Wall Street has been suffering from bipolarity, newscasters quipped a few weeks ago. I could see that this reference to bipolar disorder, sometimes called manic depression, rather accurately described the fluctuating stock market. It hinted at the psychological factors involved in periods of frenetic trading and sluggish inactivity.
It is natural and right for Wall Street to respond to decisions of the Federal Reserve at home and to economic conditions abroad. But extreme responses may indicate a contagion of fear has beset orderly investment.
As I began to think more about Wall Street and the global economy and individual investments, I wondered how they related to scriptural assurances of God's constant provision. What came to thought immediately was the manna with which the children of Israel were fed in the wilderness. This substance, appearing miraculously, was found on the ground each morning. There was always enough for all on any particular day, but it spoiled if held over (see Ex., Chap. 16). What is the lesson here - does it conflict with prudent teaching that encourages savings and investment for the future?
Understanding why these people were in the wilderness in the first place reveals that they were indeed investing in their futures. They were devoting their entire lives and everything they owned to securing the freedom to worship their God. The manna and other provisions of God's constant care were natural consequences of this original investment.
Recently I spoke to several friends about their investments in the stock market. None seemed unduly concerned about the Dow's historic plunge that week. As I spoke to each one separately, I discovered a common rationale for determining what to invest in. They chose companies whose products were a benefit to mankind. They carefully shunned those that, even if offering a higher return, had the potential for enslaving people. Such commitment to good naturally brings a certain equanimity. Faith in the dependability of good indicates a trust in the supremacy of the source of the good, or God. With faith in God, investors can't feel victimized or destitute.
A friend told me about his experience in the crash of '87. Just before, he had added several thousand dollars to an investment in a company that met his standards not only for financial return but for its commitment to the overall good of the world. Looking at the price of the stock after the crash, he saw he'd lost much money, but he was reminded that this would be only on paper. If he did not sell, there was no loss at that time. He looked again at his reasons for investing and decided not to sell. Later, he gained the reward the investment had promised. Now, eleven years later, it has more than twice the original value.
This isn't meant as advice to stay the course. The overriding lesson is that a desire for one's money to be as effective in helping mankind as the rest of one's life, need not incur penalties. A right motive may involve making more than one decision. But it offers continuing guidance until the good that's hoped for is realized.
"A wrong motive involves defeat," states the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy (Pg. 446). It is perhaps obvious that making money without considering the effect it may have on others is not a right motive. Today there is plenty of information not only about various products but also about the conditions under which they are produced. Investors, taking responsibility for what they fund, are making a valuable contribution to the success of the world's aim for a stabler, freer, more equitable economy.
Keeping in mind how we are thinking about the initial investment - the commitment of one's resources, financial and otherwise, to the betterment of humankind - makes one well aware that the stock market is not a huge gambling pit. Such commitment also acts as a barrier against misinformation and disinformation of market manipulators, which might incite panic selling. The good investment, or the investment in good, brings balance and stability to one's own portfolio and helps give Wall Street a serenity, free from extremes.