It fascinates me to think of how the screen can entertain and educate. Remember the cartoons that made us laugh as a child or the PBS shows that taught us what “C” is for? What about the movies that instill fear (I mean, who can forget that ominous scene from Jaws) or inspire (I can still hear the crowds chanting, “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy”!)?
As a follower of Jesus and a father of three, I pay close attention to the things we watch in our home. The film and media that entertains us, educates us, instills fears, or inspires us can have lasting impact. My wife and I want that impact to be for God’s glory and our good.
A jarring image
Living just an hour from Athens, GA. it’s probably easy to guess that my family are UGA fans (go DAWGS!). About mid-season, 2022, we were watching the game at a friends house while our kids played together. My buddy and I were shocked during half-time as the network broadcast showed a trailer for an animated cartoon depicting a woman who had sex with the devil, spawning the antichrist. Though labeled an “adult” cartoon, its animation design and tone clearly appealed to young children. After reflective discussion, we concluded that the overt demonic overtones had the potential to plant inappropriate, even satanic, seeds of thought in the hearts and minds of our kids, giving the kingdom of darkness an early potential foothold in their lives.
As Christian fathers, we were appalled! Our conversation evolved into a discussion on the importance of diligently teaching our children (Deut. 6:7), training them up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), and teaching them to be “in the world, but not of it” (John 15:19, Romans 12:2). We reminded each other of the important role we play as dads when we pray over our children against the spiritual forces of evil in this world (Ephesians 6).
Why would we pray against demonic forces while profiting from them?
A troubling truth further dawned on me as I reflected on this show. The companies that produced and promoted this cartoon were both subsidiaries of a leading publicly traded entertainment company. This public company sits in several popular diversified investment funds — funds that numerous Americans, including (no doubt) large percentages of Christians—hold in their investment portfolios. By owning stock in a company, we, by default design, become part owners of that company. How would you feel knowing that some of your investment portfolio profits come from the production of demonic cartoons?
This is just one of many examples of the corporate culprits producing shows that promote world views and values that are contrary to God’s word. Another leading media content streaming provider produced and distributed a show that seemingly romanticized suicidal tendencies in youth. An independent study noted a 28.9% increase in the teen suicide rate following the release of this show. While I would not assert that the release of this show single-handedly resulted in this sad spike in suicidal activity, there is at least the appearance of an alarming connection. This media content streaming service is also a publicly traded company likely owned by numerous God-fearing families in their investment and retirement accounts.
A call to careful portfolio examination
How do you think God would respond to us stewarding His resources by investing them into companies that can lead children to stumble? Do you think He would brush this off or take it seriously? Consider what Jesus said to his own disciples regarding children in Matthew 18:5-9:
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.“
Jesus does not take our responsibility to children lightly. He tells his followers that it would be better to drown than participate in leading a child to sin. He goes on to say:
“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.”
With a humbled posture and repentant heart, we need to perform portfolio surgery and, like the hand Jesus references, cut off the investments that associate us with a company’s destructive products, services, or philanthropy. We need to remove the positions in our portfolio that lead others astray. How can we justify stewarding the Lord’s resources in such a way that we participate in and profit from sin? Lord forgive us!
But wait . . . this “movie” is not quite done!
Recently Don Simmons and I had the amazing opportunity to attend the International Christian Visual Media Conference (ICVM) in Orlando. There we networked with various participants in the Christian film and media industry and participated in an investment pitch event (think Shark Tank for business-as-mission companies seeking capital, resources, and exposure). It was inspiring to be with so many creative storytellers who are writing, producing, and distributing resources that align with biblical values and seek positive financial and eternal outcomes.
We learned about makers of animated movies and graphic cartoons that educate and inspire our children toward Jesus. We spent time with four brothers who grew up in the islands of Indonesia who are creating video content that teaches our children that following Jesus is the ultimate adventure.
We met a woman creating a new series that directs young people to an app where they can engage in conversations about the true purpose of their life.
We conversed with a producer of a live show that combines dance, martial arts, aerial acrobatics, and emotionally powerful performances that tell the story of Jesus’ Passion.
We can do this
As followers of Jesus, let’s steward our investments in ways that honor Him and bring Him glory. Let’s invest in companies that align to His values, His character, and His desired outcomes.
Are you interested in journeying to see how your investment portfolio can seek to promote investment in businesses that align with kingdom values and steer away from companies that profit from activities at odds with those principles? If you work with a financial advisor, please review our list of probing questions that can be used to start meaningful discussions with your advisor around this topic. If you do not work with an advisor and would like to speak with someone who can help you explore the contents discussed in this article, please click HERE .
In the end, I believe we are called to be intentional in journeying to humbly know God and make God known through all aspects of life. This is part of our ongoing worship and submission to our King. Our investment objectives and individual investment purchases are not somehow excluded from this pursuit.
Photos by Krists Luhaers and Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash
Stephen Jackson is the Chief Impact Officer for Steward Advisors Group maintaining prayerful leadership of the internal and external impact desired by the company’s vision and mission. Stephen serves internally by giving pastoral oversight and care to teams and clients and externally by developing strategic partnerships through networking, consulting, and speaking engagements. He and his wife Misty live with their three precious children in the north Georgia mountains.