Investing well

What if we pushed pause for a second and reframed some of our questions. Instead of asking “How much do I need?”, let’s ask, “How much do I have?” Instead of wondering if investing falls in the “storing up of treasures” category, let’s consider the impact we could have with our dollars if we aligned our investments with our deeper values, our hope for creation and our participation in the restorative activity of God in our world. Let’s shift perspective on the power our resources have to effect change. Socially Responsible Investing is by no means a new concept (this video tells us what it’s all about in plain English), and has been explored and practiced by many faith-based individuals and companies. At its core, SRI focuses on sustainable, socially conscious, environmentally aware, and ethical investing. As Tom Krattenmaker puts it, “Instead of obsessing over how little we possess and how much more we need, faith- and spirit-based investment advisers urge investors to be grateful for how much they have and imagine the good they could accomplish if they invested it generously.” What becomes possible if you considered reorienting your investment strategy, perhaps even risking a reduced financial return, in “exchange for a better social...

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A prayer of Freedom

As we question, wrestle with, debate, reflect on and seek to grow in the ways our faith and resources work together, it can be helpful to pause and offer up a meditation that reminds us of our purpose and intention and calls on God’s help as we navigate these waters. Mark and Lisa Scandrette, in Free: Spending your Time and Money on What Matters Most, offer this daily reflection to us: Which line of the prayer do you most resonate with? Are there any lines you struggle to say with honesty? Which parts do you offer as statements of action, which as statements of belief and which as statements of intention? I know that I am cared for by an abundant Provider. I choose to be grateful and trusting I believe I have enough and that what I need will always be provided. I choose to be content and generous. I know that my choices matter for myself, for others and for future generations. Help me to live consciously and creatively, celebrating signs of your new creation that is present and coming. Creator, who made me to seek the greater good of Your kingdom, Guide me to use my time, talents and resources to pursue what matters most. Teach me to be free, to live without worry, fear or...

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if this were a homeless

Giving to Drug Addicts

Several years back, compelled by the policy of the community development organization I was working with in the inner city of Philadelphia, I decided not to give money to people on the street who asked for help. The neighborhood had high rates of unemployment and homelessness and so requests for help, for a couple of dollars, were frequent. Unfortunately, the neighborhood also had a lot of folk who were dependent on drugs and/or alcohol. Like many others, I adopted the maxim, “Never give money to a beggar. They’ll only spend it on drugs.” Now, undoubtedly, my motivations were good: 1. I believe I am called to steward my resources well and throwing them down a drain of addiction certainly doesn’t fit with that duty and 2. I do not want to be responsible for enabling another person’s dependency and destruction. I have felt very morally justified, therefore, in my intentional choice not to give money to people on the street. This motivation though is flawed for a number of reasons and Marc Barnes recently wrote an excellent blog addressing some of these issues, entitled ‘Giving your money to drug addicts.’ 1. This policy assumes that everyone asking for money or help has a dependency issue and is either a drug addict or an alcoholic 2. This policy assumes that...

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Commodifying our Humanity

This week I came across an interesting thought related to the so-called Sharing Economy – that vast and growing collection of  startups, non-profits and cooperative structures that are moving services and goods from the formal sector to a more peer-oriented personal economic system. Think Craigslist and Airbnb, SideCar and SupperKing.  Rachel Botsman describes the sharing economy, or collaborative consumption, as a social revolution that allows people to “create value out of shared and open resources in ways that balance personal self-interest with the good of the larger community.” Why wouldn’t you want to help someone out, if you could earn a quick buck while doing so? It seems that perhaps the sharing economy has at its core a basic human desire for connection. It sits a little uneasily then to think of these new organizations as capitalizing on our desire for contact, connectivity and community, to coin a couple of dollars. But essentially that is what is happening; we are increasingly monetizing goods and services that were once available for free. SupperKing is a “mobile app that allows people to share home-cooked meals with a trusted community”. The startup sets out to “enhance the dining experience by adding a social friendship layer to an otherwise solitary event”. But let’s not pretend this is all altruistic since “how much money a host can make depends...

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Wealth and Culture

How do the worldviews of the predominant cultural atmosphere we find ourselves in shape our views on wealth and material possessions? Perhaps more importantly, how do these worldviews influence how we read and respond to scripture, and specifically Jesus’ teaching on wealth, poverty, abundance, and what it is to “be blessed”? I agree with Siu Fung Wu in this article, Wealth and Culture, that Christians with a Western worldview, with its individualistic and guilt-based culture, often concern themselves with questions of rights, justifications of self and assuage of guilt in interacting with Jesus’ teachings in Luke 6:20-26. It seems that often, “our main theological concern tends to be about ensuring that the ownership of material possession is valid. Also, given our guilt-based culture, we naturally want to make sure that we are not guilty of possessing money. In other words, when we come to the Scriptures that speak negatively about material possession, we feel that we need to respond by saying that wealth is not sinful and that the principle behind the Bible’s teaching is concerning the right use of wealth rather than the ownership of it.” When I read this passage I too feel that its main attention is not on the rightfulness or wrongfulness of individuals to be wealthy, but rather a concern for the well-being of...

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