Is it helping to establish His Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven? James 1:5 gives us the promise that God will give wisdom generously to all who ask. With prayer and an open heart, we can rest assured that the Holy Spirit will give each who asks the wisdom to answer this question.