Sean McDowell | March 4, 2024

A Biblical View of Financial Planning (Interview!)

It might surprise many of you, but I have co-written a professional journal article for Financial Planning Review! What do I know about financial planning? Very little. But I partnered with Dr. Shane Enete, a business professor of finance at Biola University. We look at how worldview shapes the way people think about money. Whether you enjoy financial planning or not, I think you will find this interview to be an insightful and helpful look about how worldview affects everything we do.

SEAN MCDOWELL: How did you first get the idea to apply worldview thinking to financial planning?

SHANE ENETE: I was upset that the whole purpose of financial planning was to help people meet their life goals, but there was never any discussion about what those life goals should be. Put another way, no one in the financial planning industry was discussing what your life goals should be. Often if there is no discussion of what life goals should be, then advice quickly becomes shallow and simply about building wealth without any real purpose. Given this problem, I discovered that life goals are determined by values and values are determined by a personal worldview. Once this connection was made, it became clear that it would be a great omission by financial planners to ask clients for their life goals without discussing how their personal worldview may be informing their client's values.

MCDOWELL: What is the connection between worldview and one’s financial situation?

ENETE: A personal worldview is what helps provide the foundation for any particular client value. When comparing worldviews to value systems, a worldview is more fundamental than values since a worldview helps form the individual's foundational core of assumptions. The stronger a person has conviction in their worldview, the more likely they will adopt values that are intrinsically believed. Intrinsically believed value types include valuing community, spirituality, relationships, and personal growth. If a person believes a worldview with little conviction, then it is likely that they will simply adopt value types that are extrinsic to themselves, such as valuing wealth, fame, or image.

Helping someone identify their worldview will move them towards more intrinsically adopting a value type, which our paper predicts, leads to higher financial well-being. Once a person has an intrinsically held value system, they are predicted by research to have higher financial well-being, including lower debt, higher financial satisfaction, and more spending discipline. When a person has an extrinsically held value type, they are predicted by research to have lower financial well-being, including higher debt, lower financial satisfaction, and less spending discipline.

MCDOWELL: How could different worldviews adopted by people lead to different ways people make money decisions?

ENETE: Given that different worldviews have different core sets of assumptions, we would expect people to think about financial decisions differently. For example, when it comes to home buying, a 'New Age' worldview would likely highly value a home because it would bring about more control in creating a greater spiritual aesthetic which brings about an easier pathway towards cosmic consciousness. But a 'Islamic Theist' would likely view a home as a great privilege that comes with a great responsibility to be fully submissive to Allah with this resource, making sure that all his revealed commandments are followed within the context of homeownership. When speaking about retirement, Postmodern worldviews would strongly abhor any type of "metanarrative" about financial goals that they view as gaining power over them, such as the need to save for retirement; but they could be convinced to save for retirement if they see it as a functional pathway towards more autonomy. A 'Moralistic Therapeutic Deist' would hate the idea of saving for retirement since it calls for a restricting of their present enjoyment of life.

MCDOWELL: What is a Christian worldview of financial planning?

ENETE: The Christian worldview of financial planning sees God as the maker of the material world, so it is intrinsically good. God also gave man stewardship over that material world, allowing for freewill, leading towards a rebellion by humans against God's sovereignty and a material world that is fallen and in need of redemption. Resources are abundant when managed according to God's character of love and service. Christians steward their God-given resources as a calling, for God's glory. Paul gave a fantastic argument for how Christians should balance the tension between saving, giving, and spending in 2 Corinthians 8-9, when he said we should all "excel in the grace of giving." This means that giving becomes are priority and we use spending and saving as tools that help us sustain a higher level of generosity than if we were not using them.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell, TikTok, Instagram, and his blog: