We are bombarded with information on investments. Every day hundreds of individuals give their opinion as to where you should invest your money. It is easy to spend excessive amounts of time and energy on investing. This is not God’s will: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (Proverbs 23:4, 5).
It is appropriate for a Christian to spend time learning and applying God’s investment principles, but once this has been accomplished, we should take a long-term perspective and trust God for the results. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5, 6 nkjv)
I review the portfolio that God has entrusted to me about four times per year. I ignore what is happening in the markets and in the media on a daily and weekly because excessive time and energy is required in order to absorb the mammoth amount of information that is available.
During these “quarterly reviews,” I spend several hours with the Lord, seeking God’s wisdom (James 1:5) and God’s direction for my life, which God has promised to provide (Psalm 32:8). Since no individual can consistently predict the direction of the markets or any investment (James 4:13–15), I purposely listen for God’s “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12), because I realize that only God knows the future and God is in control (1 Chronicles 29:11, 12).
During this time with the Lord, I meditate on scripture verses that deal with investment principles to ensure that I have developed a biblically based investment strategy. I review the portfolio and make adjustments according to God’s investment principles and God’s specific direction for me.
I wait patiently for the Lord (Psalm 37:7) to provide his specific direction, and when I sense I’ve heard it, I pray and ask God to confirm it. Once it is clarified, in faith, I implement God’s plan for my investments. At all times, I ensure that the plan is within God’s investment principles, because I know that God would not provide any directive that is contrary to his Word.
If you “connect with the Lord” (John 15) on a regular basis and follow his wisdom and his direction, then you will have fulfilled your stewardship responsibility and you can leave the results (the return on your investments) to God. God has promised that he will meet your needs (Matthew 6:31–33). God instructs us not to worry (Luke 12:22–31) and not to be fearful (Isaiah 41:10), but rather trust him and be content with his provision. “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:6–8)
Be sure to give God “the first fruits” (Proverbs 3:9) of your profits, as this demonstrates your faith and commitment to him. God promises that he will bless the generous giver: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38). Giving generously is the best way I know of to avoid hoarding and to deal with any potential greediness (Luke 12:15).
In summary, it is appropriate to spend a reasonable amount of time learning and implementing God’s investment principles as well as seeking God’s specific direction for your life. However, it is not God’s will for you to spend excessive amounts of time and energy on investing.
Giving to God’s work is an investment with eternal rewards for both the giver and the beneficiaries of the gift. In regard to the giver, Jesus said: “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:27). There are also eternal benefits for the recipients of the gift. For example, when you give money to an evangelical organization (including your church), and through that organization someone accepts Jesus Christ as personal saviour, then that individual will be in heaven for eternity.
Although investing to provide for future family needs is something that God wants us to do (1 Timothy 5:8), giving to God’s work is even more important, as it stores up “treasures in heaven.” Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19, 20).
It is easy to become focused on building your portfolio. However, investments are temporary: “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Timothy 6:7). As God blesses your investments, avoid hoarding. Jesus warned, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
I recommend that at least two times per year, you obtain an update of the fair market value of your investments, and ensure that you are giving at least 10 percent of the increased value of those investments to God’s work, in addition to any giving of your regular personal income. Remember, the tithe is the smallest percentage mentioned anywhere in scripture, and the emphasis in God’s Word is to give generously. (See Luke 6:38 and Matthew 13:44–46). Note that when Zacchaeus became a believer, he gave 50 percent of his assets in demonstration of his thankfulness for salvation in Christ (Luke 19:8).
God instructs us to give him “the first fruits.” Proverbs 3:9 states, “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” When we make giving to God’s work a priority, God has promised that he will bless us financially.
If you make giving to God’s work a priority, God has promised that he will entrust you with even more money (2 Corinthians 9:6). Why? So you can spend it on yourself or hoard it? No, God’s purpose for entrusting you with more money, is that you can give even more to his work!
Now [God] who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:10–11, emphasis added)
Jesus promised that if we sacrifice now, the return on our investment (as a result of giving to God’s work) will be a hundredfold in eternity! “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19: 29, emphasis added) Remember, there is absolutely no earthly investment that provides a hundredfold return and is guaranteed by God!
In summary, although it is important to save and invest to provide for future family needs, always make investing in God’s work a priority, as it will produce eternal benefits!
Human tendency is to respond to what is happening in the financial markets or news from the media. Good news frequently provides confidence or triggers greed, which tempts us to buy; bad news makes us feel uncomfortable or fearful, which results in a desire to sell. Generally, good news causes the market to go up, and bad news causes the market to go down. Therefore, if you follow the normal human tendency, which is to rely on your emotions in making investment decisions, it means that you will buy high and sell low. This, of course, is the opposite to what you want to do, and it is not consistent with God’s investment principles.
First, our trust should be in God, not in any particular investment or money manager.
Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared. (Proverbs 3:25–26, emphasis added)
In regard to greed, Jesus warns us, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). If you struggle with greed, I suggest that you pray and ask God to change your heart (Proverbs 21:1). Also be sure to give generously to God’s work, because giving generally helps a believer deal with greed.
In response to bad news, God’s directive for the righteous man is this: “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD” (Psalm 112:7).
Therefore, when you hear bad news from the media, or if the markets have decreased significantly in value, I recommend that before you make any investment decisions, you spend quality time with the Lord in prayer, seeking his direction and his wisdom. Only God knows the future, and only God is in control.
“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.” (Isaiah 46:9–11, emphasis added)
Another human tendency is to make investment decisions on impulse, or in response to “hot tips” or “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” On the other hand, the directive in scripture is toward planning, diligence, and patience. Proverbs 21:5 states, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” Hasty investment decisions usually lead to losses.
Once a year, I spend several hours in prayer, seeking God’s wisdom (James 1:5) and direction (Psalm 32:8) for the investments he has entrusted to me. I develop a biblically based investment strategy, including percentage asset allocations to each category, i.e., bonds, Canadian equities, global equities, etc. (See my two previous articles on diversification.) On a quarterly basis, I prayerfully review the portfolio, and as long as God gives me his peace, I will generally sell assets that have increased in value and purchase assets in categories that have decreased in value. This forces me to “sell high and buy low” and to avoid responding to market conditions, “hot tips,” and media news. Between these “reviews,” I generally ignore the media and the markets.
In summary, follow God’s directives (prayer, planning, and patience), not human tendencies such as fear and greed. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. “ (Proverbs 16:3)
It is possible for a Christian to be involved in investing with godly motives or worldly motives. Your motives for investing are important to God. “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD.” (Proverbs 16:2)
Godly motives for investing would include the following:
1. Investing in Order to Meet Future Needs—1 Timothy 5:8 states, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Examples of needs that usually require saving and investing would include children’s education, retirement, automobile replacement, and purchase of a home.
2. Giving to God’s Work—If God has blessed you with a surplus and if you have given to God’s work everything that the Lord has laid upon your heart (Proverbs 3:9, 10), then it is possible that God may direct you to invest the surplus with the long-term objective of giving even more.
3. Practising Good Stewardship—If you have given to God’s work as God directed, then as a good steward, you should invest your surplus as directed in the parable of the talents (Mathew 25:14–30). However, be sensitive to God’s leading; do not invest only to accumulate more. Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19, 20).
4. Following God’s Specific Will for Your Life—Sometimes God’s specific will for a believer may be to invest a significant amount in the business that God has called him or her to. Because God discourages debt (Proverbs 22:7), it may be necessary for some people to accumulate significant retained earnings in their company in order to provide the necessary working capital.
Worldly or ungodly motives for investing would include the following:
1. Pride—Some people invest with the objective of accumulating significant wealth because it makes them feel more important than others. This attitude is clearly contrary to God’s Word. 1 Peter 5:5 states, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
2. Selfishness—Philippians 2:3, 4 states, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Investing with selfish motives is not God’s will.
3. Greed—God warns about greed. Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
4. Trust in Wealth Rather Than in God—A good example of this is the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16–21). This man’s problem was not that he had significant wealth but rather that he hoarded his wealth and he trusted in it rather than in God. God called him a fool.
I encourage you to ask God to reveal your motives for investing, and then take action to ensure that your motives are godly: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23, 24).
God admonishes us to obtain counsel. Proverbs 12:15 states, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (nasb), and Proverbs 15:22 states, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
God recommends that we obtain biblical counsel from a godly investment adviser and God’s Word.
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1–3)
I believe that the following are excellent sources of godly biblical counsel.
1. First, and foremost, spend quality time with the Lord in prayer and ask God to reveal his counsel to you through the Holy Spirit. “But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, ‘First seek the counsel of the LORD.’” (1 Kings 22:5) God has promised that he will provide his counsel and direction in all matters, including investing. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8)
2. Meditate on God’s Word to ensure that any proposed investment is within biblical guidelines. “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.” (Psalm 119:24) For example, ensure that your portfolio is diversified in accordance with Ecclesiastes 11:1, 2. In addition, use minimal debt, or ideally no debt, as God’s Word discourages the use of debt (Proverbs 22:7). The use of debt increases the risk and the volatility of your portfolio.
3. In addition, before making any major decision, seek the advice of two or three godly investment counsellors/advisers. In my view, an appropriate definition for such a person would be as follows: a spiritually mature Christian who understands and applies God’s investment principles (Psalm 111:10), has a close personal relationship with God (John 15), has the necessary practical investment knowledge (Proverbs 24:3, 4) and habitually puts the interests of clients first (Philippians 2:3, 4).
4. I believe that one of your investment counsellors should be your spouse (Genesis 2:24), even if he or she has limited investment knowledge. God, through his Holy Spirit, can give his peace or lack of peace to an objective spouse who is not emotionally excited about or biased against a particular investment.
After obtaining the counsel outlined above, it is your responsibility to pray and ask God to give you his wisdom (James 1:5) in weighing that advice. Proverbs 14:15 states, “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.”
In summary, before making any major investment decision, I recommend that you seek counsel, from God and his Word, two or three godly investment advisers, and from your spouse. Proceed only after God has given you his peace and his wisdom in respect of that particular investment decision.