The stock market: a spiritual perspective on investing
Growth stocks. Mutual funds. Technology stocks. Internet IPOs. Over the last few years, these have become common terms. Never before has there been such interest in the stock market. Unprecedented wealth has been created. Everyone seems to be getting aboard in some way—or would like to.
With economic surges upward and downward, is there a way to feel confident and safe about one's life? Do we have to live with the possibility that our possessions—large or small—may grow rapidly or disappear overnight? Can we be left out of the good that is going on? Does prayer make a difference in investment decisions?
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An inspired sense of investing does not approach the market as a lottery or a gambling table.
The concept of thoughtfully managing disposable resources is not a modern–day one. There is instruction in the Bible on the subject. After feeding thousands of hungry people, Jesus instructed his disciples to "gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost" (John 6:12). In essence, the message was, "Don't waste your resources even if they seem like fragments. Gathered and protected from loss, they can continue to provide for you." Was he encouraging a proper stewardship of the good that was available?
Because Jesus repeatedly looked to God as the source of good, there's nothing to suggest that he was ever afraid that good would be in short supply. Security in Jesus' life, like everything else, was the outgrowth of his understanding of God, Spirit, and was, therefore, a constant. His unselfish motives and unparalleled obedience to God enabled him, as they do anyone, to perceive the divine will and to follow it. God's invariable goodness is with us, and we perceive it to the degree that we allow Christly motives to direct our thoughts and actions.
Because supply originates in Spirit, human evidence of supply can be found in unexpected places, even in a fish's mouth (where Jesus directed Peter to find the money needed for a tax payment—see Matt. 17:24–27). Jesus showed many times that man, as God's dearly loved child, is not dropped down on this earth to try to survive and, with a little luck, somehow obtain financial security. Man's substance is Spiritual. Luck has nothing to do with it.
The divine laws that underpinned what Jesus was able to accomplish are explained in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. She was noted for having a keen business sense and worked hard to prove and explain the laws of God, which help those suffering from ill health, poverty, and all forms of enslavement. Speaking of God as Soul, she writes, "Soul has infinite resources with which to bless mankind, and happiness would be more readily attained and would be more secure in our keeping, if sought in Soul" (p. 60).
It is tempting, however, to think of business decisions and the business environment as separate from God. We might think that our financial life and our spiritual life don't mingle. But Jesus depicted God as including business when he asked, ". . . wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:49) God and good business go together. The entire universe expresses God's business—His activity.
Man, as the reflection of the all-knowing and intelligent God can't help being about the business of thinking rightly and wisely, which must include sound business sense. As a result, each of us, as divine Mind's likeness, naturally expresses all the wisdom and acumen needed to acquire the necessary information and to make confident choices.
Jealous thoughts are very expensive thoughts.
Start making each decision from a standpoint of gratitude for God's provision for everyone. Gratitude turns our thoughts to God and recognizes the divine source of good. It brings humility, which suppresses the egotism and human will that can obscure one's thinking. By embracing gratitude, we become expectant of goodness, and we are better able to discern God's direction. As Science and Health points out we should be grateful for the good we've already received in order to be ready to receive more (see p. 3).
Challenge limited thoughts. The carnal mind, a belief of a material mind separate from God, suggests, "Can't have. . . . Can't be. . . . Can't do. . . ." These thoughts don't come from infinite Mind. We have the God–given authority to overturn any thoughts of limitation.
Always challenging the "can't" thoughts is key. Isn't this in line with what the Bible refers to as praying "without ceasing?" (see I Thess. 5:17) We can replace the feeling of limitation with an understanding that God is your Mind and mine and that this Mind is unlimited.
Have the right motives. Right motives bring inspiration to our work and enable us to act wisely and effectively during our day. Incorrect motives can subtly focus on accumulation of possessions for the sake of wealth or on one's own sense of brilliance without a desire to do good for others. This leads to an inability to hear God's direction clearly. There's a very helpful Bible story about a fellow who spends years collecting possessions (see Eccl. 2:4–11). Without being aware of his spiritual purpose, however, he ultimately discovers wealth to be shallow and unsatisfying.
Sometimes incorrect motives take form as what appears to be frugality, but is actually selfishness or fear. One may hold on to funds so tightly because of fear or timidity that growth and progress are restricted. As an individual investor, or an organization, we can break out of such shackling thoughts. We can do so as we more fully develop our love for God and for our fellowman.
Another subtle and misguided motive would be to acquire assets merely in order to avoid work. A job we all have in common, as the expression of divine Love, is to bless others. This is a right motive behind whatever work we do, and such a motive will go on, unburdened, throughout eternity. It's hard to imagine anything but satisfying and unselfish activity in the kingdom of heaven. When asked where that kingdom was, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21).
Practice patience. All too often quick stock market gains of recent years have left investors expectant of fast and easy money. Most of us have heard stories of day traders and big gains in hot Internet stocks. Some may think that "long–term holding" of stocks means keeping them only a few minutes or hours.
It is important to see that an inspired sense of investing does not approach the market as a lottery or a gambling table. Instead, investing becomes a substantial way of participating in and supporting businesses, the people who run them, and the products or services they produce. By thoughtfully, even prayerfully, looking for companies that represent good ideas put to work responsibly, we are investing in a meaningful contribution to communities and the world. We practice ethical and wise stewardship of our funds.
Decisions made on this basis may require a patience that forgoes the urge merely to go for the gains no matter what the cost, but in this way our decisions are grounded in wisdom, not luck. We are led by spiritual intuition rather than impulsiveness.
Know where to turn for insightful ideas. Preparedness includes more than getting hot tips. Investment periodicals, financial analysis, alertness to fresh concepts, and professional investment counsel are helpful. It is God, Mind, who supplies us with spiritual ideas. In an article called "Angels" Mrs. Eddy writes, "God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies"(Miscellaneous Writings, p. 307). Once we have firmly established ourselves in this walk with God and His ideas, our confidence is grounded in Spirit, and we can discern the best paths to follow in order to do good for ourselves and others.
Challenge the fear of making mistakes. By daily recognizing our inseparable relation to God and listening spiritually, we can expect divine Love to guide us. Guesswork is no part of God's intelligent design of life. Mind is governing and wisely informing its entire universe—and that includes us as God's spiritual ideas. Science and Health explains, "Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way" (p. 454). God's law is the ultimate law in each business decision.
We can have a calm approach rather than be investment cowboys.
Know the difference between "expensive thinking" and "investment thinking." If we have an expense, we give out money and expect never to see it again. When we engage in investment, we expect the return of our investment plus a profit. An expensive thought is one that provides no return. A thought that is a good investment returns to us with a benefit. It is important, then, to examine our patterns of thinking.
Ruminating about the past, worrying about the future, fear, gossip, and guilt are expensive because they separate us from perceiving God's ideas. They bring no good return. Forgiveness, pure motives, unselfish ideas, intuitions expectant of goodness—these thoughts and motives bring a good return. Is our thinking too expensive? Are we using our mental resources for expense or for investment?
Practice balanced thinking. God's creation is in perfect balance. Man expresses God's balance in all ways. This spiritual fact gives us the alertness we need in order to respond to changing market conditions without becoming obsessed with stock prices. Often a balance is needed in investment portfolios, reflecting diversification. Cherishing moderation in all areas of our lives counteracts a false zeal. We act with interest but not addiction.
No inertia, no paralyzing fear, no false ego or pride can throw the spiritually-minded thinker off balance. When we know that God is our source of supply, we can have a calm approach rather than be investment cowboys, being tossed up and down in the saddle and holding on to an unstable sense of safety and wealth.
Challenge jealousy of the gains of others. There is no need to feel a competitive sense for good. God's creation includes enough for all, since supply is rooted in infinite Spirit. When we resent the accomplishments and prosperity of others, we are buying into the devilish suggestions that God hasn't treated us all fairly and that good comes to only a few. Jealous thoughts, which are very expensive thoughts, should be rejected. Each of God's children lives daily with infinite possibilities, infinite opportunities, and bountiful supply. Once we understand that God blesses all His children, we can replace critical and jealous thinking with joy in seeing others have good come their way.
Exercising these spiritual habits puts our lives and our thinking on a rock-solid basis. We will have no need to consult portfolios or market quotes in order to enjoy spiritual riches each day. We will be just as confident as Paul was when he proclaimed to the Romans that he knew that nothing could separate him from the love of Christ (see Rom. 8:38, 39). Nothing—no economic change, no market conditions, no lack of resources or opportunity, no investment gain or loss—can separate us from the love of God as expressed through Jesus' life and teachings. We can be at peace in this and feel safe in the Father's care.