No one can dispute the recent growth in Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI) options. New providers of BRI-compliant funds have arrived with great success in recent years. The Wall Street Journal reported that $260 billion is now invested following BRI principles and nearly one-fourth of all BRI funds started in the last four years.
It is understandable that Christians would not want to invest in companies that have adopted policies running counter to the teachings of the Bible. We are stewards of God’s resources and how we manage them matters. However, should Christians disengage from these businesses by no longer investing in them? If so, are we ceding this arena to the world?
What is BRI?
BRI strives to identify companies who engage in objectionable industries (alcohol, gambling or pornography) or who support social agendas (LGBT or abortion providers like Planned Parenthood) that conflict with Scriptural guidelines. Investing in such companies should be avoided while investing is encouraged in those businesses that engage in non-objectionable practices.
The BRI Institute noted that “Christians, to their credit, have begun to wrestle with the issue of investing according to their convictions. In particular, Christians are striving to align their portfolios to Scriptural principles.” Whether you adopt such a mindset with your portfolio should be prayerfully considered by all investing Christians. Personally, I do not directly invest in a business that sells products or services that are clearly objectionable. A casino, for example, promotes gambling by its very existence and no amount of shareholder activism will change that fact. However, companies in non-objectionable industries that adopt non-Biblical policies are a different situation. Their support for Planned Parenthood, for example, can be reversed without dissolving the company.
Allow me to offer a different approach to consider as you prayerfully consider BRI. Could adopting a BRI philosophy actually accelerate the move toward progressive policies in those companies identified as objectionable?
History has shown that a relatively small number of shareholders can have a big impact on the direction of a company. In 2011, a few environmentally conscious shareholders of McDonald's introduced a non-binding shareholder resolution requesting that the company stop using foam cups in their restaurants. By 2013, it was company policy. The initiative of a few motivated shareholders was all it took to get the movement started. Could God work through a handful of Christian activists to achieve the same result? Certainly, but divesting from these companies eliminates the opportunity shareholders have to influence company management.
Christians are to Engage
There are several reasons Christians are to engage the world, including the world of finance and industry. First, engaging the world on behalf of the Kingdom is why we’re here. God is sovereign over all, but He has chosen to work through us to advance His Kingdom. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mathew 28:19) is our responsibility.
Second, God does deserve glory in all spheres, including the Board rooms of objectionable companies. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Who will be at non-BRI companies to make a stand for Him if we aren’t engaged? Being shareholders gives us the right to attend shareholder meetings and engage in the management process.
Finally, engaging the world turns our focus from ourselves to the lost and misguided among us. We are the salt and the light of the world (Matthew 5), so “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (5:13).
In the World but not of the World
Many years ago, my wife and I chose to homeschool our daughters, but we were also grateful for those Christian students in the public-school system furthering the cause of Christ. They had the opportunity to reach a lost culture that we could not easily influence for Him. Likewise, there are many BRI investors and I applaud and support their deep conviction to divest from certain companies. I do believe, though, that some remnant of believers should continue the struggle from inside the boardroom. Through prayer and God-focused activism, a reversal of the progressive wave of company policies is possible.
John Madison is author of “The Steward Plan,” a Certified Public Accountant, and founder of Dayspring Financial Ministry. He earned a Master’s Degree in Personal Financial Planning (MSPFP), as well as the Master Planner Advanced Studies (MPAS), CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) and AWMA (Accredited Wealth Management Advisor) designations. He has been featured in the New York Post, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, U.S. News and World Report, Bankrate.com, CNBC.com, among many other media outlets. For more information, visit http://www.dayspringfm.com.