How Can Stock Trading (or Any Other Job) Be a Path to Sainthood?

DIFFICULT MORAL QUESTIONS: Anyone, including a stock trader, who lives his livelihood in a Christlike way, is of incalculable worth to the Kingdom.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on June 10 in New York City.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on June 10 in New York City. (photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Q. Hello, my name is Mike from the Chicagoland area. I would like to know if it is gravely sinful to trade a stock or stock option based upon the technical study of its price action (called technical analysis), solely to make a profit? I would appreciate your reply. Thank you. —Mike

A. A stock is a small piece of ownership in a company purchased with hopes that the company’s value will increase over time and so produce a profit for the stockholder. Presuming a company is not involved in gravely immoral practices, and presuming the money one invests is not irresponsibly earmarked (i.e., should be spent caring for one’s prior duties, such as family, etc.), to purchase and trade a stock within the parameters set by the law is morally licit. And doing so using technical analysis tools to chart performance and predict future market behavior, all aimed at making a profit, is licit.

Perhaps your doubt arises from the question of how stock trading benefits the Kingdom. As Christians, aren’t we supposed to carry out the Great Commission in all we do (Matthew 28:16-20)? How am I fulfilling this commission by poring over charts trying to identify entry and exit points for potential trades? It’s a good question. 

Not just with stock trading, but with all our good works, Christians should ask: How am I advancing the Kingdom? We might be tempted to think that only a religious answer will do: I am an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, a reader at Sunday Mass, a parish council member or a parish festival volunteer; and while these are all good they miss the point of Vatican II’s teaching on the lay apostolate

Vatican II teaches that the domain of the laity is the saecula, the world, while the priest serves in the sanctuary. All spheres of secular life need the redemptive love of Jesus and laypeople are called to be ambassadors of that love. 

We fulfill this call by discerning our personal vocations, that is, the unique and unrepeatable plans that God has for each of us to cooperate with him in building his Kingdom. This plan includes our livelihood.

Whether in the boardroom or classroom, the office or kitchen, the auto shop or nursery — yes, even at our computers while trading stocks — we ask how this pursuit makes sense in light of my Christian faith. What is its potential for communicating God’s truth and love? How can it be used to confront evil in myself and in the world? How can I cooperate in advancing God’s divine plan through it?

You might wonder how this applies to stock trading. The technicalities are for you to discern. But no legitimate profession is excluded, however mundane. A stock trader who is honest in his dealings, kindly despite frustrations, forgiving to those who wrong him, patient with those who test him, diligent and trustworthy with his colleagues, and transparent, forthright and charitable to all — in other words, a stock trader who lives his livelihood in a Christlike way — is of incalculable worth to the Kingdom. You need to discern if this is where Jesus wants you, and if he does, then let it be a source of renewal.

The essence of the lay apostolate is living a Christlike life in the marketplace, imaging Christ in the world. This is the constant message of the Holy Spirit to the laity in the last 100 years. Bring Christ to every dark corner of the world and make known his love!

This teaching of Vatican II is hardly known. Catholics still believe that being a good Catholic means doing parish ministry or serving on the altar. Laypeople need to see that all parish work is the proper apostolate of the clergy. Vatican II teaches, to be sure, that the laity do well to assist the priest in his apostolate. 

But they have a mission of their own and that is to the world. We need to get past the idea that what the priest does is really holy while what laypeople do is second best. No! If Jesus calls me to be a husband, father, engineer, shopkeeper or mailman, then carrying out my duties as a Christian — living a Christlike life, being a perspicuous witness to those around me — can be every bit as holy for me as saying Mass is for a priest.

So to repeat what I said above, discern whether Jesus is calling you to trade stocks — and if he is, then be the best Christian stock trader you can be. Renew the profession for Christ. Sanctify your work by consecrating it to the daily service of the Kingdom. This goes for all livelihoods and professions, but especially those like stock trading that deal so directly with money, the love of which causes so many to compromise their faith (1 Timothy 6:1).  

Whether I am a stock trader, a garbage man, a stay-at-home mother or a teacher, strive by the grace of God to be an imago Christi to the world and a witness of living faith to a despairing age — to be cheerful in sorrow, faithful in discouragement, hopeful in darkness and gentle in suffering.