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"Among themselves the merchants have a common rule which is their chief maxim … I care nothing about my neighbor; so long as I have my profit and satisfy my greed, of what concern is it to me if it injures my neighbor in 10 ways at once? There you see how shamelessly this maxim flies squarely in the face not only of Christian love but also of natural law."
—Martin Luther, 1524

Some 250 years after Martin Luther suggested that we are not only justified by faith but that it should permeate all areas of our lives, including enterprise, a young man in Mount Holly, New Jersey, opened a humble tailor shop.

Unlike other businessmen, John Woolman refused to purchase any cotton or dye supplies handled by slaves. His commitment to Christian love—with excellence, mind you—attracted customers in droves, despite occasions when he could only offer them beige sackcloth.

In 1759 Woolman convinced the Philadelphia Quakers to pass the first resolution in the American Colonies not to own, deal, or sell slaves. Why use God's blessings, he reasoned, to buy people captive to chains for personal profit?

Another two and a half centuries passed: summer 1997. My internship as a consultant in Santa Clara, California, had ended, and I picked up my last paycheck. How did I begin to employ the talents my Master entrusted to me? Well, I invested a portion of them just like everybody else—in a top-performing mutual fund mentioned in Money magazine. Highest return? Sign me up!

I cheerfully chanted the popular market mantra—one criterion, one conclusion—only recently pausing to ask: "What is a stock, anyway?"

Besides a fancy certificate or electronic symbol on ticker tape, a stock represents ownership shares in a corporation. You might be the sole proprietor of ...

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September 3, 2001

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