All our money is God’s money, and that profound reality raises all sorts of questions about stewardship, like this question from a podcast listener named Collin, who finds himself in a tricky spot as he considers a career in financial counseling.
“Pastor John, what would you say to a young man or a young woman who is interested in pursuing a career as a financial advisor? Should a Christian serve others by helping them plan financially for retirement, or do you think this is promoting an ungodly waste of retirement? I want to help others steward their money for the sake of Christ, but our society’s warped perspective on retirement makes me think twice about entering this profession. Can a Christian serve others and help them plan for retirement — even a very typical American retirement — with a clear conscience? Is financial planning a worthy Christian vocation?”
God Owns It All
If I didn’t believe that financial planning was a worthy Christian vocation, I would not have spoken to the annual gathering of the Kingdom Advisors a few weeks ago. In fact, if Collin isn’t familiar with the Ron Blue Institute, it sponsors that event, encouraging Christian financial planning for the last thirty years or so. I’d encourage him and others to check it out.
“What you trade your money for signifies what you value.”
Ron Blue has been giving his life to this for decades. In fact, I sat beside him at a dinner, and I asked him, “Can you put in one sentence what you’ve been about for thirty years?” He didn’t even hesitate. He said, “God owns it all.” That’s it.
In other words, it’s not yours. Your money is not yours — period. Which puts you in a very, very precarious position. It’s God’s, and you got it in your bank and your pocket. Watch out. You might become a thief or a mismanager.
God has given you the ability to obtain it, to be sure. That’s why we make mistakes and think it’s ours. He’s calling you to be a steward — a manager of it, not an owner. He’s calling you to steward it for his purposes, not your own private purposes.
We Buy What We Love
Money is currency, right? Meaning, it’s a culturally accepted medium of exchange for what you value. You don’t want paper. What good is that?
You can’t eat it. You can’t eat the metal in your pocket called coins. You can’t eat the bytes on the Internet. That’s supposedly what you got in the bank (I hope it’s there, anyway). Everything is done by online banking now. What is money anyway? It’s just paper. It’s metal. It’s Internet bytes.
But how you move it around, what you trade it for, signifies what you value. Therefore, money becomes a means of worship and witness and love — or selfishness. We can put out of our minds any thoughts that money is intrinsically evil. It is intrinsically dangerous, because Jesus said it’s hard for the rich to get into the kingdom of heaven.
Money exerts a tremendous power to try to enslave us to this world. But if we are born again with new values, new preferences, new things that we cherish and treasure, then money can become an instrument with which we show how we value God more than money.
Do much good for people in relation to God by becoming a financial planner. This should mean, I think for a Christian, that you have seen these things in the Bible and you want to help other people see them and act on them.
“If we are born again, money can become an instrument to show how we value God more than money.”
You really need convictional clarity if you’re going do this, because you will get a lot of blowback. You say, Collin, “Our society’s warped perspective on retirement makes me think twice about entering this profession.” Well, good. I’m glad you think twice. I hope that you think a hundred times about it and that with every thought you turn to your Bible for wisdom and guidance.
I would suggest that you think of it this way. The very fact that there is a warped perspective on retirement, even among Christians, is a reason to become a financial planner — a Christian, Bible-saturated financial planner. This is a reason to become one rather than a reason not to become one — unless you don’t have any conviction or backbone.
People need help. Rich people need help. They look powerful, but they need help. They need to be shaken loose from the assumptions of our culture. You can be a great help in that regard if you have the courage to speak to very wealthy people about what they should do with their money. But you need to settle it early: you won’t be a typical financial planner who simply finds out the goals of his clients and then helps him make that happen.
You will want to shape those goals. If that’s not what you want to do, then you won’t want to be a Christian financial planner. You’d just be a jellyfish in the current of culture. If you don’t have the courage to do this with very powerful people, then don’t go into this field. Be a dolphin, not a jellyfish, when you’re talking to the rich.
I think a Christian financial planner should try to help people cast a vision for what retirement can be from a Christian view of the world and life.
There is no such thing as retirement from ministry in the Bible. Everybody who’s a Christian is a minister that is serving people’s needs by whatever gifts they have. In retirement, you may stop doing a paid vocation. Our culture calls that retirement. That is not a good word. But you never retire from active service. In a world like ours, which is so broken, so needy, you never retire.
Breaking the Mold
I just read the story of George Müller yesterday, who’d been pouring his life out for the needy, for orphans in particular, for about fifty years, until he was seventy. For the next twenty years, he did what he wanted to do.
“A Christian financial planner should try to help people cast a vision for retirement.”
He traveled to 49 nations of the world preaching the gospel, and then he turned 90 and came home and took up the pastorate again. He died when he was 95.
What a crazy, wonderful, beautiful, counter-cultural vision of so-called retirement. So, Collin, when you close by asking, “Can a Christian serve others and help them plan for retirement — even a very typical American retirement — with a clear conscience?” My answer’s no, no, no, no.
Your aim is not to counsel a typical American retirement. You want people to break free from that. You will encourage people not to prioritize playing and leisure, but to prioritize serving and ministry. You will become a specialist, and I could use your help. Many could use a specialist in helping people know ways to use their money wisely to maximize that kind of active, ministry-oriented, end-of-life season.