Christians and shares – an exciting sub-area of the topic “Christians and money”. In this article, however, I don’t want to go into the meaning of money and the Christian life so much;- rather, I want to look specifically at the following question from a Christian perspective: Are Christians allowed to buy stocks?
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The controversy: Shares and money among Christians
The Bible clearly says “You cannot serve both God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13) In this passage, mammon is money. In plain English, it is best to leave money out, then you will live safely with God. It is best that we all live a poor life and look forward to being with our Lord God after our death.
This is how many Catholic monks see it, and I can understand their logic.
On the other hand, we also use the money on this earth for something good. We can help the poor people much easier with it. We can buy things with it and give them away, we can set an example as Christians with our wealth, for example by donating to Greenpeace or the Red Cross.
In many congregations, giving the 10th is common practice – and the national church automatically collects church tax and doesn’t even seem to bat an eye… so money doesn’t seem so evil after all?
First of all, money is just a means to an end. It’s like a knife: You can use it to make bread (for yourself and others) or to stab a granny. It’s not evil for now. There are good signs that money comes from the devil (which is probably why Jesus warns against it), but for now we assume it is a human invention that we can use.
Besides, there are many sayings of Solomon about money, Jesus gave a short sermon about money (Which belongs to the emperor) and the apostles found the existence of money natural (and managed the coffers in the churches). To cut a long story short, the Bible does not completely discourage money, but admonishes the proper use of it.
Shares then fall into a similar notch accordingly – they are a logical consequence of money. With them, one can share something that is actually hardly divisible: the co-determination in certain business transactions. How else could you own a business with 0.2%? Probably not at all.
Are shares generally unchristian (or even sinful)?
Shares can be seen as a kind of commodity in which the money is invested. For example, similar to a banana. Only that here no banana is bought, but a piece of a company. This “piece” is what makes a share so special.
After all, you rarely buy a piece of an apple, but the whole thing. It is also rare to buy a piece of a cow and then let it live. With a share, you buy a piece of a company – and then?
Either you have invested enough money and have a say in the company. In this case, it is quite clear that you yourself can give the company a Christian touch: If you yourself are in the leadership, you can give the leadership a Christian touch.
In the vast majority of cases, however, you are quite far from buying a share: often you only buy fragments of the company, which give you a voting weight that doesn’t matter in the overall context – or have you ever tried to buy the whole of Volkswagen or Bayer? Only the richest people would be able to do that.
The case where you as a person cannot give direct Christian influence to the company is the normal case.
Whether this is Christian or un-Christian remains to be seen – one thing is certain: you are giving someone your vote to do certain things for you with your money (by buying that person’s shares). Therefore, it should be checked beforehand what the money is invested in. This can be something like “saving the rainforest” or “faking an emissions test”.
Therefore, from my point of view, the share in itself is a vehicle, a tool to make the world more Christian; whether it will or can be used for that is something else. A share in itself does not make it Christian or un-Christian.
What shares is a Christian morally allowed to buy?
What kind of shares a Christian may buy or should rather keep his hands off is, of course, up to each person. Everyone must examine his or her own conscience as to which company he or she would like to support with his or her money or which not. The best way to find the answer is in prayer. God will already tell someone to whom he should best give his money.
I would not have even opened this question if my answer was: Ask God. I would like to give you some tips on the way to be able to decide Christianly whether a stock should be bought or sold.
First of all, financial gain should not be the primary consideration. God has promised to provide for everyone who loves Him. Therefore, the financial incentive should not be in the foreground. An appropriate passage in the Bible for this would be Matthew 6:25-34; but there are others that relate to God’s provision.
Therefore, shares should be purchased in companies that try to adhere to Christian values – better even: improve the world in a Christian way. Whether you put humanitarian aid before saving the earth is up to your taste.
Ask yourself when buying shares: Can I trust this company, what they say or has there been an incident that makes me doubt it? Does the company work for people or for money? How does the company treat its employees? If it is a global-operating company, how does it treat people in other countries? Has the company ever spoken positively about Christianity or Jesus? Does the product the company produces improve the world or is it just a nuisance? Is the company consciously or unconsciously destroying the environment?
Of course, not all questions are equally important in the final decision and not every company aims to save the world, some just want to produce good and fair clothes, others build cars.
Think about the stocks you buy. With every purchase you support certain deeds. If you have a stomach ache with a stock, but the financial votes would: don’t buy the stock.
Should every Christian own shares?
Shares are a way to use your personal money for something good – so should every Christian own shares. Clear answer: No. Shares can be highly speculative investments and as a person and as a Christian you should only invest if you have the money to spare and know best what you are doing.
Not every person is given money by God to invest. Such people can thank God much better in other ways than with Christian-influenced stock purchases.
Is interest allowed in Christianity?
The issue of whether interest is allowed in Christianity or not is – as so often – a very personal question. In Judaism there is an absolute prohibition of interest. Whether this prohibition has “saved” itself into Christianity is up to the person you ask. Some see the commandment softened.
What the whole thing has to do with stocks, you’re probably wondering. Well. Depending on your view, you could say that the gain after the sale of the action is equivalent to an interest – with the difference that the chance of loss or gain is higher. Therefore, this profit or loss could be seen as a kind of interest, which bypasses the actual meaning of the word interest;- virtually bypassing the written law, in which you earn profits differently than intended by the legislator.
I consider this view to be quite legitimate. Who rejects interest as a Christian, should also be at least very careful with shares – because both are in its niche a risk money investment.
For those who see money up front as the devil’s tool, buying stocks should be out of the question. For Christians who see money as a kind of tool, I say: If God has provided you with money and interest in the subject, act according to your conscience. Using stocks as a hedge for the future is seen rather critically by the Bible, since God wants to be our provider.