Share this story

 | By Mary Kathryn Britenfeld

Biblically Responsible Investing

Jesus shared many parables about growth. Of these, the parable of the mustard seed is a beloved favorite. The image of that small seed growing into a large tree, providing a place for birds to perch, is a beautiful analogy for the kingdom of God. It also provides a template for how we can think about investing. By nurturing small gifts into abundance, we can provide financial security for ourselves while honoring our faith and the values we hold dear.

There’s a name for this approach – biblically responsible investing or morally responsible investing. Simply put, investors who follow this strategy research and choose funds that align with their values.

But let’s take a step back. Understanding the world of investments can often feel overwhelming or confusing, like learning a new language. A quick review of the basics will point us in the right direction.

When you purchase shares of a company, you become part owner of that company. This is true even if you own only a small fraction of the shares available. Just like any other important purchases you make, you have both the right and responsibility to understand what you own.

Consider purchasing a home as a useful comparison. Your down payment and mortgage make you a part owner of your home, along with the bank. But before you close on a home loan, you have the home appraised to ensure it is worth what you pay for it. You also hire a home inspector to ensure that the dwelling is structurally sound with a strong foundation.

The same is true when it comes to investing. Appraising your investment options and inspecting how a company uses their profits is an important part of stewarding your resources wisely.

Thankfully, publicly traded companies must be transparent and share how they spend the money they receive from selling shares of stock. With a little research, investors can learn about the companies they own or are looking to purchase and how they are adding value to society or not.

If you’re like many people, you may have a retirement plan or investment portfolio with a mix of funds that you chose (or someone else recommended) some time ago and rarely revisit. If that’s the case, don’t fret. There are several mutual funds and/ or exchange traded funds that specialize in biblically responsible investments. The managers of these funds screen companies, prior to purchase, for activities and contributions related to (for example):

  • abortion
  • pornography
  • gambling

These are industries that cause the world harm. Therefore, as investors and stewards of God’s wealth, we can choose not to invest in them.

When I began my career as a financial advisor, my first client was a missionary. Although he knew he needed to plan for his financial future, he was intimidated at the prospect of investing. As we explored ways to connect his faith with his financial life, he learned that biblically responsible investing principles would give him a new avenue to serve God. With faith like the mustard seed, his investment has the potential to grow and spread God’s goodness – adding value to the world – ultimately building the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

Mary Kathryn Britenfeld is a financial advisor and college instructor in Grand Rapids, Mich. She has an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.