Which Shares Would Jesus Buy?

I’m a freelance writer, semi-retired now, but still specializing in finance, investment and the stock market. It’s not work I’m entirely comfortable with. I know that many Christians – including some in my own church – regard the financial markets as casinos. But I have a family to feed, and I haven’t been able to make a living writing on Christian themes, so the stock market it is.

Friends sometimes suggest I write a book on “Christian finance.” That is, on money management for Christians, like Larry Burkett. I’ve resisted, for several reasons, and it’s probably as well, because, according to a “Religion BookLine” email newsletter from Publishers Weekly, the market for those books is crowded.

dollarThe newsletter (which is not online) put the spotlight on several books related to Christians and finance. About one of these it wrote:

The book’s tone is more aggressive than other Christian guides, exhorting readers to think of debt elimination as a “war,” with its accompanying sacrifices. Exclamation points, italics and parenthetical intensifiers so abound in the text that by the book’s end, even the most committed reader will feel rhetorically exhausted.

I’m not comfortable with “Christian finance” books that lay down lots of rules. After all, even a Christian financial principle like tithing is open to various interpretations.

I don’t believe Jesus gave specific instruction concerning the stock market, savings accounts, debt reduction or whatever. Instead, he taught love, forgiveness, service, integrity, trust, humility, prayer, compassion, justice and more. These virtues should naturally (and increasingly) govern every aspect of our lives, including our attitudes to money.

That’s not to say that personal finance books are useless. Far from it. (After all, I write some.) But I don’t think that Christians necessarily need “Christian” personal finance books, any more than they need, say, “Christian” car repair manuals or “Christian” aerobics guides.

Martin Luther is famously quoted as having exclaimed: “I would rather be operated on by a Turkish [Muslim] surgeon than a Christian butcher.” (Though some doubt he really said it.)

A short article from Christianity Today magazine has influenced my own attitudes. By J. Raymond Albrektson, it is titled “Is the Stock Market Good Stewardship.” Here is an excerpt:

The bedrock of a biblical understanding of wealth is that it all belongs to God, but he entrusts us to manage it during our lifetime. Our task is to decide how to divide the pie. How much do we give away to help meet the needs of others and expand God’s kingdom? How much do we consume on our own needs? And how much do we set aside for future needs?

We’re basically trustees, and a trustee normally does not take high risks with the owner’s wealth. When you entrust assets to a financial manager, you expect rational plans for putting that money to work, not unreasonable risks in hopes of a quick payoff.

I would commend the article to anyone interested in this theme.

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