In this episode of Inspiring Stewards, Nathan Jones talks to Roger Lam from Hong Kong. He urges people around the world to serve God instead of serving Mammon. He talks about increasing our ability to give more freely, especially in a society where the rich have been becoming richer and the poor have been becoming poorer. Instead, he directs us to enrich ourselves towards God and honor God in our living and giving.
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The music is Concerto a’ 4 Violini No 2 by Telemann played on classical guitar by Jon Sayles. Published by Exzel Music Publishing.
Today, we head to Hong Kong to spend time with Roger Lam. Roger has a background as an investment banker and is being used by God in powerful ways as an advocate for generosity and stewardship.
My name is Nathan Jones and I’ll be serving as your host today on this episode of the Inspiring Stewards podcast.
Roger, thank you so much for taking time to be with me today. I’m really looking forward to diving into your story and what the Lord is gonna do through our time. So let’s just jump into it. Give us a little bit of your background, your life growing up, a peek into who you are.
Well, thank you, Nathan, for having me. I'm Roger Lam. I’m from Hong Kong. I’m a 4th generation Christian and I've been in the finance and banking industry for 25 years.
The defining moment of my childhood was losing my birthright in the form of our family business when I was 14 years old. Quite frankly, up til I was 14, I relied on my family business as my rock. It was quite devastating as a teenager, knowing that my dad no longer had any income stream and that he wanted to move our family to Vancouver.
That made my personality have a 180-degree turn. I became very driven to succeed but it was out fear and anger.
Share with us how you came to know the Lord in a story.
Well, despite going to church all my life, it was only head knowledge about Jesus. After losing the family business, then I relied on myself as my rock. I became super cutthroat, overly competitive. But that kind of modus operandi of working really hard, being driven out of fear and anger, it brought me some success academically. It got me into a very good college in upstate New York and it also brought me success in the first 10 years of my career.
However, I experienced two huge setbacks within a 24-hour period in 2003. That was the year which SARS hit Hong Kong. I became super depressed and I flatly recognized that I couldn’t rely on my own strength either.
I had long struggled with an invitation from an ex-colleague from the mid-1990s to attend her small group at church. That Sunday, I went to church after the two setbacks, and guess who I bumped into? That same ex-colleague from the mid-90s. And what was the first thing that came out of her mouth? “Will you come to my small group?”
At that point, I thought to myself, “Well, Roger, you’re down in the pits. What else have you got to lose?” So I said to her, “I'll be there. When is it? Where is it? You know, I’d love to come check it out.” That was the pivotal moment in terms of me starting to build a personal relationship with Jesus.
You know, just knowing a little bit about your story, Roger, and what your career was in, it's a type of life that so many would aspire to. But when you realize that even having wealth, having resources wasn't enough, that’s such a powerful testimony to the impact that Christ has in our life to point us towards true joy. So that decision to turn your life over to Jesus, what impact did that then have after that point?
Well, the first impact it had, through attending the small group, was through an outreach activity which I participated in. It was the first time that I had brought a care bag to go visit some elderly folks and I was assigned to visit this particular elderly gentleman. He had just checked out of a hospice. He was very lucky, quite frankly, to be able to leave the hospice somehow. He was old. He was in poor health but he was living on his own. His living conditions was less than ideal. It was really rather cramped and it was not exactly very clean or hygienic.
Now, I had only brought a small care bag of goodies with me. I sat down at his small little place. I had a cup of tea with him and chatted for about 15 minutes. And I just could not believe how happy he was for anyone to stop by to visit him and to spend some time with him and to chat with him. That started to alter my definition of success. It was no longer just about getting paid handsomely or to get promoted rapidly. That really started to – you know, for the lack of a better term – really start to change my heart of stone into a heart of flesh in terms of having a heart for the poor and the needy.
That’s beautiful. So let’s jump ahead to 2021. How is the Lord involving you in His Kingdom today? Tell us about what you’re doing by way of work, your vocation, your calling.
Sure. Well, I left banking in late 2017. Initially, I thought my sort of Matthew 6:33-type deal with God was to write a book that had been on my heart for a few years and then He would get me back on a regular paycheck type of work in finance or something. But instead…
Sounds like a good plan to me.
[Laughs] Yeah, I thought so too. But instead, He called me into a new line of work that I have never dreamed of before: becoming a non-traditional independent missionary focused on unveiling the deceitfulness of wealth, which according to the parable of the sower makes believers unfruitful.
Now, this calling was confirmed by a year-long sequence of events with the most improbable coincidences throughout 2018, which began before my first book, Lost and Found: Money versus Riches, was published.
Instead of chasing more monetary security in my prime earning years, I’m using every speaking opportunity God gives me to encourage people around the world to serve God instead of serving Mammon. It upsets me a great deal when I think about how money could possibly challenge the supremacy of God.
That is such a powerful statement when Jesus reminds us that you cannot serve both God and money. There’s not an option there. And your life is such a testimony to God of the truth of that. So, you know this is the Inspiring Stewards podcast. How does this concept of stewardship inform your life today? We’ve already started to see a bit of that but anything else you would share?
Yeah, that’s a great question. Well, I had an epiphany on my birthday February last year. That despite all I was doing and advocating on a full-time basis, I was still acting like the one talent servant in the parable of the talents in terms of how I invested: always trying to take the lowest possible risk, just enough to meet my needs financially.
In light of the COVID situation, the infinite quantitative easing that’s being pumped into the system and the disturbing wealth gap that’s between the haves and the have-nots around the world, it struck me that inflation was going to be inevitable. And it’s the responsibility of those who have been blessed with the ability to invest in assets to do so on behalf of those who don’t even have the opportunity to participate. So the rich have been becoming richer and the poor have been becoming poorer. The goal is, with greater returns, it’s not to elevate my standard of living but to increase my ability to give more freely.
That is so powerful. You know, in light of how God has been working obviously in powerful ways in your life and through your life, how are you seeing God at work locally, globally? In what ways are you seeing the truths of His Kingdom coming to bear on the world around you?
There was one particular moment around this time last summer that really moved my heart. The minister of education in Hong Kong announced that the school term was gonna start on September 1st but all the instruction was gonna be given online instead. So, I went to get laptops for my kids and then the next day, a thought struck me, “What about all the underprivileged children in Hong Kong? How are they – they’re going to fall further and further behind in education.”
This is not just a phenomenon in Hong Kong. I mean, the last academic year we saw a lot of disruption globally with school children forced to stay home and receive instruction online while schools are shut due to COVID.
And it was pleasing to me to see many creative efforts around the world from Christians and also non-Christians alike trying to help underprivileged children to get access to laptops, tablets, WiFi access, SIM cards, you name it, in order that they don’t fall further behind in education.
Praise be to God, I had the privilege of being part of a group in Hong Kong called $10,000 Reasons consisting of brothers and sisters from different churches, denominations, and ministries. By the grace of God, even though none of us initially had any idea how to raise funds for this particular purpose and none of us had access to any school network, whether it’s the underprivileged schools that are in desperate need or the really privileged schools where they had excess equipment to donate. But by the grace of God, after a few months of hard work, we managed to come up with over 2,400 laptops and tablets and over a thousand SIM cards for the underprivileged school children in Hong Kong.
It was a truly humbling experience for me in that God was so gracious in using not so much the equipped to do such a wonderful thing for such a time as that for the needy in Hong Kong but He was willing to use my opennes and availability in really perfecting the stewardship and the generosity that’s been in training for me for quite some time. And it was such a beautiful to see it come to fruition in addressing a real life need in Hong Kong.
That’s powerful. I did quick math. That is no small price tag to get 2,400 devices and a thousand SIM cards. It’s just a modern parable of seeing the loaves and the fishes replicate and the spirit of God behind it and it’s such a beautiful thing. We pray that this would inspire more and more generosity globally.
Roger, thank you for your time. What final thoughts would you leave with us today?
That’s a tall order. Let me… I think I’ll go with this:
God is not a financial killjoy when he’s effectively asking us to spend less on ourselves by tithing and giving to those in need. He actually wants us to be rich but in the right timeframe.
Even since Genesis 6:3, our lifetime here has been capped at a maximum of 120 years. Despite thousands and thousands of years of advances in medical sciences, no one ever seems to live past 120.
Now, even if you asked a young child, “Do you want to be rich for a day or 120 years?” Innately, we would opt for the longer term. So I firmly believe what God is asking us to do is really wanting to enrich us for eternity so that we can be rich towards Him for the eternal long term.
I’ll close with this from 1 Samuel 2:30: Those who honor God, God will honor. So, not only are there promises for the eternal long term, God also has a lot promises for honoring us and helping us get through. I’m not suggesting that it’s all happy-clappy and I’m certainly not suggesting that giving is a means of getting so I’m definitely not talking about prosperity gospel. But maybe, you know, enriching ourselves towards Him for the eternal long term, that is true prosperity gospel.
That is beautiful. Roger, thank you for sharing your life with us today and allowing the Lord to work through you in impacting so many. God bless you, brother.
Praise be to God.