Stephen Riady - Agent of God or the Other Way Around?

Mar 17, 2009
*Special to asia!
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At Newton Circus, one of Singapore’s busiest traffic junctions, a large sign catches the eyes of motorists and irritates many of them. “Fully Sold, Thanks be to God” has been standing for a year, ever since the Lippo group sold the last condominium in its Newton One development. It will be there until the project is done in about two years.


To Stephen Riady, who runs the Singapore side of the Lippo group, the sign is an affirmation of his standing as a Christian. To others, it is so in-your-face that it gives Christianity a bad name.

“He shouldn’t bring God into this,” said a pastor of a major church who declined to be named. “Buying or selling property is a secular decision.”

To the Riadys, the answer is simple. To them the Christian god manifests himself in everything the Riadys do. If they make a huge profit from Newton One, it is no doubt God’s will.

If the Riadys are right, this would make Newton One the first property project in Singapore to receive divine intervention. The first to be recorded, at any rate.

This opens up interesting theological issues. If the Christian god has indeed taken a direct hand in selling Newton One, is he helping only the Riadys, or does his blessing extend to the buyers as well? If it does, would it mean that the buyers are unlikely to lose money from their purchases? Where exactly does divine intervention in the buying chain of Newton One end? These are issues most clergymen are unwilling to address. A priest, when asked about Newton One, pointed to a passage in a Bible. It was the teaching of Jesus as told in Matthew, chapter 22, verse 21. Jesus was asked a politically loaded question by the Pharisees, who were jealous of his popularity. They asked him whether the Jews should pay taxes to the Roman Caesar, their colonial master. Jesus told them they should “render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.” (Matthew 22:21). To the priest, it is an admonition for Christians not to mix religion with money matters. It will be interesting to see how Stephen Riady interprets this passage.


lee han shihLee Han Shih is the founder, publisher and editor of asia! Magazine.


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