The key to managing money as a Christian is realizing that none of it is really yours — that God owns it all, says theologian John Piper.
Christian financial planners ought to think differently from the "warped" American view of retirement, he explained in a Monday episode of Ask Pastor John on Desiring God, where he answered a question from a man who was considering becoming a financial adviser.
The man, who said he was put off by ungodly perspectives about retirement in society enough to give him second thoughts about entering the profession, inquired if a Christian can, with a clear conscience, help people plan for a typical American retirement.
Piper answered that he believes strongly in good financial planning, referencing the words of a financial planner who summed up his 30-year career in that field with one sentence: "God owns it all."
"In other words, it's not yours. Your money is not yours — period," Piper said.
"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."
He continued to explain that whether it's coins, paper bills, or online transactions, what matters is how Christians use that currency.
"[W]hat you trade it for signifies what you value," he said.
"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."
While money can have significant power to corrupt, when used rightly and informed by godly values and preferences, it can become a tool to show greater regard for God, he said.
He encouraged the young man to become a financial planner precisely because of the ungodly American approaches and attitudes about it in society.
"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."
A Christian financial planner ought to help people envision what retirement might look like from a distinctly Christian standpoint, he stressed.
"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," Piper concluded.