Christians are Sinning Economically in More Ways Than They Can Possibly Imagine
The church’s dark secret must be cleansed before it hurts even more people.
The church’s dark secret must be cleansed before it hurts even more people.
This article is not investment advice. It is theological advice. Please take time to prayerfully meditate on the 37 Scripture passages included in the links.
A few years ago, I was touring my documentary on pornography across the continent and we did an event in British Columbia at an exciting up-and-coming church. The pastor and I connected after the screening and I heard his story. In addition to being a pastor, he was heavily involved in his community on an economic level, and because of an ethical giving fund that his grandfather set up, was finding himself more and more involved in conversations about ethical investments.
He confided that his organization had been secretly approached by multiple high-level church leaders, all of whom wanted his team’s help in quietly cleansing their denominational portfolios of anti-Christ assets.
A Day of Reckoning Is Coming
Randy Alcorn once predicted that a day could come when a Christian author would get exposed on national TV for having gotten someone else to ghost-write their books. Dozens of famous Christian authors have also cheated their way to the New York Times bestseller list — the scheme was pioneered by a Christian leadership guru you’ve all heard of — and it’s only a matter of time before these authors rightly get blacklisted for it.
Now just imagine what would happen if the portfolio investments of every Christian denomination, foundation, charity, church, pastor, and congregant were suddenly opened to public scrutiny.
What would they find?
What’s in Liberty University’s endowment?
What’s in the Vatican Bank’s massive portfolio?
What’s in the United Methodist Church’s pension plan?
What’s in the Southern Baptist Convention’s missions fund?
The reality is that the overwhelming majority of Christians who own pension plans, retirement funds, mutual funds, 401ks, RRSPs, education trusts, giving foundations, and other diversified investments are profiting from a huge range of anti-Christ activities.
The Fortune 500 alone — America’s largest 500 companies in which nearly every mutual fund, pension plan, and index fund is invested— contain some truly troubling companies:
One of the companies is systematically dismantling democracy through the use of corporate donations to political candidates, controlling media assets, and lobbying on a scale never seen in history.
One of the companies is currently withholding hundreds of billions in much-needed taxation offshore.
One of the companies fights minimum wage increases and forbids its staff to unionize; its workers are so impoverished that many require food stamps.
One of the companies has a century-long track record of polluting rivers, oceans, and the atmosphere.
One of the companies sells more cigarettes, fatty foods, and sugary drinks than any other company on earth.
One of the companies sells a leading abortion medication.
Four of the companies have evicted millions of poor people from their homes while simultaneously adding trillions in debt to the world’s housing markets.
Three of the companies facilitate the delivery of pornography.
One of the companies profits from civil unrest, fake news, anti-science claims, and overseas electoral interference.
One of the companies sold nearly $60 billion in weapons last year.
Two of the companies are implicated in using Eighur slave laborers in China.
And these few just scratch the surface.
Can you fathom the implications of this?
Pro-lifers are profiting from aborting babies.
Health advocates are profiting from sickness and death.
Purity campaigners are profiting from pornography.
Creation-care activists are profiting from environmental destruction.
Peacemakers are profiting from war.
Denominations are profiting from sin.
Many Christian investors have done far more evil with their capital than good with their charity.
Many pastors have done more for Satan than Jesus because their everyday portfolios have far more power than their Sunday preaching.
Of course, this reality will send every truly Christ-centered person immediately scrambling to right their myriad financial wrongdoings. (Sadly, an equal or larger number of church-goers will simply ignore or delay this reality until the guilt is blunted; such is money’s true power in modern man’s war between flesh and spirit.)
For those who do wish to honor God with their wealth, the question is: How?
There’s only “one” thing to do: grieve, confess, repent, and make amends.
I’ll admit it: these are a few of my least-favorite words in Scripture. They feel judgemental and old-school and Puritan. But they’re central concepts in the Christ-centered life.
1. Grieve and Confess
For Christians who desire to put their money where their mouth is — or rather, to put their treasure where they want their heart to be — the first step is to see what’s actually in your portfolio. Most people have no idea, and truly Christ-centered disciples will likely be terrified with what they discover.
In this regard, your current financial manager will almost certainly be a major hindrance, not a servant-hearted helper. Expect them to delay their response by several months, and if you keep up the pressure, they’ll likely suggest you let them do a superficial “portfolio re-allocation” before finally revealing what all you own. Decline the offer. The financial services industry thrives on keeping people in the dark. Demand to see how dark your accounts truly are.
When your list eventually arrives — and it may take you threatening to switch advisors for them to even produce it — take a weekend and do the research. See which conglomerates own which brands and which is invested in which other companies. Dig all the way down. Research their crimes, their scandals, their wicked corruptions and exploitations and human rights abuses. Email me if you need help.
We have fallen far short of the glory of God and have sinned against Him, His world, and our fellow man. There’s no point in shying away from it or trying to justify ourselves or rationalize it away. Let it hit you, hard, like a Noahic flood. Be deeply disturbed. Overwhelming grief is a very good gift.
Repentance isn’t a word you’ll hear preached from most seeker-sensitive pulpits. It suggests that God might have some sort of right to make us change.
The hard reality is that we live in a world so mired with sin that we literally cannot even fathom all the ways we are currently sinning with our money. So should we play ignorant and continue to profit from the suffering of others?
Obviously, the consumerist-individualist world can and will continue to bankroll and profit from these anti-kingdom companies, but why should Christians remain complicit in the crimes and sins of our secularist society?
Repentance means “to turn around.” To go and sin no more. After discovering that which is not God-honoring in their portfolios, Christ-centered Christians take swift steps to work with God in cleansing themselves from all unrighteousness.
Yet again, your current financial manager will almost certainly be a major hindrance, not a servant-hearted helper. In fact, they will probably become antagonistic at this point. This will be an uphill battle and you likely have to fight it alone. (As the hymn says, “Though none go with me, still I will follow.” As Joshua said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”) Unless you have a fiduciary advisor, your wealth manager’s fat commissions are directly tied to your unethically profitable investments. They will again suggest a portfolio re-allocation to “ethical” investments.
(This is the point where you should probably fire them.)
Even if they do reluctantly offer to transition you to “ethical” investments, you have a duty before God to truly understand what it is they’re investing your money in.
The reality is that most so-called Socially Responsible Investments (SRIs) are just greenwashing. I’ve lifted the hood and investigated the underlying portfolios of many of these funds, and have discovered that they almost always contain constituent companies that still fall far short of anything Jesus would ever buy. The reality is that Christians need Biblically-responsible investments or none at all.
3. Make Amends
God commanded Moses that when his people “realize their guilt, they must return what they have stolen or taken.”
When Zacchaeus was confronted with his economic sin, he didn’t just confess and repent — he gave back four times what he’d sinfully acquired. Pastors and their parishioners have reaped trillions of dollars through sinful means.
Only each of us and God know what we need to do to make it right, but one thing is for certain: it will hurt our wallets, help our neighbors, and heal our hearts.
At this point, many concerned readers are probably thinking: just tell me how I can invest ethically and still get rich.
Even my beta readers (including several pastors) asked if I could point them to Christian financial advisors who specialize in biblical investing. Unfortunately, I haven’t (yet) found a single one who allocates in a way that truly honors God. Perhaps I’ll do a follow-up piece if enough people ask for it, but that’s really not the point of this article. My call-to-action is to take the first step: to open up Pandora’s Box and discover exactly what you’re investing in.
The reality is that living rightly will cost us something.
What if Jesus wasn’t joking when he said it is extremely difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven? No wonder they killed him — he was horrible for the Extraction Economy. Jesus bore the impact of our sins in His body, and it is extremely likely that we will need to bear the impact of abandoning unrighteous investments in our diminished portfolios.
The church has inoculated itself to the plight of the poor and numbed itself to the global economic system of oppression that creates poverty, forgetting that what applies to the world doesn’t have to apply to the church. There are currently one billion people living in slums today, and that number is rising by one million people per day. In our lifetime, three billion of God’s children will be suffering in slums. We have mathematically abandoned the least of these.
For most Christians, this is a sin of omission. We’ve been zombie-walking. Until this very moment, they simply don’t know.
But now they do, and now they have a choice:
They can discover what they’re invested in, but never sacrifice to make it right.
They can actively choose not to discover what they’re invested in, ignoring their almost-certain secret sin.
They can face the full truth of what they’re invested in, then rapidly sacrifice anything to honor God with their wealth.
What’s interesting is that choosing either of the first two options instantly makes this a sin of commission. By reading this article, the Rubicon’s been crossed. We must now prove ourselves doers of the Word. As James 4:17 says, “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
It’s not enough to throw up our hands and say “it’s just too complicated.” It’s actually quite simple: It is more God-honoring to make less money than exploit your neighbor.
Jesus tells his disciples we must count the cost of following him. What are you willing to spend or lose to honor God with your wealth?
Paul’s letter to the Christians in Corinth is exactly how I’m feeling as I write this article, and I hope it produces the same result in its readers:
“Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it — I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while — yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret… See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.” — 2 Cor 7:8–11
For the sake of the cross and all it represents, I implore you to choose option three. Every day of delay is sin from here on out. Thankfully, Christian investors — though they may lose a significant portion of their future wealth in the process — have the ability to honor God and radically transform the world with their investment funds.
The Great Reallocation
We, the global Christian church — as individuals, pastors, churches, and denominations — must immediately divest of sinful assets and make amends, but this is only the start.
The Christian church needs to re-allocate.
American church-goers possess more than $10 trillion in investment funds. Imagine if they pulled every single penny from the secular system and redeployed it to back businesses that honored God, stewarded the planet, and blessed people? It would cause a revolution and advance the gospel on a scale we haven’t seen in generations.
We need Christian investors to back Christian entrepreneurs.
We need Christian investors to start their own companies, and join together with others to start Christ-center partnerships of all types.
We need broad-scale not-for-profit social enterprises, international food cooperatives, construction collectives, and national brands that are owned by charitable trusts.
We need streaming services that don’t propagandize our children, social media apps that don’t addict our teenagers, and products and services that help our planet instead of hurting it.
We need to start interest-free banks, at-cost self-insurance co-ops, truly ethical investment advisories, asset-backed cryptocurrencies, highly-creative for-benefit venture capital firms, and so much more.
Above all— especially in the Age of Commodification — we need to re-discover koinonia, the radical early-church practice that set it apart economically and eradicated need within the Christian community.
Time is running out
The Western church will witness a mathematical decimation as Gen Xers and late-Millennials allow secular screen culture to raise and disciple their children. Yet Christian denominations still have the economies of scale to execute a plan to create a shadow economy — call it the Light Economy — reforming and redeeming every sector of the global economic system, creating for-the-people companies and citadel communities that are democratically fair, environmentally sustainable, and ultimately God-honoring. Our investment dollars could make it a reality.
“By their fruit, you will know them… Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”
The first step is to see what we own and how we’re profiting from sin and suffering, trusting God that He will guide us through any of the steps to follow. As we bring our portfolios before God, we must ask Him to grant us wisdom, to search our hearts, to reveal to us the ways in which we are hurting the poor and the planet, and to give us the will to change. There is no question this will cost us. Like the rich young ruler — which we in the West certainly are — it will cost us dearly.
But is there any asset worth more than the life that is truly life?
It is the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in the field, the only thing worth sacrificing any amount of money for.
It’s the best investment we could ever make.
This article is the first in a series on Christ-centered finance. To receive future articles for free, follow Jared on Medium or subscribe via email.
In the meantime, watch his financial testimony on This Is Me TV: