Keeping Faith in the World of Finance

Every vocation is unique, presenting opportunities to serve our neighbor as well as potential obstacles to our growth as Christ’s disciples. The world of finance is no exception. Bankers, financial advisors, and brokers have the privilege of helping individuals and businesses access and grow their capital. They also face the daily temptation to view the world in purely financial and materialistic terms. How can pastors and churches better serve the financial professionals in their congregation?

We asked Rod Miles. Rod is the founding pastor of Grace Marin Church (PCA) outside of San Francisco and is uniquely equipped to deal with this topic. He is a 1986 graduate of the University of Georgia (B.B.A, finance) and a 2004 graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary. Prior to attending seminary, Rod was a Senior Managing Director of Wachovia Securities in New York and Atlanta where he spent fifteen years in corporate banking and capital markets. We talked with Rod to get some insights for church leaders on the realities finance professionals face.

3 Things Churches Need to Know About Finance Professionals

1. Finance professionals are under continual pressure to produce. They are constantly being ranked against production quotas and working toward competitive bonuses. If you work in finance, you are your performance in many ways. The church must be a place where finance professionals don’t feel like they need to perform to be loved and respected as God’s children. Pastors and church members play a vital role in reminding financial workers that they are not the sum total of their production.

2. Being a finance professional is oftentimes a young person’s job. There is an immense amount of pressure, especially on corporate finance professionals who are in their mid-40s and 50s, to maintain a high level of performance. This is not to say that older people don’t stay in the finance business but it is significantly more difficult for finance professionals in this age range to find another job if they are fired or let go. Pastors should be mindful of this fact and serve as a sympathetic ear to finance professionals at every stage of their careers.

3. Finance professionals struggle with arrogance. It’s easy for them to think they’re the king of the world. They have an impressive title and a large income. They tend to think that makes them experts everywhere else. Arrogance is a sin and it’s very important that a pastor be able to call a wealthy parishioner to repentance. Walking into church ought to be a humbling experience for everyone, including the wealthy, as we gather before the true and living God.

How can Christians working in finance integrate their faith and work?

It is easy for financial professionals, like everyone else, to fall into the trap of “Evangelical Gnosticism,” the idea that your spiritual life is confined to Sunday while you function as a western materialist during the rest of the week. Because of this mindset, some financial professionals may struggle to see how their faith relates to their work. It’s often difficult to see how closing the next deal glorifies God.

Integrating faith and finance requires centering our work on the big picture of Christ’s kingdom. Christ didn’t come to free us from our callings and vocations. Rather, Christ came to reconcile us to Himself, including finance. If you are a Christian who manages financial portfolios, it might be hard to see your daily work as “spiritual.” Yet, the Bible reminds us that even the most apparently mundane aspects of life like eating and drinking should be used to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31). A Christian who is a portfolio manager isn’t just allocating assets, they are helping people mitigate risks and secure a better future for themselves and their families. They glorify God by using the skills he’s given them for the advantage of others.

When we realize our work is a gift from God and matters to Him, it changes our approach to everything. This may mean being a better listener to our clients, treating them as people and not just stepping stones toward meeting a quota. It may mean using our expertise around money management to help others inside and outside the church by offering advice on mortgages, retirement planning, or personal finances.

A Christian working in finance has to ask themselves:

  • Am I honoring Christ in the way I treat my customers and interact with my colleagues?
  • Am I being driven by a materialist worldview or am I using my God-given gifts to serve others?
  • Do I see my value and worth in Christ or in meeting my quota?

The end of the world is resurrection life, when Christ will fully reconcile the material world with his purposes. Christianity is not an escape from the material world. Rather, the goal is to see all aspects of life teeming with the glory of Christ, even banking and investing. As the church, our mission isn’t to call finance professionals to leave their vocation. Rather, it is to encourage them to believe in Christ’s redemption and long for their work to be freed from the power and presence of sin. Finance professionals need the church to call them to repent of materialism and believe that Christ is using and redeeming their labor.

The PCA Foundation works closely with financial advisors whose clients want to donate their assets and see them used to advance God’s kingdomLearn more.