In this episode of Inspiring Stewards, Nathan Jones talks to Manju George from India. She talks about how seeing Christ as her Redeemer brought meaning and direction in her life. As a chartered accountant, she shares how her work and calling brings financial integrity and excellence to the lives of the individuals and institutions with whom she interacts. Finally, she encourages us to clarify our relationship with money and God so that we can be generous stewards.
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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.
In today’s episode, we head back to the eastern hemisphere to Bangalore, India to meet with Manju George. Manju now serves in a variety of capacities that help ensure financial accountability and transparency in India through both her professional career as a chartered accountant and as a board member with Global Trust Partners.
My name is Nathan Jones and I’ll be serving as your host on this episode of the Inspiring Stewards podcast.
Manju, it's so good to be with you this morning. I'm excited to dive in to hear your story and how God is working through you in your part of the world. So, you know, let's just jump in. Give us a little bit of your story, where you're from, your family of origin – just to peek into your life growing up.
Lovely, Nathan. As you know, Nathan, I live in Bangalore in South India. I've lived in India all my life. I've grown up, you know, in a few other cities up north, you know, India is a big country. And as you also know that India is a large country with diverse cultures and traditions, religions, diverse economic conditions and different forms of discrimination, as well.
So, you know, growing up as a girl child, I'm so grateful to have had freedom to study and to explore various opportunities. And because of that freedom I had, I chose to become a chartered accountant, a certified public accountant, as you would call it in other parts of the world. And that was a course that not many girls would've ventured into, at least at that point of time. And definitely finance was not something that women were really getting into.
So here I was, you know, getting into this course and to top that it was a very tough course, as far as India's concerned. It's an exam that very, very few people pass. So, to my own pleasant surprise, I passed the exam because I wasn't doing really academically very well in high school, but I still passed the exam. So, looking back, I believe that all these opportunities and the qualification was something that God was preparing me for a larger picture and a larger purpose in my life.
So, talking about my family, as you know, again, Christianity came to India 2000 years ago, actually when Thomas, the disciple of Jesus, came to south India, the state where I'm from. And, in fact, he worked and died in India. Thomas, that is. And my parents belong to the Syrian Orthodox church, which actually takes pride in being in existence for that long. So, I was brought up in this, traditional, you know, Orthodox Christian home with a lot of emphasis on good values and right behavior. Well, Nathan, that’s a peek into my childhood.
That's fascinating, just to think about the history of Christianity and it's spreading to that part of our world so, so many years ago. So, share a little bit about how you came to Christ. It sounds like it was possibly early on in life.
Right. So, you know, my mother had a very strong faith in Jesus, so I was introduced to Christ from childhood. And as far as I can remember, you know, there was never a day I would go to bed without really praying and reading my Bible. Perhaps there was some element of fear because initially in my life, we lived in the border area where there we did have one or two wars at that point of time. And so maybe that was a reason, but whatever. You know, there was never a day I would not pray and go without prayer that I would go to sleep.
As I grew up, Jesus became a friend and He was someone I would always go to for the things I needed. However, at around age 16, you know, I had already started my chartered accountancy course, I started feeling disillusioned, you know. I just felt like there was no purpose in life. For two reasons, you know, I was trying to live this good life. Like I told you, we had a lot of emphasis in good behavior. I sort of lived this good life. I was happy with myself sometimes and I was upset with myself at other times. Like, it just felt like, you know, I'm not able to be the kind of person I'd love to be.
And on the other hand, I just felt like, okay, so now I'm going to study, and I'm going to do this course and I'm going to get a good job, make a lot of money, get married, have children, and then die like everybody else. So, you know, what's the purpose of life at all? That really bothered me.
But you know, very very quickly I had some friends of mine who introduced me and who actually presented me a Christ as someone who is not just someone who loves me and who's a friend to me, but who died for my sins and redeemed me. And that just changed the way I looked at life and my relationship with Christ. And I said, I commit my life to follow Jesus. That was the beginning.
Wow. That's beautiful. So what impact did then that decision have on your life? It sounds like it was a transformational point.
Right. It actually brought me a meaning, direction, a new zeal and passion for life. It was no longer something that I was going to do that would end in debt, but it gave me a hope for an eternal life, right? That which I would start spending on earth for some time and then move on to eternity. So, it just became eternity centric, right?
Yes, I was still a teenager, but it was just that one thing that kind of drove me, you know, with passion. Then, the good values and the right behavior took a new dimension altogether because then it was no longer, you know, this is what I want to do. But I said, I'm going to do it in obedience to what the Word of God teaches me, what the Bible teaches me. Well, I didn't always succeed, but I was committed to it. I think that was a big change. I said I was committed to keep going and keep moving forward, you know, and include God in everything I did.
That's amazing. I love the energy. It takes me back to, you know, my teenage years and some of the conversion in my life of moving from just an inherited faith to something that was real and alive and personal. That happened for me in that same stage. So wonderful. Wonderful.
Well, let's jump ahead. 2021, here we are coming to the end of the year. And, how does the Lord have you involved in his kingdom today? From a work perspective, you mentioned that you're a chartered accountant. But how does that fit into the bigger picture of calling in your life that's become more and more clear?
So, I went on to become a chartered accountant, like I told you. And that's important because I believe that that is my calling and that kind of gels with what I do. So, I pursued my dream of having own firm of being a practicing chartered accountant. I say this because I also, as chartered accountants, we also have the option of being a finance manager or CFO or things like that. But I was very clear that I want to be in practice and have my own firm, you know.
Miraculously, actually, I became a partner in a well-established firm that had a great emphasis on good values. So, that's how I got in to become, you know, a part of an accounting firm and have my own firm. I joined them and then I became a partner of the firm. You know, practice would give me a wide exposure to various businesses and charities and how people ran their businesses. And it gave me opportunities to advise on finance related matters and audits.
I just learned that, you know, this is my calling and that I have to be a good steward of my business. That's what I'm called for, you know. Then, I learned that, you know, giving tax advice and audits and all of that is also part of God's plan for this earth, and that's what I'm called for, you know.
There was a time in my life when I just felt, you know, all this doesn't make sense in an eternity perspective. You know, why would tax advice make any sense in an eternity perspective? But then when I saw it in the big picture of how God was showing it to me, and I'd said, yes, this is where I'm called to, and I'm going to be doing it well.
It then gave me a platform, I believe, to serve with excellence and integrity, you know. And it gave me meaning. So, we make every effort to be thorough and excellent with the way we do our work, you know. And I believe that is itself being a showcasing of a good steward. And, you know, we would always put the interest of our clients before our own interests of making money. And that's something that's very tempting, I must say, as a consultant, because you can always give advice, you know, with this thing at the back of your head that, okay, if I say this, this is going to turn around to business for me, right? So, you know, so I have to keep, we have to keep the interest of our clients in mind. And that was something that we keep doing and remind ourselves so that we always have a win-win situation. Doesn’t mean that, you know, we do anything for charity, but, whatever we do, there's going to be a win-win situation.
The other thing that we do is to avoid paying bribes of any kind. Now, it's not so easy because if you're paying bribes, life becomes much easier, things get done faster. But there is a price to pay when you choose to say that I'm not going to be paying a bribe. It does mean that, you know, maybe sometimes even some clients say, I don't want to work with you. You know, it doesn't matter because we going to stand by our values. So, that's something that we've been pursuing.
To have a successful practice while maintaining these levels of integrity seemed like it was an impossibility. But looking back at the 30 years of my practice as a chartered accountant and several more years that doubled the years in the firm that I'm part of, we can testify that what seemed impossible has worked possible, you know?
Also, as a young CA, I would pray that God would use me to bring about financial integrity and excellence in the lives of people. And I must say being an expert in this field has given me a platform to teach, train, advise individuals, businesses, churches, Christian organizations, other NGOs, and all of them. It gives me a platform to be able to teach and train, you know, not just on finance management, including biblical approach to all of these things and what the Bible teaches on all of this.
That's why I'm inspired by the vision of Global Trust Partners, as well. You know, as a board member of GTP, it gives me joy to see GTP being used to build good governance and administration among churches and ministries globally.
The other thing I must say – lastly, I must add this as well – how all of this falls into my life: I learned the power of generosity. And I used the word “power” because we learned that giving, giving, giving breaks the hold that money has on our lives. And as a family, we keep increasing our giving and that's such a blessing. It's such a joy to be able to do that. And we are also involved in serving communities as a family, Nathan. I think that's, in a nutshell, how all of this fits into what I'm doing right now.
Well, it’s a powerful… You talk about the role that accounting plays in running NGOs – here in North America, we call nonprofit organizations – but it really helps keep an organization, keeps the order of serving God and serving money in order as Jesus taught us personally. We can take that to an organizational level. So, this is the Inspiring Stewards podcast. Tell us how the concept of stewardship has informed your life today. You've already started to mention a little bit about that.
As I said, very early in life, I was inspired by this whole principle of excellence and integrity. As I learned the word of God, I realized that these are actually principles of stewardship, which flow from the fact that I'm not the owner of anything, but God is. I believe that the concept of stewardship is key to my relationship with God. You know, if I'm going to say, what is the concept of stewardship and how does it inform my life? I believe the stewardship concept is like key to a relationship with God. Because when I keep reminding myself that God is the source of all that I am and all that I have, I choose to do what He expects of me as a good steward, which in turn strengthens my relationship with God. And that's why I say it's key.
The understanding that money is not… is only a God-given tool to fulfill God-given responsibilities in my life – it just helps me stay away from the love of money, which the Bible tells me the source of all evil, right? So, you know, stewardship, I think, is so key. And then, like I said, the concept of stewardship, I believe, which taught us generosity and generosity, I find multiply stewards. The reason I say that is in 2 Corinthians 9:11, he talks about generosity and tells about sowing generously and that verse, it says you will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion and through your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
I know I learned that as I obey in giving, it causes those who benefit from it to look to God as their Source and Provider of all things.
What I love about this concept of stewardship is, what you just described, goes back to Scripture. And here I am, thousands of miles away from where you are, but the same principle is true: that when we sow generosity, it inspires generosity, and your story is doing that. It's powerful.
How are you seeing God at work in the world around you, whether it's locally or globally? We talked even before this interview about the ways that God is speaking to us and the church and His followers at this time in history. How are you seeing Him at work?
Well, I believe this whole concept of stewardship is something that God is moving. Because, like I said earlier, it kind of strengthens your personal relationship with God and that – it strengthens your personal relationship with God – is key in everything that we do around us. You know, the service that is offered is dependent on this whole personal relationship thing.
I just feel like God is bringing about good administration, compliance, transparency, fight against corruption as well, because I can see that shift as far as India's concerned. I can see the churches and Christian organizations actually move into a state of better governance, better administration. There's a feeling of saying, you know, I need to be a good steward, right? And after all, all perfect and good thing comes from God.
Of course, globalization, digitization, expectancy of greater accountability and transparency has triggered change, right? But we are seeing a lot of change. And I must testify on one aspect: we are also seeing the government in India, as well, making changes that just helped us deal with corruption.
I tell you why I'm saying this because digitization in India has reduced human interface. So, we have things like what we call “faceless assessment.” This is where we do not need to meet a government official at all. And thereby, it minimizes the pressure of bribes, which was where, you know, the pressure of bribes always came in from. So, with this whole change in the infrastructure where we say – they call it “faceless assessment” where you don't really see anybody, you're only sending letters and putting up things up on the internet. And so that's just changing the environment and that should help us refocus on our vision. And I believe that's, that's a big change. That’s important.
Yeah, this is such a unique time with the digital approach to life in so many ways. I mean, even here, here we are on Zoom, thousands of miles apart, and able to have this conversation like we're right across the street, across the table, which is fascinating. And may God use that for His glory. Manju, it's been so good. As we're wrapping up here, any final thoughts for those listening in today?
I would encourage everyone to be clear about your relationship with money and God. Money and God: I believe that's a great equation, which we need to think about. And if you are able to do that in your own lives, whether you're a business person trying to maximize your profits or you're an individual trying to make your ends meet or you’re a pastor trying to raise funds for your projects.
If you have this relationship right, I believe almost everything else will fall in place. So that's one thing I like to leave everyone with. And, secondly, I think in this process, I would encourage you to try out the resources at GTP.org. There are some excellent resources out there. Thirdly, I'd say: be generous.
Great word. Manju, thank you again. We really appreciate it.