This week I was reminded of Jacob’s Dream found in Genesis 28. “When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.”
As I reflected on this passage I was reminded God is always with us. He always keeps His promises and will remind us. We have the choice to make a promise to serve and love God in all that we do – finances included. God is the owner of everything and we can either honor him or not when it comes to where and how we handle the money He entrusts to us.
What’s more important to you: the size or the source of the profit?
The Parable of the Talents showed us that God cares about getting a return on His money, but a bigger question is shouldn’t we also care about the source of the profit? Over the past fifteen years, I have helped thousands of Christians align their faith and finances. I am still amazed at how upset people are when they discover where their hard-earned money is truly going.
You probably don’t believe this, but if you have any money in five of the largest, most widely used mutual funds, your values are probably being violated. I extensively studied and examined 5 of the largest equity mutual funds (based upon the amount of money invested in the funds) and used software to analyze their reported holdings. I found that on average 58.8% of the companies being bought failed one or more faith-based screens.
Now what is a faith-based screen? Generally, most Christians will look at the following hot-buttons:
- Abortion – such as companies engaged in the manufacturing, marketing, and licensing of substances used to voluntarily terminate pregnancy.
- Homosexuality Activities – such as companies that actively recognize and promote homosexuality.
- Pornography – such as companies involved in the distribution or production of adult-oriented publications, motion pictures, or television programs.
- Poor Human Rights – such as companies who have exposure in countries where there are poor working conditions, abusive practices, child labor, and violations of human rights.
- Embryonic Stem Cell Research – such as companies involved in using embryonic or fetal tissue cells in their research.
- Alcohol – such as companies involved in alcohol manufacturing, branding, and wholesale distribution.
- Anti-family Entertainment – such as companies producing or marketing video, print, or live entertainment that is violent, vulgar, or mocking Judeo-Christian traditions or beliefs.
- Gambling – such as companies involved in the ownership and operation of casinos, gaming parlors, racetracks, online betting, or other wagering services.
- Environmental Record – such as companies ranked high for environmental damage through pollution, toxic emissions, oil or chemical spills, and high levels of waste.
- Tobacco – such as companies involved in tobacco manufacturing, wholesale distribution, and products used for tobacco consumption.
Worse yet, when I examined where the money specifically was going I found that:
- On average 19.7% of the companies in these mutual funds are involved in supporting Planned Parenthood, performing abortions, and/or funding embryonic stem cell research!
- On average 10.5% of the companies in these mutual funds are involved in producing, distributing, and/or promoting explicit sexual materials.
- On average 12.9% of the companies in these mutual funds are involved in producing, distributing, and/or promoting anti-family entertainment.
- On average 58.2% of the companies in these mutual funds are involved in offering same-sex benefits, and/or actively sponsoring, promoting, and endorsing homosexual activities.
- On average 1.4% of the companies in these mutual funds are involved in tobacco and alcohol production and distribution, and/or gambling.
Source: www.evalueator.com data as of 7-21-10
Investing with purpose
Here is a question to ponder: Would you purposely invest money in companies involved in any of the hot-button areas? After taking some time to examine this list of hot buttons, what issues, if any, most resonated with you? Are there any areas in which you wish to avoid investing in your financial life? If any of these issues ignite strong emotional responses, is your passion strong enough that you want to do something about it?
What if I told you that you could have your cake and eat it too? What if you could own companies that were in line with your faith, values, and beliefs and still earn attractive rates of return? This is not only feasible, but happening all over the world.
No proof exists showing screening your portfolio will harm or help your performance. It simply comes down to picking great companies. Yes, the faith-based screens will eliminate between 20 to 30% of the potential investment pool. However with over 8,000 publically traded companies, you still have plenty of choices. Will you find companies you are proud to own or keep doing business as usual? The choice is up to you! With choices where your 401(k), IRA, or other investments go, wouldn’t you like to have peace of mind knowing your investments reflect your values?