Tuesday, March 20

God wears armor?

Here's what I'm learning in lesson 23 on finances in Ephesians. In chapter 6, Paul's been urging us that we're in spiritual battle, so we need to put on the full armor of God.

Eph. 6:13 
13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 

Paul got this image straight out of the prophet Isaiah. Look at the original  whole armor of God passage, and especially note the context:

Isaiah 59:14-17
 14 Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance; for truth stumbles in the public square, and uprightness cannot enter. 15 Truth is lacking, and whoever turns from evil is despoiled. The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no one, and was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm brought him victory, and his righteousness upheld him. 17 He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle. 

Wow! The whole armor of God is not merely the armor from God, but actually the armor that God wears. The breastplate of righteousness protects God's body and the helmet of salvation is on his head.

How can we put on God's armor? Isn't this going to be like young David putting on the armor of King Saul, who stood head and shoulders taller than everyone else? Far from helping him fight, the armor immobilized him! Isn't God's armor a little much for us?

Aha! Ephesians has been drumming into us that we are the body of Christ. Christ, God in the flesh. So we are God's flesh on earth, and therefore God's own armor is very fitting for us. Any other clothing would be inappropriate!

And God puts on his armor to fight what? Injustice. The injustice that God has been decrying in Isaiah 58: serving your own interest, oppressing workers, fighting, and ignoring the hungry and homeless poor.

Application: Are we using our money to fight injustice? Or to the contrary, do we gain money through injustice?

A few years ago some friends' parents told me about socially-screened investment funds. Jen and I don't have much in the stock market, but we do put a little away in a retirement savings plan. We moved our investments to a socially screened index fund, but over the years it has not performed as strongly as the standard indexed funds--about 12% vs. 18%.

Last year a free service re-invested our funds to diversify and strengthen our investments.

Financially it makes most sense to invest in those higher performers. But we realized our money, though just a few thousand, has been bankrolling many companies, many which exploit workers or the environment to make all kinds of products the consumers want, and to make a profit for themselves and their shareholders. 

Serving your own interests. Oppressing your workers. Oooh. That sounds ugly.

So tempting though the higher returns are, we're going to move our money back to the socially screened stocks.

Lord, help me be absolutely clear. When I profit, help me do all within my power and knowledge not to participate in oppression but in fair labor practices. And help us to use our money for fighting injustice and promoting justice in your world.


Eddy E said...

Jon, you bring up a point that is very good and has been a struggle for me for years. Our retirement is invested in the broader market and I know that means we have money invested in companies that are not socially conscious. I have gone back and forth in terms of what is wise/shrewd way of investing our retirement. The way I'm looking at it is that I do want to maximize the money I can make (Wesley's earn much principle)--though not at the expense of oppressing others.

Another way of thinking about investment is being a shareholder (thus an owner of the company) who brings change to the company's practices. With the little amount of individual stocks we own, it has been good to challenge the way the company does business by voting for the various measures brought forward at the shareholder's meetings. This has been a way to think about not just divesting of companies, but trying to bring change to the company from the shareholder perspective.

Eternal Learner said...

Thanks for the good comments, Eddy. I agree--I have heard stories of people who bought a few shares of stock in a company and then working together with a group of shareholders, went and influenced the corporation's decisions at their annual meeting. I understand in one case at least they made a tremendous difference in the practices of the company, resulting in far more justice and much less oppression.

However, Jen and I don't have the time, savvy, or inclination to pursue that course of bringing reform to major corporations, at least not right now in our lives. So I'm going to vote with my dollars, so to speak, and make sure that as far as I can tell, we're not backing companies that are known to participate in oppressive practices.

We don't make as much in the long haul, but then we're not really trusting in that money, anyway. If the market crashes, we still have God to take care of us. If it doesn't, we will have some money to steward to continue doing the work of the Kingdom when we're no longer able to make an income another way.