Inspire team on NYSE bell podium

Ringing The NYSE Closing Bell: One Year Later

Days are long and years are short. It was one year ago today, April 20th, that I pushed the big red button at 4pm Eastern and rang the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange, surrounded by my amazingly talented team at Inspire Investing and our amazingly beautiful wives. It was an experience like no other.

Not only did we ring the closing bell in front of over 100 million viewers worldwide to signal the end of the trading day, but we also rang in a new season for our growing company and the biblically responsible investing (BRI) movement around the globe.

Miraculous Milestones

The days have been long since the clanging of that bell sparked global interest in Inspire’s low cost, index based biblically responsible investing solutions. Our team has been fairly inundated with investor demand from both the retail markets and institutional markets from countries all across the world. We have added new talent to our phenomenal team, attracted capital to fuel our growth and made headlines in hundreds of media outlets around the globe.

But the year has also been short. So much has happened, there have been so many meaningful milestones, and yet it feels like just yesterday when we were standing on that platform above the heart of the world’s financial system, praising God for all to see. Below are just some of the miracles, big and small, that God has blessed us with since we rang the closing bell of the NYSE:

  • Grown assets under management (AUM) to nearly $200 million
  • “Best New ESG ETF – 2017” Award finalists
  • “Best New ETF Issuer – 2017” Award finalists
  • Launched new biblically responsible investing products
  • Earned a place in the portfolios of multi-billion dollar asset management firms
  • Hired several new members to our team of rock-stars
  • Attracted private capital to accelerate growth
  • Featured on FOX News, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times, Bloomberg and other major global media
  • Rang the NYSE closing bell a second time on January 30th, 2018

And even better than that is the impact that God has allowed us to create:

  • Drilled a clean water well for the entire village of Birendranagar in Nepal
  • Provided relief for hundreds of Syrian refugee families
  • Helped mothers choose life for their unborn babies
  • Gave emergency relief to Hurricane Harvey victims
  • Influenced numerous large corporations to stop supporting unbiblical issues, such as abortion and LGBT activism
  • Helped countless investors align their investments to support biblical values

Only The Beginning

These lists could go on to mention the dozens of encouraging emails we have received from investors all over the world, thanking us for giving them the ability to invest for God’s glory, the numerous “transformation stories” of people’s lives changed through their interaction with our company, financial advisors who have transitioned their entire practice to align with biblically responsible investing, and many more.

We could not have accomplished any of this on our own strength; God has been so gracious to us! We are so thankful for His grace and for the overwhelming support and encouragement from our raving fans around the globe who are cheering us on and inspiring transformation for God’s glory throughout the world by investing with their values.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. We have only just begun.

Blessings,

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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5 Bible Verses For Christian Investors

Investing Biblically

Did you consult the Bible before you bought into your investment portfolio?

That may seem like a strange question, but the Bible has a lot to say to Christians about how to manage investments  with both financial and moral implications.

Thankfully, in recent years there has been a resurgence of attention paid to the importance of applying the Bible’s commands and wisdom to our personal investment decisions. There has also been a corresponding proliferation of biblically responsible investing products and services that help make it possible for Christian investors to put that biblical teaching into practice with their portfolios.

Following are five Bible verses that every Christian investor should take to heart as they seek to be wise stewards of the money God has placed in their hands.

Investing For The Glory Of God

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

When you ate your oatmeal this morning, did you realize it was intended to be an act of worship? This verse says plain as day that our purpose for investing, and everything else in life, should be to glorify God.

This may seem like stating the obvious to some, but it is important because this verse is commanding us to intentionally pursue God’s glory in every investment decision we make. And God’s glory goes far beyond the financial aspect of investing and also includes issues of morality and ethics. To invest for God’s glory means that we must consider more than just our financial returns when making an investment.

If we can eat and drink to the glory of God, certainly we can and should invest God’s money for God’s glory.

God -vs- Milton Friedman

“Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.” (Proverbs 16:8)

This verse could not possibly be more subversively counter-cultural. It flies in the face of all that Wall Street stands for. It contradicts the foundational economic theses of some of the world’s foremost financial experts, who boldly proclaim that maximizing profits is the first and only duty of business and investing. (I’m looking at you, Milton Friedman).

And the influence of this worldly perspective on wealth has also infected the Church, resulting in many Christian financial experts regurgitating Wall Street’s profit-at-all-cost stump speech. Sometimes these Christian voices even attempt (unsuccessfully) to validate that viewpoint with scripture.

Often they point to the Parable Of The Talents in Matthew 25 to make the claim that God rewards those most who make the most money. But that parable is not making that claim at all, and even if it was, it does not follow that the Master in that parable does not care about how his servants made his money grow.

What the parable teaches is that God expects us to use everything that He has given us in accordance with His expectations, His values and His will. Newsflash: God doesn’t need more money. He certainly could care less about how much money we make “for him” in this life. US Dollars don’t spend in Heaven.

Proverbs 16:8 makes it clear that God cares more about how we make money rather than how much money we make. Indeed, God proclaims it is better to produce a lower return on investment in a righteous manner than high-flying profits unjustly. There is nothing wrong with earning high investment returns, but they must never come at the expense of holiness and certainly cannot be our primary directive.

Therefore, it is a biblical imperative that Christian investors consider the moral implications of their investments. Are you earning money from abortion, pornography, human trafficking or other unjust industries? We cannot ignore these issues if we are to be true to God’s word.

Indecent Investment Exposure

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11)

Here is another, more direct command to Christians to not only avoid participation in immorality, but also to expose it for what it really is. We need to call a spade a spade, or in this case, call an immoral investment an immoral investment.

Enlarging your investment account by investing in the “unfruitful works of darkness” is not an option for Christian investors. This is not an issue that the Bible allows us room for personal convictions. It is commanded. Instructed. Required.

Let me also say that there is grace here, too. Some investors are new to this concept of screening their investments based on biblical morality and as such are profiting from activities that would make them shudder. Praise God that He is gracious and willing to forgive our trespasses, including those made in ignorance! Lord knows that I am need of that grace on a daily basis!

Not In My House

“You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 23:18)

Here we get a strong taste of the Lord’s disdain for the wages of immorality. “Abomination” is not a word to be tossed around lightly, and the Bible reserves that word for only the most, well, abominable activities.

It should be well noted by all Christian investors that the Lord does not simply have a passing distaste for the profits from sinful business activity, He abominates them. So much so that God even forbids the money earned from sin to be brought into the house of the Lord and given as an offering. This is no small issue in our Lord’s eyes.

I have heard some Christian commentators attempt to make the case that a Christian investor can justify investing in the stock of companies which earn profits from immoral activities as long as the investor donates their portion of the profits generously to ministry, like some sort of spiritual money laundering scheme. Indeed, this same thought passed through my mind some years ago when I first was presented with the unsettling truth that I was invested in and recommending investments in companies with serious moral issues.

This scripture soundly rejects that notion altogether. The ends do not justify the means in God’s economy.

Joyful Reward

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21)

Now back to Matthew 25. For all of the clear instruction to avoid profiting from and participating in works of immorality, there is also a great reward for those who have been faithful in stewarding what God has placed in their hands. And as mentioned earlier, faithfulness to God is not measured in financial currency, but by the measure of God’s glory.

There will be great joy for you when you stand before the Lord having faithfully honored Him in your life, by His grace and the Holy Spirit’s power. Our labor to honor God is not done from a spirit of fear of punishment, but from a longing to glorify our Lord and receive the “well done” as an eager child from a loving father.

“By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:17-19)

Honor the Lord with all that He has given you. Glorify Him to the utmost in every word, deed and investment. Joyfully submit your portfolio to the lordship of Christ, for it all belongs to Him after all. Eagerly look forward and strive to “enter into the joy of your Master”, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God in your life.

Blessings,

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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Market Weakness Is A Buying Opportunity

Opportunity Or Armageddon?

This week the stock market gave investors the largest decline they have seen in more than a year. In doing so it is my opinion that the stock market has also given investors the best buying opportunity they have seen in over a year.

The S&P 500 Index* was down 3.85% for the week ending 2/2/18, representing the largest weekly decline since early 2016. This drop has some investors asking if this it is time to sell everything and run for cover. However, other investors are eyeing this decline as a potential entry point, allowing them an opportunity to put new money to work and “buy the dip” as they say on Wall Street.

So, who is right? Is this weekly decline just the beginning of the next financial Armageddon? Or is this a golden opportunity for investors to get cash off the sidelines and into the market in preparation for a continuation of the bull market?

I am of the opinion that while we may well see some short term weakness in equity markets, the bull market still has some room to run to the upside. Following are a few of the data points that tip my scales in favor of the bull market.

Uptrend Still Fully Intact

There is an old investing adage that “the trend is your friend”. Practically speaking, this means that so long as the prevailing trend (whether up or down) remains intact, it is a fool’s errand to invest contrary to that trend.

This past year has seen one of the strongest bull market up-trends in the history of the stock market. This week’s modest decline feels scary only because it has been so long since we have had any kind of meaningful dip in the market. While it is true that at some point the party is going to be over, it is premature to throw in the towel. By definition, a bull market cannot be over until the uptrend line has been broken, and we have a ways to go before prices are in danger of falling below that level.

Momentum Is Strong

Objects in motion stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force. That is true in physics and investing as well. To date, there has been very little resistance hindering the charge higher in equity markets. The resulting momentum in stocks is literally off the charts, and are at levels higher than I have ever seen.

Strong momentum does not preclude a decline in stocks; however, what it does strongly indicate is that the market is not ready to turn on a dime and immediately plunge lower in a sustained fashion. For a trend change to take place, first the upward momentum would have to be worn down, typically by choppy up and down movement, a series of dips and jumps in prices. If we see sustained choppy-ness in the market, rather than a sustained upward move, then it is possible that the market is working on building out a top. But tops take time to form and it will take time for the momentum to be sucked out of this market before any serious decline begins to take shape.

Strong Support Near Current Levels

There are numerous levels of support just a few percentage points below current levels. Market prices tend to bounce off of these support levels, which are indicated by such things as previous highs and lows, moving averages and trend lines.

Over the past two weeks, prices have become overextended and stretched far above these support levels and it is makes sense that they should snap back like a rubber band after such a stretch. This week’s decline has brought prices back down to those support levels and until those levels are broken, the uptrend remains intact and the rally is still on.

Fear Not

All that said, I could be dead wrong. But, even if I am, investors would be wise to avoid falling prey to fear. Fear and greed are the two most dangerous emotions for investors. They cause you to make unwise, irrational and harmful decisions…typically at the worst possible times.

During market declines, fear is highest at the lowest point in the market. And the lowest point in the market is precisely the WORST time to sell, but ironically it is often the point when MOST people end up selling because they are just plain afraid.

Don’t fall into that trap.

Stick to your long term investment goals and strategy. If you do not have a long term goal and strategy, then you need to get one right away. If you need help or guidance with your plan, the Christian financial advisors at Christian Wealth Management are a great resource for sophisticated, biblical financial guidance.

Blessings,

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible impact investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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*The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of the 500 largest publicly traded companies in the United States. You cannot invest directly in an index.

Why The Wall Street Journal Is Wrong About Socially Responsible Investing

Is Socially Responsible Investing For “Suckers”?

“The basic idea is to throw money away,” declares The Wall Street Journal today in reference to socially responsible investing (SRI). In their article titled “Stocks Weren’t Made For Social Climbing” author Andy Kessler and WSJ make the misguided assertion that anyone who invests with an eye toward corporate responsibility and making the world a better place is a “sucker”. In Kessler’s words,

“Wall Street considers it a truism that money sloshes around the globe seeking the highest return. But there are countless investors, believe it or not, who are willing to accept lower returns. P.T. Barnum supposedly said there’s a sucker born every minute. Many of them go into so-called socially responsible investing…In reality there is no trade-off of Vice vs. Nice. There are only returns.”

I am more than a little surprised at the ignorance of this article, but I suppose it is an opinion piece after all, and hey, everyone is entitled to an opinion…even me! So, here is my opinion then.

Socially Responsible Investing Performance Studies

While Kessler has an entertaining writing style and definitely knows how to turn a phrase, his entire premise is flawed. He makes the rather uninformed statement that responsible investing requires one to sacrifice performance, but he gives no basis for this conclusion.

The facts are that research done over the past several years by the likes of Oxford UniversityWharton University, Biola University and others show that responsible investing did not require a sacrifice of performance in their studies. In fact, some of these studies show that there was actually a slight improvement in performance for responsible investors compared to non-responsible investments.

According to Oxford University’s study with Arabesque Partners, “80 percent of the reviewed studies demonstrate that prudent sustainability practices have a positive influence on investment performance.”

Socially Responsible Investing For More Than Returns

That aside, Kessler has also made himself out to be a hypocrite or a criminal. He proudly asserts that returns are the only thing that matter when selecting an investment, that “there are only returns.” He most certainly doesn’t believe that…unless he is investing in illegal prostitution rings, arms dealers and drug cartels. They make a ton of money, but obviously (I hope) he would never consider investing in such a thing as it is 1) illegal and 2) completely immoral.

So, returns are not the only thing that matter. The law matters, too. And for Christians, God’s law matters even more than the law of man, so how could we possibly invest in companies that are in direct violation of God’s law, even if they did offer tantalizing promises of high returns? “Better is a little with righteousness than great gains with injustice.” (Proverbs 16:8)

Wall Street would goad us to give in to greed and chase high returns above all else. Sadly, there are many who fall prey to that siren’s call. “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (1 Timothy 6:9)

As for me, there is no return high enough to entice me to invest in immoral industries like abortion, pornography and human trafficking.

Wall Street can keep their profits-at-any-cost approach to investing; I will keep my integrity. And if Oxford University is right, I may end up keeping more money in the long run anyway.

How about you?

PS – You can read the entire Wall Street Journal article here. But your IQ may drop after doing so. Just saying.

Blessings,

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible impact investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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Should Christians Invest In Bitcoin?

Making heads or tails of Bitcoin

I just received an email proclaiming that if I started investing in Bitcoin today that I could “make as much as 55 times your money”. To which I assume they expect me to respond with something along the lines of, “55 times my money, eh? Well in that case, here is my life savings. Shall I wire it to you? Or do you prefer a suitcase full of cash?”

Maybe you have received similar emails about the phenomenon that is the Bitcoin investment rage du jour.

So, what’s up with Bitcoin anyway? Is it actually a thing? Should Bitcoin be a part of my portfolio as an investor? Should Bitcoin be a part of my portfolio as a biblically responsible investor?

If you have no idea what Bitcoin is, I don’t blame you. I think most people don’t really know what it is — including those who own Bitcoins and possibly even those who are aggressively marketing Bitcoins for investment.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is the first and most popular “cryptocurrency”, which are virtual, computer generated, de-centralized currencies available to anyone who has Internet access. Bitcoin allows you to convert your old-fashioned money (such as US Dollars) into Bitcoins by buying them on an exchange from someone who already owns Bitcoins.

There are numerous Bitcoin exchanges that offer “virtual wallets” which serve as a sort of Bitcoin bank account online, on your computer or on your smartphone. There are even Bitcoin ATMs that have sprung up around the globe to facilitate Bitcoin deposits and withdrawals (hint: no physical Bitcoins go in or out of those machines, they are strictly electronic transfer devices that provide paper receipts). And some bold businesses have begun accepting Bitcoin as payment, and even paying employees and vendors in Bitcoins instead of traditional currency.

If you are really gung-ho, you could even go into the Bitcoin mining business, wherein you purchase specialized computer software and hardware that enables you to run a complicated algorithm in an attempt to “crack the code” and “verify” a Bitcoin transaction. When your computer hits upon the correct code, you are rewarded with 25 Bitcoins for your efforts. Every four years, the number of Bitcoins granted in this “verification reward” is cut in half, reducing the payoff for this activity. Also, the “blockchain” code becomes increasingly complex with each verification, making it increasingly difficult to mine Bitcoins as the remaining coins become more scarce.

Bitcoin miners can continue their hunt for new Bitcoins until the total number of Bitcoins in circulation is 21M, at which point there are no more Bitcoins left to find. This limitation was built into the Bitcoin blockchain rules at the outset to ensure that there was a limited supply, and thus value relative to demand. The bigger your computing power, the better your chances of successfully mining Bitcoins becomes.

Yes, this is really happening. And no, George Orwell is not the author of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is big business

On January 1, 2011, $100 US Dollars would have bought you about 333.33 Bitcoins (Bitcoin was valued at 30 cents per coin at that time, according to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index). If you held on to those Bitcoins through the hyper-volatile roller coaster of price swings that has defined Bitcoin value since inception, on December 31st, 2017 your Bitcoins would have been worth about $4,600,154.00 US Dollars (Bitcoin value $13,800.60 USD per coin).

Total value of all Bitcoins in circulation today is pegged at $223.8 billion USD (you can see current values here: http://www.bitcoinblockhalf.com/ )

Wow. No wonder there is so much media noise about Bitcoin speculation.

Should Christians invest in Bitcoin?

No doubt the astronomical price returns on Bitcoin over the past years is very tempting to investors everywhere. I mean, who wouldn’t like to turn $100 into over four million dollars in just a few years?

Let me say that again. This time let it really sink in… $100 into over four million dollars in just a few years. Does anybody else hear warning bells in that sentence, or is it just me?

Well, King Solomon might have something to say about that. After all, he was the one who wrote, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” (Proverbs 13:11)

And the Apostle Paul would have a few thoughts on the matter as well as he wrote, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

If I had to guess at the primary motivation that drives people to exchange their actual money for Bitcoins I would say that it is greed, plain and simple. The desire to be rich. The desire to be rich fast. The desire to be rich easily.

Greed is never a good reason to do anything. If you are considering buying into Bitcoin, first check your heart and be honest about what your motivation is for doing so. Is it greed? Then don’t do it.

Besides, when anything goes up in value that far, that fast I can only think of tech stocks in 2001 and financial stocks in 2008. Also tulip bulbs in 1630. When will the Bitcoin bubble burst? I don’t know, but it is coming and I don’t want any part of it.

The dark side of Bitcoin

Aside from the problems of greed and bubbles waiting to burst, there is a very real, very insidious side to Bitcoin that Christian investors should think about very carefully.

It is becoming increasingly evident that ISIS and other terror groups are exploiting Bitcoin to fund their massive budgets and evil purposes. Just recently a woman was arrested and charged with laundering $85,000 through Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to the Islamic State.

Zoobiah Shahnaz, age 27 from Long Island, allegedly used 16 credit cards (which she had obtained by fraudulent methods) to purchase $63,000 in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, in addition to $22,500 she was able to acquire through a loan from a Manhattan bank. Shahnaz was detained by federal agents at JFK International Airport as she was attempting to board a flight to Syria to join ISIS in person.

And she is not the only one.

In fact, a prominent pro-ISIS blog which is used to recruit and train terrorists, explains to readers how Bitcoins can be used to fund the Islamic State’s detestable activities without being traced by Western “Kafir” governments. God only knows how much of the hundreds of billions of dollars currently in Bitcoin is supporting the most blatantly evil organization on the face of the planet.

Of course, terrorists can use any kind of currency to fund their atrocities. But Bitcoin is designed with the specific purpose of being completely anonymous, untraceable and detached from any government or law enforcement protections. The black market loves Bitcoin.

Bitcoin may be the closest thing to blood money the world has ever seen.

Bitcoin or bust?

Listen, you are not evil if you buy some Bitcoins. Unless you are a member of ISIS and then, yes, you are evil. But there are significant problems with the Bitcoin economy that any wise investor must take into consideration before jumping into that dark pool. Allow me to summarize them here:

  1. Bitcoin is very weird. You probably don’t understand what you are buying.
  2. You probably want to buy Bitcoin because of the lure of fast, easy riches. That is greed.
  3. Bitcoin values have skyrocketed to ridiculously astronomical heights in a ridiculously short amount of time. Usually, that means something has got to give. And usually that means the bubble is ripe for the popping.
  4. Bitcoin is perhaps the bad guys’ favorite thing in the world and is funding the most despicable acts of evil the world has seen in a very long time, all with complete anonymity and without the pesky oversight of law enforcement.

For all of these reasons, you can count me out of the Bitcoin binge. How about you?

Blessings,

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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Biblically responsible investing in the age of high return, low fee idolatry

Does Your Conscience Have A Price? Biblically Responsible Investing In The Age Of High Return, Low Fee Idolatry.

You probably remember the 1993 movie “Indecent Proposal” even if you never saw it (which I hope is the case…bleh) because of it’s infamous plot line: a billionaire offers a young couple $1,000,000 for one night with the wife. Indecent proposal indeed. The plot is brilliant, even if the movie is not, because it touches a very human issue that we all are confronted with on a daily basis: Does your conscience have a price? In our modern day of finance, where Wall Street calls for high profits and low fees above all else, the Christian investor must seriously consider whether there is a return high enough, or fee low enough, that would entice them to abandon God’s call to biblically responsible investing.

Make good choices

Everyday, moment by moment, we are forced to choose between upholding good ethics and morals, or giving in to the temptations of our more base desires. Sometimes the decision to do the right thing may come almost effortlessly, like opening a door for an old woman, or choosing to pay for your candy bar instead of stealing it away in your pocket. But it wasn’t always that way, was it? There was a time in all our lives (hopefully when we were very young!) when the temptation of the forbidden candy bar held an irresistible allure and we really had to wrestle with ourselves to ensure that candy bar did not end up sneaking out of the store in our little larcenous pocket.

When we were a child, the price of our conscience may have been scant more than a candy bar. But now, as adults, does our conscience still have a price, albeit a much higher one? Put another way, is there some payoff high enough that would cause you to accept an “indecent proposal”? In our best moments, and only by the grace of God, our answer is no. There is no payment high enough, nor penalty great enough, that would cause me to sin against my God. But in our worst moments, the answer unfortunately is yes. And often the price is ridiculously low. The Apostle Paul embodies this struggle as he was led by the Holy Spirit to write,

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing…24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:18-19,24-25)

50 shades of neon

Today, the siren’s call to Christian investors is to join the world and chase high returns and lower fees no matter what. On one hand you have unscrupulous brokers promising sky-high returns with investments in the booming marijuana business, cryptocurrencies (aka. Bitcoin, et al), gold, silver and ocean front property in Arizona. These con jobs are usually pretty easy to spot, especially because the popup ads they use are about 50 different colors of neon and size 3,000 extra-super-bold font. As silly and ridiculous as these gigs are, there are many who fall prey to their allure of greed. I know because some have come seeking my advice after losing their shirts.

But what about other businesses, such as abortion and pornography? If you asked the average Christian investor if they would consider buying into the porn business, they would probably (hopefully!) say no. But, if you asked the average Christian investor if they would consider buying into the porn business for a 100% annual return on their money…well…

I submit to you that this scenario is playing out every single day with Christian investors around the world, except instead of 100% annual returns, Christians are selling out for much, much less. In fact, in some cases they are selling out for less than the price of a candy bar. Allow me to explain.

King Solomon talks biblically responsible investing

Let’s say you have $50,000 to invest. Where will you put it? Many investors, including Christian investors, will end up buying a mutual fund or ETF (exchange traded fund) of some sort. Maybe you would choose the highest performing actively managed fund you can find, or maybe you would focus on investing in the lowest cost index fund available. In either case, you would sensibly be trying to maximize your return (either through stellar investment management or by saving money on fees), but is that a biblical approach? Now, there is nothing wrong with investing in high performing funds, and certainly there is no problem with keeping fees low with index investing (I happen to be a fan), but for the Christian investor there are other — and I dare say more important — issues to consider, namely those of biblical morals.

Hear the words of Solomon, “Better is a little with righteousness than great gains with injustice.”(Proverbs 16:8) In this verse and others like it, the Bible’s clear teaching is that righteousness is more important than financial gain. Biblically responsible investing (BRI) is the practice of making biblical values the first priority in investment decisions as an obedient act of worship for the glory of God. This means aligning your investments with biblical values, avoiding companies involved in immoral businesses like abortion and pornography, and instead choosing investments in companies which are a blessing to their customers, communities, workforce and the world — and then taking into consideration maximizing returns and minimizing expenses within the context of the available, biblically responsible investment options.

The problem is that by and large, Christian investors have gotten this process backward. They heed the advice of Wall Street first and God second. (That is never a good idea, by the way.) They put first priority on finding the highest performing, lowest cost investments without giving thought to the moral concerns of those investments…or if they do consider biblical values it is only as an afterthought and results in a portfolio that might employ a few screens, such as tobacco or alcohol, but falls far short of the standard of diligently stewarding God’s assets in accordance with his values for His glory. We have caved into the demand of this age that we fulfill our “fiduciary duty” to keep fees as low as possible and returns as high as possible, and abandoned our first and eternally more important “stewardship duty” to “honor God with your wealth.”(Proverbs 3:9) We have been “conformed to the pattern of this world”(Romans 12:2) and are bowing down to the idols of low fees and high returns.

And, by the way, just because you put biblical values first does not mean that you must sacrifice returns. Recent research by Wharton School of Business, Oxford University and Biola University all have concluded that employing values based screening like biblically responsible investing does not negatively affect performance…in fact, they find that screening actually can help improve performance. Some critics say biblically responsible investing advocates use the Bible as an excuse for charging higher fees or being lazy about choosing quality investments. I disagree. I think those critics use low fees and the ever-elusive seduction of higher returns as an excuse for their financial idolatry.

Now what about that candy bar?

To make matters worse, the price we have accepted in this compromise of financial idolatry is often pathetically small. Going back to that $50,000 investment you have to make, let’s say that you chose to invest in a very low cost fund that had a total expense ratio of 0.10%. And let’s say that there was an equivalent, biblically responsible investing fund with an expense ratio of 1.00%. That means that you chose to prioritize lower fees above biblical values for a total savings of 0.90% per year. Putting that into dollars, that means that you decided to invest in abortion, pornography, human trafficking and other immoral industries instead of honoring God first for a total annual savings of $450/year ($50,000 x 0.009 = $450). That is just $1.23 per day…the price of a cheap candy bar.

But, you might say, what if I have much more than $50,000 to invest? My savings would be higher than just a candy bar! Yes, this is true. If you have more than $50,000 to invest then your nominal savings goes up some, so maybe your price to sell out on God is a latte per day instead of a candy bar. Or maybe you have millions of dollars to invest and your savings would be measured in thousands of dollars. Maybe you have so much money that your savings would be, oh, let’s say an even $1,000,000. Is that a high enough price for you to accept the “indecent proposal” of Wall Street billionaires?

Wall Street would applaud your “wisdom” as a “good fiduciary”. The Bible would call that idolatry.

Grace, truth and biblically responsible investing

Now, let me be the first to confess that I invested as an idolater for years, never realizing that I was investing in and profiting from the vilest sin and immorality the depraved human mind can conjure. And I want you to know that I have a lot of grace for those still investing the way of the world, because I know that most Christian investors are just like I was, unwittingly investing in atrocities because they have never been taught to think biblically about their investments. And this is exactly what needs to change.

We need to heed the call in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” We need to extend grace to our brothers and sisters who are caught up in the world’s ways, and at the same time we need to understand that ignorance is not an excuse. In the words of the Apostle Paul, we need to:

“…equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”(Ephesians 4:12-16)

And it starts with you. It starts with looking in the mirror of God’s perfect word, submitting to the call to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), including managing your investments, and then making the change to become a biblically responsible investor who puts righteousness and biblical morals in higher preference than fees and performance. And it continues by you doing your part to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” and sharing what you have learned about the importance of being obedient to God with your investment decisions with the other Christians in your life. Will you join us?

Beloved Christian, Wall Street is beckoning you to invest in immoral industries with the ephemeral allure of higher profits and lower fees. What is your answer to Wall Street’s “indecent proposal”?

Blessings,

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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Get started with Biblically Responsible Investing

How To Get Started With Biblically Responsible Investing

Introduction to Biblically Responsible Investing

There is a movement underway in the world of finance where Christians are investing billions of dollars intentionally to support biblical values for the glory of God, and it is called Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI). More and more Christians are waking up to the opportunity to align their investments with biblical values, as well as discovering the unsettling truth that they have previously been profiting from immoral businesses such as abortion, pornography, human trafficking and other unbiblical practices. The growing demand for biblically responsible investments is changing the landscape of Wall Street and gaining global recognition as a powerful force for positive change for God’s glory throughout the world. However, many Christian investors are at a loss for how to get started with biblically responsible investing, but biblically responsible investing does not have to be complicated. Following is a step by step guide to make it simple and easy to implement biblically responsible investing in your financial life.

Step 1: Discover What You Own From A Biblically Responsible Investing Perspective

The first step in the journey towards biblically responsible investing is to discover the truth about what you own in your investment account. What are the companies that you own in your 401(k), IRA, mutual funds, ETFs and other investments doing to turn a profit? Are they manufacturing abortion drugs, selling pornography, using slave labor in their supply chains? Are they donating money to Planned Parenthood? Lobbying to advance the LGBT agenda? I vividly remember the moment that I discovered the troubling truth of what I was invested in and how shocked I was to find that here I was, the president of our local pro-life pregnancy center, and I also owned stock in 3 companies through my mutual funds that were manufacturing abortion drugs. That means that every time a young woman went to Planned Parenthood and had an abortion, I was profiting from that transaction. That realization changed my life forever, as it has for countless other biblically responsible investors around the world today.

So, how do you go about finding out what the moral value of your portfolio is? It is certainly a daunting task to consider, and quite impossible for the average investor to compile the amount of research necessary to dig into the dirty details of every company in their portfolio. After all, it is hard enough just to read your quarterly statement without going cross eyed, let alone pour through thousands of hard to find data points on thousands of publicly traded companies. The good news is that you don’t have to because there are Christian financial institutions that have robust analytic technology where they plug in your investment ticker symbols and out pops easy to understand reports that show you everything you ever wanted to know (and everything you NEVER wanted to know) about the moral issues in your portfolio.

Are you ready to discover the truth about your investments? Ignorance is certainly not bliss, and I encourage you to take that step and see for yourself what is going on behind closed doors in your portfolio. Here are two places you can go for a free biblically responsible investing report on your investments:

  1. Here at Inspire Investing, we are committed to educating and equipping Christian investors to glorify God with their investments, and as such we provide complimentary Inspire Impact Reports that detail the positive and negative impact of your current portfolio. Just go to the Contact Us page, shoot us an email or give us a call and our service team will get your report emailed over to you, no strings attached. You can also download our free “Inspire Storybook” that explores how we do biblically responsible investing at Inspire.
  2. Christian Wealth Management is a nationwide network of Chrisitan financial advisors from multiple investment firms across the nation who are specially trained in biblically responsible investing. Each CWM member volunteers their services to provide free biblically responsible investing “moral audit” reports to anyone who asks. Visit www.christianwealthmanagement.com to be connected to a Christian financial advisor BRI specialist for complimentary reports and information on biblically responsible investing.

Step 2: Explore Biblically Responsible Investing Options

If you are like me, once you discover the moral issues in your current portfolio you will want to make a change as soon as possible. So, how do you build a biblically responsible investing portfolio? Upon learning about biblically responsible investing, some Christian investors have the concern that it will be difficult to find enough quality biblically responsible investment options to construct an outstanding portfolio that meets their financial goals. But praise God that the fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of companies pass even the most stringent biblically responsible investing screening criterion so that there is no shortage of quality companies for biblically responsible investors to allocate capital to. There are also a large and growing number of biblically responsible investing mutual funds, including lower cost ETFs (exchange traded funds) and other professionally managed investment vehicles available for biblically responsible investors and Christian financial advisors to use in their portfolios.

One word of caution: there are many investment funds issued by Christian faith-based organizations that one would assume are managed according to biblically responsible investing guidelines, but in fact do very little (or none) investment screening. Also, not every Christian financial advisor is trained or equipped in biblically responsible investing, so do not just assume because your advisor is a Christian that they are managing your investments according to biblical values. Many Christian advisors, just like Christian investors, still have no idea that there is a major moral dilemma present in the portfolios they manage. As a good steward of God’s investments, be sure to do your homework and check the biblically responsible investing reports on even Christian funds and advisors to make sure you know what you are investing in. You can get these reports for free from Inspire or Christian Wealth Management as mentioned above.

Once you identify your available investment options that meet biblically responsible investing screening criterion, the rest of the investment selection process is exactly the same as building any other portfolio: consider the risks, returns, fees, diversification and other important aspects to build your biblically responsible investing portfolio. If you are a do-it-yourself investor, you can find many helpful resources direct from investment fund providers and third party analysis sites like Morningstar.com. If managing your own investment portfolio is not on your list of favorite things to do, consider working with a Christian financial advisor who is trained in biblically responsible investing, such as members of the Christian Wealth Management network.

Step 3: Start Biblically Responsible Investing And Impact The World For God’s Glory!

After discovering what you own from a biblically responsible investing perspective, and then exploring your biblically responsible investing options, it is time to pull the proverbial trigger and become a biblically responsible investor, joining the growing number of other Christian investors in the biblically responsible investing movement! The BRI movement is an exciting phenomenon that Wall Street is completely unprepared for. I have spoken with thousands of Christian investors and advisors over the past several years and I can attest to the fact that there is an awakening going on where the Holy Spirit is illuminating the importance of investing for God’s glory and placing a passionate conviction in the hearts of His people zealous to honor God in their financial life, just as they do in other areas of life.

God makes it clear in His word, the Holy Bible, that He wants His people to manage His money according to His values for His glory, and our joy. “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Christians control trillions of dollars in investment assets, and together we can inspire transformation for God’s glory throughout the world by aligning our investments (God’s investments!) with biblical values, sending a powerful message to Wall Street and corporations everywhere that God’s people care about biblical values enough to “put our money where our faith is”.

There are already biblically responsible investing success stories, such as corporations ending their philanthropic support of Planned Parenthood and hotels removing pornography from their televisions, and by the grace of God we will see even more of these inspiring stories unfolding. But, even if nothing changes and corporations continue to go from bad to worse, it is still the biblically responsible investor’s joy to glorify God by honoring His values with His investment assets. One day we will all stand before our Lord and give an account for what we have done with all He has given us during our time on earth. I want to hear the “well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master” regarding every part of my life, including how I managed God’s investments. What about you?

Blessings,

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible impact investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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Do Not Desire To Be Rich

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (1 Timothy 6:9)

How easy it is to desire to be rich. We certainly do not desire to be poor, do we? But here in the scriptures Paul issues a sobering warning to Timothy that those who desire to be rich run afoul with all sorts of disaster. I don’t know about you, but this causes me to pause and examine my heart because “ruin and destruction” are certainly not part of my long term financial goals.

But is wanting to be rich really against biblical teaching? Yes, yes it is. Consider that just a few verses later Paul exhorts Timothy (and all Christians, including you and me) saying, “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things.” (1 Timothy 6:11). God does not want His children chasing after riches any more than a mother wants her child to chase a ball across a busy street. It is not that the object being chased is necessarily wrong, but that the chase will absolutely end in ruin. Take note that Paul is not warning against riches, but rather the desire to be rich.

But isn’t the desire to be rich what drives our entire economic and investment system? Yes, yes it is. This is a problem because it is quite apparent by even the most cursory survey of the culture around us that most people desire to be rich, which means that they are careening headfirst into “many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction”. They are chasing their ball across the autobahn and the resulting carnage is all around us: Broken marriages, corrupt businesses, exploitation of the poor, families left destitute by dad’s (or mom’s) excessive risk taking.

And Christians are just as guilty as everyone else. In fact, many popular “prosperity gospel” preachers actually teach their adherents that they should desire to be rich, and that they should petition God loudly and persistently for material wealth, and that riches are a sign of strong faith. This is pure theological sewage and if someone is trying to feed it to you run away as fast as possible. The prosperity “gospel” is not the gospel at all. It is exactly what Paul describes in our text, a “temptation, a snare” that “plunge people into ruin and destruction”. Flee from it.

And even if you and I are not drinking from the sewer water that so many prosperity preachers are serving up, it is still far too easy in our culture to desire to be rich without even realizing it. How many times have I desired a bigger house, nicer car, expensive clothes, bigger income, lavish vacations, high-performing investments? Or in other words, how often do I desire to be rich? And don’t we see the damage even these “normal” American desires can be? We are tempted to buy as much house as we can qualify for, the nicest car we can finance and the largest credit limit we can get approved for. The result is often disastrous. Lost house. Lost car. Mountains of debt. Ruined life. The desire to be rich is insidious.

So, what are we to do? Thankfully Paul does not leave us hanging, but continues, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Ruin and destruction? No thanks. Kill the desire to be rich.

Everything to enjoy? Count me in.

Set your hopes on God. Be rich in good works. Share. Store up eternal treasure in heaven. Take hold of that which is truly life. God help us.

Blessings,

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible impact investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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Reflections On My First Wall Street Journal Article

It is a strange thing to see your picture in the Wall Street Journal for the first time. It makes you realize how normal the other people you see in the media are, because you know yourself and yourself is nothing special. Also strange is reading an article in the Wall Street Journal that “you wrote”, wondering what it is going to say because you did not actually write it, even though the WSJ makes it seem that you did. So, now that I have actually gotten to read “my” article and seen what I have to say, I have a few thoughts to share as well as some lessons learned. (PS – you can read the Wall Street Journal article here.)

1) I am humbled and thankful that The Wall Street Journal would choose to publish a story about me and my experience with biblically responsible investing.  I really am nothing special, but I serve a God who is awesome beyond compare. If there is anything good or praiseworthy in my life and work, it is only by the grace of God and to his glory. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36) If anyone tries to make a big deal out of me, they are sadly mistaken. Make a big deal about my God. He alone is worthy.

2) I wish The Wall Street Journal would have chosen a different title for the article. The one they chose, “Biblically Responsible Investing: A Lucrative Niche For Advisors”, strongly implies that the reason to pursue biblically responsible investing is because it is a “lucrative niche”. While it may be true that it can be lucrative, that most emphatically is NOT the reason any advisor or investor should practice biblically responsible investing. The only reason Christians should practice biblically responsible investing is because scripture clearly teaches to glorify God in everything that you do. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) If we are commanded to eat and drink in a manner that brings glory to God, surely we must do all we can to invest His money according to His values for His glory — regardless of the “lucrativity” of the outcome. In fact, scripture goes so far as to say that even if it means making less money that we should pursue righteousness in our financial dealings anyway, “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.” (Proverbs 16:8) That is a hard pill to swallow in our flesh, but is a very revealing truth that exposes our hearts for what they are. Would you invest for God’s glory even if it meant you made less money on your investments?

3) It is happening. The biblically responsible investing revolution is really happening. The fact that The Wall Street Journal would write a major piece highlighting biblically responsible investing in a positive light is quite staggering. The time is coming when biblically responsible investing is correctly understood and practiced as a vital component of biblical stewardship throughout the church, just like giving, proper debt management, and other commonly taught biblical financial practices. More investors are investing according to biblical values today than ever before in the history of the world, and the numbers are growing. God is on the move. (As always.)

4) I don’t think I will be letting any reporters write stories for me without any editorial control again. Except for the aforementioned “lucrative” issue, the article came out pretty decent. But it could have been a total train wreck.

Above all else, what this particular experience has made clear to me is the great divide between the perspective of the world, which looks at the motivation behind serving God through the lens of being “lucrative” or other worldly measures of success, contrasted with the Christian’s great joy and preeminent desire to glorify God in all we do, regardless of the outcome. We serve God for He is worthy, not for what He is worth. Is that true for you?

Blessings,

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible impact investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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MONEY OR GLORY?

Why do you invest?

This is one of those questions that we tend to breeze by without giving much thought because the answer seems so obvious. But is it? And even if the answer is obvious, is it the right answer? So, what is your answer…to make money? To save for retirement? To provide for your family? To give money to charity? To make a positive impact in the world?

As practical and noble as some of those reasons are, none of them are the right answer. They may be correct insofar as they accurately describe your current motivation for investing; however, there is only one right answer, only one motivator that should be the driving force behind our investing: the glory of God.

“So whatever you do, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”(1 Corinthians 10:31)

This passage illuminates the clear truth that our every action should be driven by a desire to glorify God. There is no other worthy substitute. But how many of us approach our investments with the glory of God at the forefront of our minds? Too few. Of course the world does not help us in this, as Wall St. sells us every reason to invest except for the glory of God: riches, wealth, prestige, security, responsibility, influence, impact, and the list goes on. God’s glory does not make the world’s list of investment objectives, but it should be the preeminent factor in the Christian’s financial plan.

This is easier to say than do, and certainly there is more to discuss than can be addressed in one short blog post like this one. But consider this: if you can eat and drink to the glory of God, certainly you can invest to the glory of God. In future posts we will explore how we can apply this truth to our lives, but for starters the best place to begin is by searching the scriptures and praying for a desire to glorify God in all that you do. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”(Matthew 5:6)

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible impact investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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