Investments and ZacchaeusBy Jason Shenk
I’ve been thinking about my investments and Zacchaeus — not the usual role model for financial management. But my brother’s actions have stirred me up.
Tim has divested from his Roth IRA. These days many people are skeptical about buying from corporations, preferring local products and fair trade.
But Tim, who is 26, has taken an additional step: He’s no longer willing to invest in sustaining a system where companies and shareholders are encouraged to value profit over people.
Tim learned from his investment manager that the “socially responsible” companies where his money was invested were still making profits comparable to all the rest. These corporations do “good” only if it makes them a better profit.
The valuing of profit over people reminds me of Zacchaeus. He profited by overcharging people on their taxes.
As I’ve thought about how Zacchaeus’ story might apply today, I’m reminded of work I did as a student at Earlham College, where I helped to rewrite its socially responsible investment policy. I learned about measures for “corporate social responsibility,” and that some corporations like Xerox are ranked highest.
When I shared this information with a friend, she mentioned learning from work on the U.S.-Mexico border: “Xerox pays their workers all right, but they get sick all the time from the chemicals in the factories and don’t get proper compensation.”
Knowing I profit from those conditions leaves a sinking feeling in my gut. With corporate investments (even in the “best” companies) I can’t help but profit from exploitation. By my investments, I’m profiting from unjust treatment — a Zacchaeus kind of position.
My thoughts keep returning to Matt. 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Rather than with multinational corporations designed only for profit, I’d prefer to have my heart and treasure invested in collective efforts for social and environmental justice.
Zacchaeus’ story takes an exciting turn. He found salvation in following Jesus and living in radically new ways.
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