There’s Room at the Table for Different Christian Investing Approaches
November 19, 2013
When the concept for Wisdom's Reward was first taking shape, I purposely tried to steer clear of information on other Christian investment approaches. If memory serves correctly, I did a few google searches right in the beginning to see if there was in fact anything out there, without reviewing any particular strategy or approach in detail. I looked very briefly at material from one Christian investment newsletter and one Christian mutual fund company. Then, I decided that it was probably best to stop altogether so that I could allow God to lead me directly. Also, I did not want to fall into the trap of picking apart other people's approach.
Now that I'm firm on my own views regarding how Christians should approach and manage investments, I have started to look a little more into the other types of christian financial companies and websites that exist. My own approach is going to be very different from some of the other Christian financial professionals, writers, etc. Does that mean I think that I'm right, and they are wrong?
I do believe my approach is the right one, but individual believers have to pray and seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit in regard to any decisions we make in life. In some instances (i.e. gray areas, disputable matters, etc.), what's right for one person may not be right for another. I've already noted that managing our own portfolios is probably not right for everyone. I still kind of question that assertion at times, since the primary argument for why individuals shouldn't manage their own portfolios tends to be 1) Lack of education 2) Lack of self-control. But self-control is a fruit of the spirit, investment education is widely available for free, and God gives wisdom generously to all who ask. So, in spite of knowing people who just don't seem to have the right personality for it, I suppose I'm still not completely sold on my own assertion that "some people would do better having a financial advisor". The more I think about it, the more I think lack of understanding and self-control are pretty poor excuses for Christians to use when passing the buck of responsibility for their investments.
While some may do better having a financial advisor, planner, or coach, I feel certain that no one, Christian or otherwise, should blindly trust a "financial advisor" without seeking to thoroughly understand the strategy, plan, fees, risks, etc. being proposed. Nonetheless, it is biblical to employ wise counsel. Seeking wise counsel may not mean consulting with a mutual fund salesperson (aka financial advisor) whose only incentive is to maximize his or her own commissions. What I would really like to see is financial advisors getting away from the "mutual fund salesperson" approach, which tends to be destructive for investors, and getting more into an actual advisory role that charges people by the hour, like an attorney. Once they do an initial plan, most people would only need to see them for an hour or two each quarter, at most. I think that approach would solve a lot of problems, but I'll leave an in-depth discussion of that for a later article.
As for my being "right", or having the "right" approach, translating to others being wrong, I'm not sure it's so cut and dried. As a general rule, I try to remain open to other views as much as possible. I try not to take the view that my way of thinking is the only valid way of thinking about a topic. I do think that way when I see someone who is claiming to be a Christian, yet doing things that are very "unchristian". That tends to evoke anger in me, and I have to practice wisdom and restraint regarding how to deal with it.
But back to the topic of legitimate Christian investment approaches, I spent a lot of time, prayer, and study before concluding that my approach was the right approach to take (that Christians should have a moral aspect to their approach, focusing on fundamental aspects of individual companies and their securities, such as dividends, leadership, business strategies, competitive advantages, that everyone should seek to avoid or minimize fees and expenses, making direct investments as opposed to mutual funds, etc.). I imagine that any sincere Christian has done the same. Further, I don't think it wise to try to impose limits on how God may choose to work through his children.
In fact, as I was thinking and praying about this topic, God spoke to me through 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men." Now, I realize that passage is speaking of spiritual gifts, but one of those is teaching. The Bible gives us instructions on how to manage our investments. There may still be some issues that I will have to nail down further as I go. Also, it's entirely possible that there could be certain details about my approach that aren't entirely optimal, and hence, subject to change. But, I do have some experience and education in the area of investments. Further, I really enjoyed studying what the Bible had to say about this topic.
Still, I initially resisted the idea of doing this type of business. I did not want to subject myself to the possibility of failure, criticism, rejection, etc., especially after all of the failure I had experienced in my personal life. But, God kept leading me back to this concept over and over. Finally, I decided to abandon everything else and just trust in what He was telling me to do. So, in spite of the fact that I feel very inadequate at times, I suppose my role is to be a "teacher" of how best to implement the Bible's investment management instructions in today's world.
Do I believe that my investment approach is the right one? Absolutely. Do I believe that other Christians have it wrong? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the specific topic. There are some things that are black and white, and some things that are gray. Even if I am wrong about something or make mistakes, God can still use what I am doing for his good purpose. The same is true for every child of God. So, I will stick with telling readers what I believe is the right approach. But I don't believe that I should criticize individuals (or their firms) who appear to be sincere Christians trying their best to do their work in a way that glorifies God. To the extent that I don't agree with other investment approaches, philosophies, etc., it is not directed at anyone specific, and not meant as a personal attack of any kind. I am simply trying to get the message out for what I sincerely believe is the right way for God's people to approach their investing activities.
In fact, I fully expect that Wisdom's Reward will one day be publishing content from Christian investment professionals with all sorts of varying approaches and philosophies, as long as they are designed in an attempt to follow biblical instruction. So, maybe one day this site will be full of all sorts of different, but wonderful, thoughtful, and wise investment analyses and philosophies. Until then, I suppose you're stuck with me. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit this site and read my articles! I really do appreciate it!
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