The Narrow Gate

Steve was fresh out of school and walking into what seemed for him a “dream” job as a financial advisor. He would benefit from the experience of his three senior partners and hoped he would quickly build up his client base. He trusted his partners, as they all appeared to be men of strong faith and integrity.

Steve had worked at the firm for nearly a year when noticed a persistent and disconcerting trend in his client mix. Almost all of the people he had seen came to him with small to non-existent investment portfolios. At the same time, many of them were struggling to overcome large debt. As the partners shared information about the number and kind of investments they managed, he realized that he lagged far behind them. At first, this was no surprise, as he had not been in the business for long. But after a year, the trend continued, and as the size of the investments he managed affected his income, he also saw his earnings lagging as well. He decided to investigate.

An Uncomfortable Discovery

He went to speak with the office manager responsible for setting up new client accounts.

“Hi, Jeralyn.”

“Good morning, Mr. Parker.”

“I was wondering if you could help me understand something about my new client accounts.”

“Yes?”

“It seems that most of the people coming to me are new to financial planning and investments. At the same time, many of them carry a lot of debt. I was wondering if that’s true for all of our new clients?”

“Oh, not at all. Our newest clients have a wide range of assets and income potential.”

“Hmmm. It seems to me that most of mine are at the lower end of the scale. Doesn’t that strike you as odd?”

“Not at all. Mr. Baker and Mr. Johnson gave me specific instructions that you were to be assigned all the lower end clients.”

“Why would they do that?”

“I assumed that’s how you wanted it.”

Steve walked away dumbfounded. What was going on? He knew what it looked like — that his senior partners were cherry-picking new customers so they could maximize their profits. He decided to stay calm and not make any hasty judgments, but he would make sure a discussion about the client mix would be on the agenda at their next weekly meeting.

Looking for Answers

Every Tuesday morning, the four partners would get together for breakfast, prayer, and to discuss market trends and other business issues. Steve finally got a chance to air his concerns. He ended with a simple question: “What’s going on here?”

Matt Baker, one of the two founding partners of the firm, was the first to speak.

“Well, Steve, you know that we’ve been doing this a long time now. We started from scratch, and we’ve done it all. We’re giving you a chance to build up your experience, too. By diverting all the younger clients to you first, we’re helping you get busy more quickly. Although the portfolios may be smaller, you’ll make up for it in volume.”

Ted Johnson, the other founding partner, jumped in.

“That’s right, Steve. Trust me. This will help you in the long run.”

Steve didn’t buy it, but he did believe his partners believed they were acting in his best interest, and the approach just coincidentally happened to be in their best interest, as well.

All of this left Steve with a dilemma. In the first place, he felt betrayed by his partners — men whom he had trusted to act fairly and to look out for his interests as well as their own. He wondered what this would mean for how they would get along in the future.

He was miffed at himself for assuming the firm would assign clients in an equitable way. Truthfully, he had never even considered that it might work otherwise.

Finally, the whole thing just felt unfair. Anger and resentment rumbled under his pleasant demeanor. For days it was all he could think about. He started thinking about his options, including leaving the firm. It was in this whirl of emotions that he turned to God in prayer.

Going through the Narrow Gate (Matt. 7:13-14)

It was hard to pray without ruminating on the situation, so his first step was to give everything over to God. He began to see that while it all seemed a big deal right now, that in the eternal scheme of things, what happened to him didn’t make a bit of difference. What would make a difference was his response. His circumstances didn’t change a thing when it came to his relationship with Jesus. As he entrusted his present and future to Christ, his anger diminished, and he stopped dwelling on issues like fairness and his financial success. The spiritual reality meant much more to him than the physical one.

Next, he realized he had to forgive his partners.  Given how he felt, that was a tall order. But the Holy Spirit softened his heart, and eventually, he wanted to forgive them. He wanted to love them.

Finally, the Holy Spirit helped him to see his job in a different light. Rather than a pathway to financial and professional success, it was the way God had called him to serve Him and to love his neighbor. While he was bemoaning his relatively lower income, he had an opportunity to make a difference by helping others navigate important decisions in their lives. The obstacles his clients faced went beyond financial need. They were spiritual challenges, and Steve could help his clients adopt a spiritual perspective that wealthier clients may have already rejected.

Were his partners taking advantage of him? Probably. Could he make a greater income if he changed firms and negotiated a more favorable client mix? Likely. Could he achieve greater worldly success? Without a doubt. Steve wasn’t sure what other Christian disciples should do if they were in his situation, but it became clear what God wanted him to do.

Carrying a new heart and perspective into work, he began to really care about his clients. Sometimes they would share their life stories. Steve would listen and encourage them while helping them to see how God was at work in their lives. He helped his clients work their way out of debt and began to fund their retirement and kids’ education. At the same time, Steve prospered, both financially and spiritually. Did his income grow to the same degree as his partners? No. But he still had an adequate income and was able to provide for his family while he gave to others. Serving Christ and doing God’s will led to true freedom and satisfaction in life.

 

The Narrow Gate is one of a series of stories about people overcoming everyday obstacles as they follow Christ.

 

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