The new seventh edition of The Sound Mind Investing Handbook is hot off the press and now available. And while everything we say about it is true — it does teach investing essentials in a clear, compelling way — the most valuable part of the book, in my opinion, has nothing to do with that.
In the first five sections of the book, SMI founder Austin Pryor does a terrific job of simplifying complex topics — such as how exchange-traded funds differ from traditional mutual funds, why rising interest rates make the value of bonds decline, how to create a “personal pension,” and how momentum (the metric that guides SMI’s main strategies) works. All of these topics are crucial for investors to understand.
Still, I always recommend people skip ahead and begin the book by reading section six: “Investing That Glorifies God.” There, you will find financial content unlike anything you’ve read before. Whenever someone asks me what it means to invest from a biblical perspective, or how Christian investing differs from secular investing, I point them to section six of The Sound Mind Investing Handbook.
In the chapters that make up that section of the book, Austin makes the case that investing that glorifies God acknowledges His sovereignty, values His majesty, advances His kingdom, upholds His righteousness, seeks His wisdom, and enjoys His blessings.
In one sense, it’s an insightful Bible study that will help you think about the intersections of faith and finances in a way that differs significantly from most other stewardship materials. Instead of focusing on biblical passages that speak directly to financial topics such as debt and savings, this is higher-level, heart-level content, delivered in the most compelling way possible.
Throughout those chapters, Austin candidly — and often humorously — relates his own faith journey. You’ll read about his early experiences as a commodities trader (you’ll laugh out loud at how he explains his “heavy short position in frozen pork bellies”), the ups and downs he experienced as a money manager, and the financial and spiritual lessons he learned the hard way. You’ll learn about the surprising lunch engagement that led him to start the Sound Mind Investing newsletter, why he risked so much to create a company that, against all odds, has endured for more than 30 years now, and how he hopes that those who become SMI members will grow — not just financially, but in their relationship with Christ and in the God-glorifying impact they have in the world.
In late 2011 and early 2012, as my wife, Jude, and I wrestled with and prayed through the opportunity to join the SMI staff, reading Austin’s story played an important role in our decision to say yes. When I left corporate America in 2007, my heart’s desire was not to have a job but to pursue a mission of teaching practical, life-changing applications of biblical money management. By learning Austin’s story, I gained a depth of understanding about SMI that went beyond what I read on the company’s website. I saw clearly the mission-minded purpose behind all that the company does — and I wanted to be part of it.
Without section six, The Sound Mind Investing Handbook would still be one of the best biblical financial stewardship books I’ve ever read, with a unique emphasis on investing. With section six, it is all of that and one of the richest spiritual-formation books I’ve ever read.
While I’m not so idealistic to think that anyone would become a member of Sound Mind Investing solely on the strength of Austin’s story, I think it is a valid factor that should be considered. His story is woven into the company’s DNA, exhorting all of us who serve at SMI to work from a core desire to glorify God in everything we do.
If you are a current SMI member, you should know Austin’s story, too. It will help you see — and I trust, value even more — what sort of community you’re part of. Yes, we want your investment portfolios to grow so that you can experience the joy of providing well for your family and generously supporting God’s eternity-shaping work in the world. But our hopes run deeper than that. We hope to play some small role in helping you bring glory to God.
Of course, as Austin is the first to point out, section six of The Sound Mind Investing Handbook isn’t really “his” story. It’s a portion of God’s story that the Lord graciously chose to tell through a son who received an inheritance, tried to find his own way in the world, and then came to his senses and found his way home. To God be the glory