Question: What’s your perspective on financial investments? I’ve always been of the opinion that playing the stock market isn’t much different than playing the slot machines in Vegas. I believe in trusting God for our needs one day at a time. My spouse disagrees and says that investments are a way of planning for the future. What do you think?

Answer: 

There is perhaps no aspect of the Christian life in which there is a greater need for balance than in the area of financial planning and management. For the believer, the unseen reality of the kingdom of God introduces an element into the equation that simply does not exist for the non-believer. 

Understanding Scripture

If there were no God, no heaven, and no question of walking by faith rather than sight (II Corinthians 5:7), we’d advise you to start planning now for the future by investing as much of your monthly income as you can manage to put aside. Unfortunately, there’s an important sense in which this kind of counsel seems to run contrary to the words of Jesus: 

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

So do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:31-34)

It’s been said many times that Jesus had more to say about money than almost any other subject. What isn’t pointed out quite so often is exactly what He had to say about it. As a matter of fact, Jesus consistently urges us to keep a light touch on our money, to handle it in such a way that it is never allowed to get a grip on our sensibilities or to become the basis of our confidence and trust. Again and again He tells us to shake ourselves free from dependence upon money by giving it away, using it for the good of others, and investing it in the invisible work of His kingdom. Ultimately, our reliance needs to be in the grace and provision of the Lord rather than in our own financial resources. Otherwise, our loyalties will become divided: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).  

A need for balance

Does this mean that you and your spouse should simply sell all of your possessions and sit on a mountaintop somewhere waiting for the Lord’s return? Not necessarily. This is where the need for balance comes in. It’s at this point that we have to remember that there’s another side to this issue. The apostle Paul blamed those who were unwilling to take any thought whatsoever for the provision of their daily needs, saying, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat" (II Thessalonians 3:10). In the same spirit, he advised believers "to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody" (I Thessalonians 4:11-12). He also said that "if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (I Timothy 5:8).

As we see it, wise investments can be one way of providing for the needs of your household. Yes, investment is selfish if you’re investing only in your own comfort and security, but there’s another way of looking at it. It can also be a matter of wise stewardship. If you have children, investing provides a good model for them by teaching them self-discipline and the value of delayed gratification. It can also enable you to help your child "get on his feet" as a young adult or provide financial aid to an aging and ailing parent. 

Seek professional guidance

If you need help threading your way through the maze of stocks, bonds, certificates and annuities, we’d advise you to seek the help of a financial planner who shares your beliefs. If, after consulting with the financial planner, you still disagree, pray about it – separately and together. It’s important to wait until you agree, or at least are willing to compromise, before making a decision to invest. An investment that doesn’t work out can become a source of resentment between spouses if only one supported it. 

Understanding investment plans

Generally speaking, we’d suggest that when it comes to investing, you need three kinds of plans: short-term, intermediate and long-term

Short-term plans are to meet needs that might occur in the next one or two years, including emergencies. With short-term investments, the primary goal is liquidity – making sure the money is quickly available to you. Money markets, savings accounts and certificates of deposit will be among the most likely places to invest this money.

Intermediate needs are those you’re likely to face two to five years from now – down payment on a home or car, for instance. You may be able to earn a little more interest toward these expenses by taking a little more risk.

Sample investment options in this category include government bonds, corporate bonds and equity income investments. The longer you can hold the investment and the more risk you’re willing to take, the more you may earn (though it’s not guaranteed). 

The typical long-term investment is for retirement. That’s where compound interest comes in. If you invest $4,000.00 a year in an RRSP, you’ll have invested $168,000.00 in forty-two years. But because of compound interest, if you’ve gotten an 8 per cent rate of return, you’ll have about $1,216,974.00! When it comes to this type of investment, there’s a certain perspective from which it’s accurate to say that you can’t afford to wait. Get started now, even if you have to start small. It will pay off in the end.

If you need help sorting through these ideas and applying them to the day-to-day realities of your financial situation, don’t hesitate to give our staff a call. Focus on the Family Canada’s counsellors would be happy to listen to your concerns and help you with some practical suggestions. They can also provide you with referrals to advisors and counsellors who specialize in helping couples with financial issues. You can contact our counselling team Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific time, at 1.800.661.9800.

Excerpted from The Complete Guide to the First Five Years of Marriage, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers. © 2006 Focus on the Family.

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