A relationship with Jesus Christ and an identity that flows from who he is and what he has done for us changes everything. It radically transforms the way we work, the way we invest, the way we view money, all of it. How? Here are four ways.
First, the Christian faith gives us a moral compass, an inner GPS, that provides ethical guidance that takes us beyond merely the legal aspects or requirements in any situation. A Christian on the board of a major financial institution—recently publicly embarrassed by revelations of corruption—told me about a closed-door meeting there between top executives. Someone said, “We have to restore moral values.” Immediately someone asked, “Whose values? Who gets to define what is moral?” And there’s our problem.
There once was a perception of broadly felt moral intuitions that governed much behavior in our society. It went well beyond the legal. Much of the ruthlessness, lack of transparency, and lack of integrity that characterizes Wall Street, the marketplace, and many other professions today comes because consensus on those moral intuitions has collapsed. However, Christians working in those worlds do have solid ethical guidance and could address through personal example the values vacuum that has now been recognized by so many.
Second, your Christian faith gives you a new spiritual power, an inner gyroscope, that keeps you from being overthrown by either success, failure, or boredom. Regarding success and failure, the gospel helps Christians find our deepest identity not in accomplishments but in who we are in Christ. This keeps our egos from inflating too much during seasons of prosperity, and it prevents bitterness and despondency during times of adversity. While some jobs seduce us into overwork and anxiety, others tempt us to surrender to drudgery, only “working for the weekend,” doing just what is necessary to get by when someone is watching. Paul calls that “eye-service” (Colossians 3:22-24, ESV) and charges us to think of every job as working for God, who sees everything and loves us. That makes high-pressure jobs bearable and even the most modest work meaningful.
Third, the Christian faith gives us a new conception of work as one of the ways God loves and cares for his world—through us. Look at the places in the Bible that say God gives every person their food. How does God do that? It is through human work—from the farmhand milking the cows, to the truck driver bringing produce, to the local grocer. God could feed us directly, but he chooses to do it through human work.
There are three important implications of this. First, it means all work, even the most menial task, has great dignity. In our work we are God’s hands and fingers, sustaining and caring for his world. Further, it means one of the main ways to please God in our work is simply to do work well. This includes the farmhand we just mentioned and the green, fresh-out-of-college kid who’s grinding away on Excel spreadsheets. Some have called this “the ministry of competence.” What passengers need first from an airline pilot is not that she speaks to them about Jesus but that she is a great, skillful pilot. Finally, this means that Christians can and must have deep appreciation for the work of those who work skillfully but do not share our beliefs.
Fourth, the Christian faith gives us a new world-and-life view that shapes the character of our work. All well-done work that serves the good of human beings pleases God. But what exactly is “the common good”? There are many work tasks that do not require us to reflect too much on that question. All human beings need to eat, so raising and providing food serves people well. But what if you are an elementary school teacher or a playwright? What is good education (i.e., what should you be teaching children)? What kinds of plays should you write (i.e., what kinds of stories do people need)? The answers to these questions will depend largely on how you answer more fundamental questions: What is the purpose of human life? What is life about? What does a good human life look like? It is unavoidable that many jobs will be shaped by our conscious or semiconscious beliefs about those issues. So Christians must think out how their faith will distinctly shape their work.
How wonderful that the gospel works on every aspect of us—mind, will, and feelings—and enables us to both deeply appreciate the work of nonbelievers and yet aspire to work in unique ways as believers. Putting these four aspects together, we see that being a Christian leads us to see our work not as merely a way to earn money, nor as primarily a means of personal advancement, but as truly a calling—to serve God and love our neighbor.
In Luke 10:17-20, Jesus sends his disciples out to heal and to cast out demons. When they return, Jesus inquires how it went. They respond, “Wow, Lord, even the demons are subject to us!” (In other words, “We had a very successful investment year!”) “It was unbelievable. We cast out demons. We trampled on serpents. We did all these things, and it was great!”
What does Jesus say to them in response? “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (verse 20, ESV). That is certainly an interesting response. Surely, he doesn’t mean not to be happy that they have changed people’s lives. Why wouldn’t they be happy?
Rather, Jesus is saying to them, “You’re rejoicing about the wrong things. You’re making these works into your identity.” Similarly, there is that famous parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. Ironically, the rich man is never given a name. He is just “the rich man.” Why? Well, that’s who he was. His identity was in being a rich man. If your identity is in your riches (or in your children or in anything else other than Jesus), you actually don’t have a name at all. You’re just a “rich man.”
What Jesus is reminding us here is that we must deliberately keep our hearts from resting in our self-created identities, in our success. The real success, Jesus says, is that because of what he has done, our names are already written in heaven. We will be received there. There is real success, real power, real riches, and it is guaranteed. Nonetheless, it takes years to get this into our hearts.
Why do you pray? Why do you worship? Why do you take the Lord’s Supper? Why do you do devotions? Because you’re working this identity more and more into yourself. It’s not all the way in there—and it will never be in this life—but keep it up, because it is your true freedom.
Rejoice, not that you’ve had a great year with profitable investments, nor that you’ve made the Midas List and were mentioned in the Financial Times, but that your name is written in heaven. This is the beginning. This is the foundation upon which you can build your investment strategy, your business practice, and your life. Start now.
Adapted from Faith Driven Investing by Henry Kaestner, Timothy Keller, Andy Crouch, Cathie Wood, et al. Copyright © 2023. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, which he started in 1989 with his wife, Kathy, and three young sons. He is also the chairman and cofounder of Redeemer City to City (CTC), which starts new churches in New York and other global cities, and publishes books and resources for ministries in an urban environment.