“God doesn’t need our money; He wants us to reflect His character”: GIC’s Dr Jeffrey Jaensubhakij and Pearpop’s Peter Han on God’s future economy

In this series on The Gatekeepers Dialogue, Salt&Light interviews leaders who provide a biblical worldview of global issues that will be highlighted at the next World Economic Forum.

Kelly Ng // September 1, 2021, 4:09 pm

Screenshot 2021-09-01 at 11.47.11 AM

"It is important to recognise that (our wealth and resources) are from God and to seek wisdom from Him in terms of how we use and share them,” says Dr Jeffrey Jaensubhakij, Group Chief Investment Officer at GIC. Screengrab from GIC Insights 2018.

Plan on living a long time and saving more for it.

Volatility is normal; don’t let it derail you.

Reinvesting dividend payments allows your money to continue to grow.

Let the market confirm your opinion before taking action.

These are among the investment principles listed on several Wall Street banks’ websites. And, while they may hold true as practical wisdom, the financial life of a Christian is not always focused on minimising monetary risk and maximising monetary returns in the market. 

Speaking at The Gatekeepers’ Dialogue on August 12, Jeffrey Jaensubhakij, group chief investment officer for Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, stressed that “what is right for the world is sometimes in conflict with profit maximisation”.

Godly investing within a capitalist world

How, then, can believers hold the fine balance between excellent wealth stewardship and compassionate Godly values? The panellists had this wisdom to share:

1. Steward well by considering what God wants for the world

As an instance, Dr Jaensubhakij cited the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the challenge of healthcare equity. 

“Clearly, you know what is right is to make vaccines more available, and to have more countries be able to produce those vaccines by giving them more access to the intellectual property. But that is not profit maximising for the pharmaceutical companies. And here, I think there is tension,” he said.

Dr Jaensubhakij was speaking at a panel on Investing in the Future Economy, along with Peter Han, who leads the finance and operations team at Los Angeles-headquartered social media platform, pearpop.

The Word is clear about how God wants His children to act, Dr Jaensubhakij said, quoting from Leviticus 23, where amid the Feast of the Harvest, God commands Israel not to forget the less fortunate during a time of national celebration of abundance.

“How we steward (our wealth) really matters.”

In verse 22, landowners are commanded not to reap their fields “right up to its edge”, and to leave them for the poor and the sojourner. 

“You don’t have to take every piece of profit. You don’t have to squeeze everything out, because there are communities of people who still need help. Because there are poor people, there are widows, there are orphans, who have no means of being able to, to fend for themselves. (God says) to let them go through the field and glean what is necessary. 

“In the case of healthcare and particularly the issue of vaccines, I think it is incumbent on us to pray for our leaders, globally, who live in a capitalistic, profit-maximising system, to still have that sense of what is right in order to ensure that those who most need healthcare but can’t afford it still have some access,” Dr Jaensubhakij said.

As individuals, too, God wants us to be good stewards of the treasures and resources He has placed at our disposal. Here, he cited the Parable of the Talents. 

In this parable (Matthew 25:14-30), a rich man delegates the management of his wealth to three servants. Two of them earn 100% returns by trading with the funds, while the third hides the money in the ground and earns nothing. The rich man rewards the two who made money, but severely punishes the servant who did nothing.

“This shows that God gives these to us with the expectation that we use it well. So how we steward it really matters,” Dr Jaensubhakij said.

“Also as important is to recognise that these are from God and to seek wisdom from Him in terms of how we use and share them.”

2. Hold yourself accountable with the help of community

Fellow panellist Peter Han stressed the importance of humility and accountability.

“It glorifies God if we make returns, but I don’t think God cares about our absolute returns,” pointed out Peter Han, head of finance and operations at Pearpop, USA.

He recalled how Timothy Keller, who pastors in Manhattan, New York City, spoke about greed to business leaders in the city at a conference on the seven deadly sins. 

“Tim Keller said his wife had laughed when she knew what he was going to be speaking about, and told him it’s going to be the least well-attended one of them all,” said Mr Han. “And true enough, only about a quarter of the conference’s participants attended that session.

“Greed is something we will be constantly fighting. How do you know you’re greedy unless someone points it out to you?”

“He asked how she knew people would not attend. She said, ‘Because no one in New York ever thinks they are greedy. Everyone always knows someone else with more money or more power.’”

Mr Han added: “And so, it’s very easy for us, as Christians with some level of power and authority, to say the real rich people or the real people with power are not necessarily me. There needs to be humility and accountability because no one ever thinks that they are that greedy.”

Being plugged into the community and maintaining a teachable heart is key, he added. Left to ourselves, we are often blind to our sin of greed. 

“Greed is something that we will be constantly fighting. How do you know you’re greedy unless someone points it out to you? So I’d strongly encourage us to really hold one another accountable and be humble as we consider these things, especially in the positions we are in right now,” he said.

3. Remember where your value lies

Above all, both Dr Jaensubhakij and Mr Han believed that – more than striving for financial returns – we should be content in knowing that eternal value cannot be found on things of this earth.

They encouraged Christians to remember that God has placed us where we are – in the marketplace, or otherwise – as witnesses to the world of His love and grace. As we strive to be good stewards of the resources God has given to us, we often are also testifying.

“It glorifies God if we make returns, but I don’t think God cares about our absolute returns.”

Dr Jaensubhakij said: “I am constantly aware that my coworkers, who know I’m a believer, look at how I do things, they can see if I do it in my own strength, with pride and arrogance, or with humility and thankfulness that God has put me in a good job. It’s a platform to be a witness.

“And I think there’s an opportunity for us, in an investment environment that could be volatile, uncertain, stressful, to show that we are not as stressed because we can depend on God, we can rest in Him, and know that He ultimately is our foundation.

“It is not wealth that gives us value. It is God’s love for us and knowing that He sent His son to die for us. That’s what gives us value. So I think how we (go about our work) can be very impactful, and my prayer is that we all get a chance to do that, whatever our areas of work may be,” he said.

Agreeing, Mr Han added: “It glorifies God if we make returns, but I don’t think God cares about our absolute returns.

“He is the king of a thousand hills, He doesn’t need our money. He wants us to (steward our resources) in a way that reflects His character and grows ours.”

It is also because of God’s good and sovereign leadership that we can be confident, even in the midst of current economic uncertainties, Dr Jaensubhakij said. 

Citing from Matthew 6 on the how God provides even for the birds of the air and the lilies in the field, he said: “I can give you some of my thoughts around what the future looks like. But I’m always reminded of of Jesus’s words to not be anxious about our life and about what we will eat and what we will drink, and that our lives and our future are indeed in God’s hands.

“God who loves us, knows every one of our concerns. So even as we look at an uncertain outlook, there is a sense of confidence that we can take into that.”

The Gatekeepers Dialogue, organised by Gatekeepers (Singapore), brings together Christian leaders across disciplines from different nations as an ekklesia to discern, share and address contemporary Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues from a Biblical context.


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About the author

Kelly Ng

Kelly Ng is a journalist and documentary filmmaker in Singapore. She enjoys distance running, being in nature and has a soft spot for snail mail. She attends Redemption Hill Church.