Serving God? Serving Mammon?

By Stephen Green
Marshall Pickering. 137 pages. ?4.99
This book is out of print as of 2007, but may be available via Amazon from time to time.

'Another financial crisis in the headlines: dealers in the news - young, with ties at half mast, shirt sleeves rolled half-way up to the elbow, and excitement and panic in their whole body language - surrounded by screen and telephones and shouting out numbers that mean nothing to the average TV viewer. Then the camera turns to the dealing room economist to hear the reasons for the latest currency crisis: all due to uncompetitive exports, or to the fecklessness of the government, or to the spendthrift consumer. Whatever it is, the market pronounces its judgment in a frenzy of selling.'

With this arresting opening, Stephen Green's small paperback is written from the perspective of a Christian working in the City of London financial markets.

Enormous profits, even greater losses, mismanaged and misappropriated pension funds, insider-trading scandals, young men and women in their mid-20s earning vast salaries and bonuses, living in their smart Chelsea houses, mobile phone in one hand, wheel of the Porsche in the other. This is the picture of financial markets and those who work in them that immediately springs to mind. Can this possibly be a corner of the kingdom of God? Can a Christian possibly work or remain in this environment without selling his soul to the devil?

This is not an academic or theological book; it is essentially practical. Various passages of Scripture are analysed, albeit at a fairly superficial level, to establish the author's view that the markets do have a rightful place in a properly-ordered capitalist society. The evils and excesses of the markets are fully-recognised and discussed.

Moral questions are also not shunned; why should a financial market dealer in his mid-20s earn far more than the headmaster of a comprehensive school? Should a Christian avoid all professions except Christian service and those of a caring or social character? How do financial markets benefit humanity? Can the kingdom be found in the midst of aggressive competition?

A good read

For those who have little real understanding of the working of financial markets this book is a good read. In wide-ranging chapters it covers the history of London and other world financial centres, how markets work, where markets fail to work, third world debt, whether financial dealing is nothing more than gambling dressed up to look respectable, the potential evils of unchecked money, wealth and power, the enormous Christian responsibilities of wealth.

Above all, this book is honest. It does not portray the financial markets as the great answer to the world's economic problems. It recognises its many flaws and weaknesses. For the Christian the markets represent temptation in one of its most powerful forms; money, wealth, and then power are fairly freely accessible and are attained by many. For some the temptation is too much, for others who keep their eye on that greater treasure in heaven, the markets are also a place where a Christian witness can be maintained; honesty and integrity can be seen to work. Why, argues the author, should financial markets be left to non-Christians?

Early retirement?

The pressures of work are often so great that traders retire very early, often after accumulating considerable wealth. This given opportunities for Christian service later in life.

This book will be useful for young Christians considering a career in the City of London, and weighing up various moral dilemmas in the light of Scripture. Not all are equipped to face these temptations.

For those already working in the City of London or other financial centres, who are wondering how God can work in their lives in such an environment, and how their Christian witness can be maintained in the face of such severe temptation, this book is also recommended.

Harold S. Crowter