Toward a Practical Theology of Capital (a layman's version)
Impact investing from a Christian perspective necessitates a deep understanding of what the bible says about the issues involved – namely, how to invest, where to invest, and for what purpose. Seems obvious as I write it, and yet prior to last week, “develop a workable theology of capital” was nowhere near the top of my to-do list.
We're far from expert at this stuff, but we at least want to enter (or start) the conversation. A 15-minute Google search suggested this isn’t a conversation happening very many places yet.
There’s a lot out there about topics related to theology of capital:
- theology of work (hint: it's worship. Institute of Faith Work and Economics)
- theology of business in general (partnership with God for human flourishing. Eventide Funds)
- interpreting “capital” as the intangible aspects of our lives (e.g. talking about the parable of the talents as if it doesn’t have to do with money)
- what the bible says about our relationship with money and philanthropy (turns out it says a lot about this. Generous Giving, National Christian Foundation, Crown Financial Ministries)
- how our Christian principles influence the way we invest.
But none of these quite address the questions related to what the Bible teaches about investing financial capital. Questions like:
How much return should we expect (is the idea of extracting a 45% IRR in contradiction to the prohibition against usury or is it just shrewd business)?
Should we only invest in companies run by christians (if not, what about the admonition against being unequally yoked)?
Do we always need to seek social/spiritual impact along with financial return? Or is making money for retirement or future giving a sufficient goal?
If it’s true that God designs business as a means of accomplishing His purposes in the world, then we ought to flow upstream and consider what implications this has for the capital that is invested in those businesses.
At an event in Silicon Valley hosted by Praxis before their Business Accelerator Finale, I heard a very successful venture capital investor talk about pursuing a theology of capital that is at once fully secular and fully sacred. Fully secular in the sense that his firm wants to make great financial investments with world-class sourcing, due diligence, structure, management, and exit. Excellence honors God and also earns the right to influence for Christ company founders and other investors. This influence is the fully sacred aspect of his theology statement.
This VC investor explained that he arrived at this idea through a month-long personal study of the book of Daniel, a story about a believer serving secular kings in a secular culture. I guess that's where I'll start.
What else should I read? Who's writing about this? Where can I look to study well on these topics? I appreciate your insights.