By Doug Hanson
This is a hard article for me to write because it sheds light on my family, but in a shadowy sense. My mother told me stories of her grandfather, who I never met, that shocked and saddened me. While riding to school on the bus through the small farming town where she grew up, my mother would see her grandfather passed out in a drunken stupor on the sidewalk. He was known as the town drunk.
My great-grandfather immigrated from Russia as a married young adult, but he could not escape the influences of his childhood. His father was a wealthy mill and tavern owner in Russia whose patrons would give drinks to my great-grandfather so they could laugh at his antics as an inebriated child. Later, as an adult in the States, his wife would try to hide his alcohol, but often to no avail, and he would lock her out of the house, forcing her to sleep in their orchard.
Research has shown that most alcohol sales in the States are to those considered heavy drinkers. They are the repeat customers who provide profit to alcohol makers. The Bible warns us not to cause our brother to stumble, “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble” (Romans 14:21). This truth should cause us to evaluate what companies we are investing in through our retirement plans, stocks, and mutual funds. Let us not profit from another person’s stumbling.
How do we know if our investments are contributing positively or negatively to society? Fortunately, there are moral screening tools now available that provide us insight into companies and funds. A free online screening tool can be found at https://inspireinsight.com which provides a negative or positive score for any stock or fund you enter at the top of the website. I encourage you to type in your investments and see what they score. A negative score means that the company’s products or philanthropic endeavors probably don’t match your values.
The website allows you to investigate what areas are causing a negative score. Typical areas of concern include: 1) promoting the addiction of pornography, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, or cannabis; 2) bioethical compromises including abortion products, abortion legislation, and embryonic stem cell research; or 3) donating corporate funds to causes that do not align with biblical values. For example, typing in a typical S&P 500 index fund will show 363 securities that are flagged for moral compromises.
Biblically Responsible Investing is more than avoiding “sin” stocks; it also seeks to invest in companies that reflect the biblical mandate to “love our neighbor.” These companies treat their workforce, suppliers, and environment with care, produce products that promote human flourishing, and contribute to society in uplifting ways. One example I like to share is of a medical research company that is exploring ways to do non-invasive colonoscopies. For those of us in America, that idea is enticing enough, but imagine the benefit to those in Third World countries. Investing in companies like that allows us to “love our neighbor” across the miles.
Biblically Responsible Investing is also about being good stewards of what the Lord has blessed us with. In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, we read of good stewards. One servant was given five talents and he was commended for investing it and making five more. Another servant was given two talents and was also commended for making two more. However, the servant who was given one talent did not invest it and was condemned. What is the lesson here? A good steward seeks to put to good use whatever resources the Lord has entrusted to him. In investing, “good use” means seeking competitive returns while investing in companies that honor the Lord. Today, Biblically Responsible Investing can offer that.
Thankfully, my grandfather chose not to emulate his father, therefore starting a new direction for his progeny. But I still wince when I think of my mother, as a young girl on her way to school, seeing her grandfather in the proverbial gutter. Let each of us consider if our investments are helping to build up or tear down others. Let’s seek to lift each other up by investing in companies that do the same. That is one way we can “love our neighbor” and be good stewards of God’s blessings in our lives.
Doug Hanson is an investment advisor with Christian Wealth Management in Boise, providing biblically responsible investment advice to Christians. For more information, visit investforthegloryofgod.com or contact him at [email protected] or (208) 697-3699.