The Financial Seminary
A Temple Talk By Gary Moore
Founder, The Financial Seminary
St. Armands Key Lutheran Church
November 11, 2012
The theme of our stewardship campaign this year is "blessed to be a blessing." It's a most appropriate theme for us Evangelical Lutherans.
For example, some of you know that I'm an investment advisor who loves numbers but am also a stewardship author. If you read the October issue of Christianity Today, you know it actually asked three of us if it is stealing from God to give to the poor as well as the church. I was the only one who said giving to the poor is actually giving to God. Jesus, who is God, said what we do for the poor we do for him but most evangelical leaders, with exceptions like Ron Sider and Tony Campolo, have forgotten that.
Similarly, Chuck Colson and Timothy George have written: "Evangelicals also accept the formal and material principles of the Protestant Reformation." But few leaders seem to know that perhaps the central tenant of Luther's 95 Theses was that Christians must be taught that giving to the poor is preferable to indulgences, or money that is extracted from the laity for the building of "mega-churches" like St. Peter's in Rome.
As I love numbers as much as church history, I've usually bored you with my "little books of numbers" in the past. They hopefully reminded us of how financially blessed we Americans are, even if politicians and the media, both secular and religious, convince us each day that our problems are "the economy stupid." You can relax as I'm not going to do that this year. The stewardship committee wisely thought a more personal reflection might be more interesting to you. If my facts have bored you during recent years, you can thank the committee by increasing your pledge for next year!
There is no question that I've lived an unbelievably blessed life. How much of a blessing I've been to others will be up to God one day. I'm sure I'm not sufficiently humble to make that judgment. I can only assure you that my blessings are by the grace of God as I've deserved exactly none of them. For example, I was born into a financially poor but spiritually rich home. I can only thank God that the only book my family could afford was a big book of Bible stories. So I now try to bless others by making ideas that were quite relevant to the herdsmen and gatherers of biblical times more relevant to people whose wealth is in stocks and bonds.
As poor as we were, we were blessed to always feel rich. I'll long remember my mother telling me that my grandfather sold a $300 cash crop at the bottom of the Great Depression. That was their annual cash flow. But it allowed granddad to buy fruit and nuts for the seven kids at Christmas time. They were so very grateful for the bounty. So today, I often bless those in financial despair with the reality that was fairly typical during the Great Depression. Yet studies indicate people were just as happy and our nation was certainly more united.
Somehow, my parents were able to bless three kids by getting us through college without our incurring any debt. So Sherry and I did our best to bless our son Garrett the same way. That indicates it's much, much easier for financial blessings to trickle down when they are lubricated by grateful spirits on the part of the blessed.
I was blessed to discover during the stock market crash of 1987 that there is no true security in securities. Today, this old guy approaching retirement is learning there is no true security in Social Security. So I simply try to bless those I counsel by assuring them that Mother Teresa had a point when she said the only true security is needing little and having it, which may be the central stewardship teaching of the Bible.
The '87 crash coincided with the birth of Garrett. The two converged and blessed my soul as I discovered what's truly important in life. I then contemplated attending an Episcopal seminary to share the blessings of my new perspective of true wealth. Several congregations were blessed as the church encouraged me to stay on Wall Street!
I was then blessed by being forced to discover at a relatively young age that Luther was precisely correct that everyone's careers are more meaningful when we view ourselves as ministers. So I began a decades-long endeavor to better integrate my faith with what I do on Wall Street. Today, I try to bless others by sharing the reality that if this guy, so dependent on the grace that Luther cherished, can integrate Wall Street with our faith, they can surely find meaning and purpose in their lives by integrating what they do.
Of all the blessed lessons my many seeming disappointments have provided over the decades, that might be the most important blessing I can bestow upon you today. Whether you are an investment advisor, realtor, CPA or a retired grandparent, your life can be blessed by joining what Luther called "the priesthood of all believers." Too often, I'm afraid we simply see our job in ministry as financing the ministry of our beloved pastors. In fact, too often we're often taught that most non-Lutheran theology.
Funding the work of this church is a crucial element of Lutheran stewardship. I deeply appreciate our comfortable building, wonderful music and even the air conditioning. And all the workmen who provide those blessings, particularly our pastors, are worthy of their hire, as the Bible says. I just hope you never, ever forget that Luther said we are all as much ministers as the clergy. They need our partnership in this old world.
I expect you already knew that. Most Lutherans apparently do. That is why I can sneak just one fact in before I close. It was in my current issue of Forbes magazine. Forbes listed the fifty largest charities in the United States. The third largest charity by revenue was Catholic Charities USA, at $4.6 billion. The second largest was the YMCA, at $6 billion. And the largest was Lutheran Services in America, at fully $18 billion, three times larger than the second largest charity. I'd also note your bulletin this morning says we are raising money for four non-LSA charities outside our church.
Pride may not be a Christian virtue. But I think we will be forgiven if we smile just once over those numbers. We hear a lot, particularly from Evangelical leaders, about the supposed death of the mainline churches. But there were very, very few evangelical ministries even way down the Forbes list. I expect the good news we bring to the poor might be included if crusty old Martin Luther was writing his 95 Theses today! Surely we Lutheran's have been blessed to be a blessing to many others, both inside our church walls and outside them, with our time, talent and particularly our treasure.
Thank you, and may God continue to bless you to be a blessing to others.