Interesting question. Like many things, our motivation and heart attitude are key in determining whether God will be pleased with our actions.
Investing itself is not sinful. Actually, it is a Bible principle that can be applied in both the physical and the spiritual realms. Ecclesiastes 11:1 says “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” Sacrificing some comfort now for returns later, also known as delayed gratification, is a Biblical principle. The many days spoken of here may require some patience, but the results are worth the labor and patience.
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus gives the parable of the talents. “14For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. 19After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.21His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 24Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:25And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 26His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 28Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.30And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Here the ruler admonishes the unprofitable servant that he should have put the money to the exchangers, that is, INVEST the money. The ruler wanted to receive his own with usury that is, RETURN ON INVESTMENT.
Our motivation for investing should always be for God’s glory, not for our own benefit. James 4:2-3 says “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” Our motivation is key. Are we seeking to invest so that we may consume the returns upon our lusts or to glorify God and assist in His work?
In Haggai 1, the people of Israel were rebuked by the Lord for building themselves nice houses while leaving the temple of God in disrepair. As a result, their finances were not being blessed by God. He says to them in verses 5-7: “Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.”
Consider your ways in relation to investing. Why are you looking for a return on an investment? Is it to be able to afford a lake home or to be able to take more time off for ministry? In the spiritual realm, do you invest in souls to have the praise of man or because the love of Christ constrains you? Examine your motives and ask God to help you align them with truth.
Perhaps Paul summed it up best in 1 Corinthians 10:31
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
So work hard, invest wisely, and do it to the glory of God.