Advice from a Chinese Pastor: Can Christians Play the Stock Market?

Stock Market
Stock Market
By Yuanlai ZhangAugust 26th, 2015

China's stock market saw a revival from five years of bearish returns starting from the second half of last year. Many Christians often ask we preachers, "Can we (Christians) get involved in stock transactions?" Though this question may seem simple, it has been asked for quite a number of years and embodies several religious and ethical problems.

Let us tackle three points about Christians and Stock Market transactions:
1. Being a Christian
2. The Technicalities of "Can We?"
3. Buy & Sell

1. Being a Christian

Christian, as a word, appears twice in the New Testament. It originates from the Greek language, meaning Christ's people. In the Province of Antioch, Rome, a group of disciples had learned about the way Christ had lived and his behavior by following him for more than a year. When people would see them, these disciples would be correlated to the idea of Christ and so were called Christ's people, Christ's disciples or Christians.

Christians follow Christ's teachings and act according to His Word which may sometimes go beyond just following the law. The law regulates people's behavior while the Bible directs the people's spirit. For example, when a negative sexual incident happens, that is when the law suddenly becomes involved. However, the Bible says, "Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:28). This shows that Christians are driven with higher ethical standards than normal.
Christians believe that their faith is not only spiritual or solitary, it is also a communal faith. They believe that they are supposed to be the salt and light of the Earth which results in their ethics influencing them to be a good testimony and example for society. They do not focus on their own personal interest and gains but abide by Biblical standards. So, whether a Christian can or cannot do something, now depends on their Biblical faith.

2. The Technicalities of "Can We?"

As a result of their belief in Christ, Christians form higher standards for living in this world. Not only are they bound by the law of the world, they are also driven to follow and make decisions based on Christ's teachings and Biblical standards.

Christians are still normal human beings; therefore, we also deserve the human rights that all people have. However, we are separated from the world through our faith. If there is something technically allowed by law yet not allowed by our faith, then we are not supposed to go against our faith. This faith reflects not only the lawfulness and profitability of our behavior but also our motivations that lead to different consequences. 

Now the question is, what kind of career should Christians go for? The goal of Christians is not solely about profit, but about being faithful to Christ and praising the Lord. Here are some of the Lord's Word regarding this:

1) Everything is permissible - but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible - but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. (Corinthians 10: 32)
2) Everything is permissible for me - but I will not be mastered by anything. (Corinthians 6: 12)
3) So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. (Corinthians 10:31)

From the verses above, we can conclude some basic rules for Christians:
1) Good For Others: Whatever you do, it should lead to doing good in order to promote the other's values; 
2) No Enslavement: Even if what we do is profitable, if it is something that makes us lose our pride and freedom as Christians, it is something we cannot get addicted to and must give up;
3) Give Praise to the Lord: Our career should be able to bring praise to the Lord;
4) Use of Your Gifts: Each person is blessed with specific gifts, which are given for a reason, which is for the good of God and other people.

Now, we can see that the Bible does not constrain what Christians can do. Our motivation, the consequence, and methods of achieving our goals will determine what is appropriate for us to do. For example, watching American TV shows for English learning is fine as long as you do not get obsessed. However, if it derails your life and work, then it is not recommendable to continue watching them.

Also, there is no absolute answer with regards to the topic of alcohol. If your body requires alcohol for health reasons, then it is not something you should refrain from. However, it becomes a negative thing once you become addicted to it and it affects your life and behavior.

The Bible does not say yes or no to any specific life issues but it provides us with standards. Our career choices and what we do should be based on the promotion of societal value, bringing glory to God, and making use of the gifts He has given you.

3. Buy and Sell: Can Christians Invest in the Stock Market?This question implies a negative idea of stock transactions. It gives people the idea that profit means everything despite their moral standards. However, before we find the answer to that question, let us clarify several issues:

Are you investing or gambling? Many people do not have a clear answer for that question because they do not know whether they are investing or gambling. That is why we have to be cautious as we can never be a win-win gambler. Even if there is profit in the end, you may end up losing your faith. Are you a gambler or constructor?Are you creating social value by investing in stock market or are you simply sucking in the profits and benefits of being involved in stocks? Have you mastered the economic rules or are you making money by luck? How confident are you about your investments? If not, then you may be already gambling. Are you benefiting from stock market? Does it create value for you?  Does it promote you or society's value? Does it go good for God or people? Can you handle the risk? Does it constrain you freedom? Money should be for value promotion. Does it promote your family's value? Does it maximize your value?

Does investing in the stock market have a negative effect on your gifts or your dreams? Is the stock market something that benefits you, your time, and your energy? For me, the question is whether Christians can or cannot. But on whether "I" can. What is good and proper for you may not be good and proper for others, and vice versa. There is no one answer for all Christians.

It is true that we, as Christians, should still have a profession or career. We should have the knowledge and skills, maybe from stock market investment, that will help promote moral values, improve our living standards, benefit society, serve the church, or help others.Investing in the stock market may work for one Christian, but it may not work for another. Many people get lost in stock market transactions, regretting their decisions of selling early or buying late, making them distance themselves from their families or end up committing crimes. 

However, through the power of God and our faith in Jesus Christ, it is never too late to get out of being lost in the stock market.

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