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FROM FAILURE TO FAITH: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT INVESTING?

What does the bible say about investing, and how can we apply these lessons to make decisions that grow our wealth while remaining faithful to our beliefs? To further analyze this paradox, I looked back to my own journey investing by God’s way—and all of the Christian-based investing advice I learned along the way.

November 2015

It’s 3am on a chilly November night, and I am walking back from my friend’s dorm, hanging on for dear life. I have a class that begins in five hours, but I’m in no hurry. I’ll skip the class again. I haven’t been to class in months, and it seems like I have disappointed everyone in my life.

Worst of all, I have failed God. As I walk back to my dorm, it hits me. I deserve hell, and I’m one accident away from that destiny. My whole life has fallen apart, and I have never felt so hopeless. How did I get to this point?

I grew up going to church believing that I was going to heaven because I was a sweet little boy in a nice Christian family. I viewed Jesus as my “get-out-of-hell-free card”. Had you bumped into me at Church when I was a twelve-year-old, you would have thought I was the Christian tween poster-child. I was polite. I had tons of Bible verses memorized and I would even pray with my family every night before going to bed.

As I went through high school, however, that façade began to fade. I hated going to church – I would show up in sweatpants and a sweatshirt and sleep in the back pew. The only time I ever prayed was to ask God for victory in my basketball games. I began to completely disregard what Jesus thought and even started making fun of Christians who took their faith seriously. As a high schooler, you would have thought I was anything but a Christian.

But I didn’t care, I still had my get-out-of-hell-free card since I kept “showing up”.

Entering college, I felt on top of the world. I had graduated from one of the best public high schools in the nation and I was going to one of the top colleges in the nation. I was in with the “cool” fraternity and it seemed like everything was going my way.

My investment strategy was simple: invest for myself and myself alone. I invested my time, money, and emotions in whatever felt right at that moment. My one focus was to maximize my earthly wealth – I just wanted to have the most money, pleasure and success as possible in this life. My plan was to join the Finance industry, work on Wall Street and make millions. Little did I know, this dream would come tumbling down in a hurry!

As I began my first college semester, I started to stay out later and later. It became harder and harder to wake up for my 9am class. Within four weeks, I had stopped going to classes altogether and would simply get up at 4pm, eat and then go party until dawn. That was my life.

It wasn’t long until my whole world spiraled out of control. Not only did I stop going to classes, but my relationships deteriorated, my popularity diminished, and my hopes faded.

Walking back to my dorm on that fateful night, I realized just how awful my life had become. I questioned God constantly. If He were in control, then how could this happen? How could He have let my life turn into this mess? As I would come to find out later, this was the most loving thing he could have possibly done.

God was tearing down everything in my life that I loved more than Him. I learned firsthand that if my trust was placed in any investment that ends with this life, it could disappear in an instant. Understanding the difference between controllable and uncontrollable risk helped me quickly learn that my high-risk lifestyle had the likely probability of deep loss.*

December 2015

It’s 8pm on a cold December evening, and I am sitting in a pastor’s living room. As a church kid, I had talked to many pastors throughout my life. I knew the drill. I would be told to just keep reading my Bible, listening to my parents, and going to church and things would end up working out.

This time, however, it’s different. As this pastor began using the Bible to show me what it looks like to follow Christ, I quickly realized that I was not a Christian. Being part of a Christian family and keeping up my church attendance record didn’t make me a Christian – what mattered was my faith in and love for Jesus Christ. This was the moment that I truly put my faith in Jesus for the first time. Jesus was no longer merely my “get-out-of-hell-free” card. He was my Savior and my Lord, and I was determined to live my life the way He intended. And my life has changed dramatically ever since.

December 2018

It’s 4pm on a surprisingly warm December day. I am now a married man. Over the past few years, God has been so gracious to me. I quickly became very involved in my church, first as a member, then as an intern, and now as a youth pastor. God has restored my relationships, given me a fresh start, and blessed me in so many ways beyond what I deserve. But what’s different between now and three years ago is that my hope, joy, and contentment are not found in those things. Over these past three years, God has shown me first-hand a principle that has been laid out very clearly in the Bible – any treasure that I store up for myself on earth can be ripped away from me in an instant, but any treasure that is stored up in heaven is eternally secure.

Today

As I continued with one foot in my finance education and one foot in the church, it became abundantly clear that God has a lot to say about money. And while I originally entered the finance world wanting to be a rich Wolf on Wall Street, I now have an entirely different goal: I am no longer focused on maximizing my earthly wealth but am on a mission to help others use their money to maximize their heavenly wealth.

 

It All Belongs to God

Ownership comes with a great sense of pride and freedom. Business owners can work when they want and how they want, homeowners can have the final say in virtually all property decisions, and car owners don’t have to worry about returning their cars to the dealership. That makes this first Biblical investment principle so hard to swallow: everything in this world belongs to God.

“The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). This verse is echoed by many others throughout the Bible – God owns EVERYTHING. He owns you, He owns me, and He owns every human who has ever walked the Earth. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and every animal in the forest (Psalm 50:20). It would only follow, then, that God also owns every resource that we consider to be ours. The Bible describes us as being stewards, not owners, of our resources.

Our Fiduciary Responsibility

In the finance world, money managers have a fiduciary duty to their clients. Or, in other words, they are legally required to act in their client’s best interest. If you found out that your money manager was taking your money and spending it on his own pursuits of pleasure, you would certainly take legal action. In the same way, as stewards of God’s money we have a duty to spend our money in His best interest, not our own. This is why it is so important for us to make sure we understand how God wants His resources to be managed.

Biblical Investing: Eternal Reward, Zero Risk

Any money manager worth his salt will construct aportfolio that will give you the highest level of return per unit of risk. However, to ensure you’re pursuing wise biblical investing, you must understand how the relationship between risk and return changes through Christian-based investment.

If you had two stocks that were equally risky and one was expected to give you a 20% return, while the other was expected to give you a 5% return, it wouldn’t take much deliberation to determine which stock to invest in. The problem is that all investments contain risk and no returns are certain.

If you could go back to 2002, what would you invest in? Amazon stock for $15? Apple stock for $1.50? If we could predict with certainty the returns we would earn on our investments, then money managing would be a whole lot easier. Everyone would simply invest in what we knew would yield the highest return.

What about risk? No matter what you do with your money, there is some level of risk involved. Bury it, and it could be stolen. Deposit it in a bank, and the banks may fail along with the government that insures it. Invest in a company, and that company could go bankrupt. There’s no escaping risk when it comes to what you do with your money… Unless you look to the Bible.

The Bible describes an investment that yields infinite, eternal rewards with no risk whatsoever. Jesus says it this way, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20). According to Jesus, there is a way to invest your money, time, and resources that will yield heavenly treasure with no risk.

So How in the World Do I Do That?

Jesus is NOT saying that if you just give your money to a preacher, then you will be blessed with wealth in the next life. Rather, Jesus is calling us to use our money in such a way that be of eternal benefit. “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth (money), so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9). Here, Jesus calls His followers to a radical view of investing. He calls His followers to use their money to make friends in heaven! In other words, God calls us to use our money so that more people can grow in their knowledge and love for Jesus Christ. The main emphasis in the financial life of a Christian isn’t to minimize risk and maximize return in a portfolio, but rather to use money in order to maximize heavenly wealth.

This principle is restated repeatedly throughout scripture. Check out what Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:17-19: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

 

Shrewd as Serpents

So, does this mean that every Christian should immediately take out loans and give it all to missionaries and churches? By no means! In fact, Jesus’ charge to invest in eternity in Luke 16 comes immediately after a rebuke of His followers. In verse 8, Jesus remarks, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” Jesus’ point is clear – God desires for us to be shrewd (or wise) with our money!

God owns all our resources – our time, our emotions, and our money – and calls us to manage it wisely.

Managing our money God’s way can be challenging. It’s difficult to determine how much we should be giving, saving, and investing, and constructing a portfolio that reflects our Christian values can seem equally daunting. This is why I decided to become a financial advisor. My passion is to help like-minded people be wise with their wealth and manage their money as Jesus calls us to.

If you would like to speak with me or receive more information about what I can do to help Christian investors, feel free to email me personally at ryan@demandwealth.com.

This report is a publication of Demand Wealth. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date, but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author as of the date of publication and are subject to change.