To those who don’t work in financial services, banking can seem like conjuring money out of thin air: Bankers, advisors, agents, and brokers seem to just stare at numbers, type them into spreadsheets, add them, subtract them, rename them, and somehow grow them. I imagine that those in the field, with a little bit of effort, can convince themselves, too, that the making money is just like waving a wand, but the truth is, the money comes from somewhere. Actually, it comes from someone. Sometimes the money comes from someone to whom the bank has provided a valuable service. Sometimes the money comes from someone of whom the bank has taken advantage. People who manage money wield enormous, hidden power in our society, to build up and to tear down.
This is why we need godly bankers (and CFAs and CFPs, and so on and so forth).
Are there passages in the Bible about banking? Yes and no. There are certainly passages about loaning money, which is to financial services what ingredients are to the food industry. For example, one passage in Deuteronomy says:
When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not go into his house to collect his pledge. You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep in his pledge. You shall restore to him the pledge as the sun sets, that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you. And it shall be righteousness for you before the Lord your God.
Now, before hastily turning this into posters and mailing it to all the business schools of America, we should stop and recognize that this is a simpler statement for a simpler time. The loans here seem to be loans to neighbors. The loans couldn’t do as much good (i.e., finance a factory) or as much bad (i.e., ruin a factory-worth of employees). At the same time, these loans were more complex: Friendship, physical proximity, kinship, national identity, and theocracy all enriched what a contract alone tries to do today. It was a different time.
Yet, here’s what the passage may still say today: Don’t embarrass the person to whom you’re lending. Don’t cripple her. Care for him, because this loan is starting and ending before God.
Most of all, this passage declares that financial matters matter to God. God is not oblivious to the enormous power that money managers wield, for good or for evil. Neither should we be. Neither should pastors be. Neither–certainly–should Christian bankers be.
Bankers, we need you. We need your “righteousness before the Lord your God,” not despite your work, not just at your work, but through your work. Yes, the power over money is the power to ruin lives, but it’s also the power to provide great help, to launch great endeavors, to offer fresh starts, to promote wise planning, to equip future generations, to enable generosity, to run an economy in which people can flourish. We need godly bankers, which might mean we need you.