This was originally published in The Message – The newspaper of the Diocese of Evansville.
Now, that’s a weird title. I have written quite a bit, both here and elsewhere, how the notion that “stewardship” is not just about money, and now I am going to compare it to the chief money engine in the world: the United States stock market.
Actually, it’s an analogy and not a comparison.
What you see in the line graph is the performance of equity mutual funds between 2002 and 2018. The bar graph is the cash coming into those funds over the same time period.
We have been told – rightly so – that the key to investment success is to buy low and sell high. But what the data show are investors will inevitably do the opposite. As markets hit tops, people throw money at it. When it hits bottoms, they can’t get out fast enough. They buy high and sell low, the exact opposite of what they should do.
There are several lessons here.
- Investors are generally irrational. (There is much data that confirms this, as well as the entire academic field of Behavioral Finance.) Thus, they:
- Do things contrary to their own best interests because;
- Actions are fueled by emotion, not logic, and;
- Investors don’t want to be the first one in or the last one out, because;
- It hurts more to lose than it feels good to win, and;
- Nobody wants to make a bad investment, because nobody wants to get hurt.
There you have it. This is how it relates to stewardship. If that’s not entirely clear, read on.
Have you ever been at Mass where Father steps up to the ambo and says “We really need your help, and we need it right now. Without more money/ volunteers/ books/ computers we will have to close the school/ raise the tuition/ borrow money.”
The picture is painted that there is a big problem. There is a hole in the hull and we are taking on water. The ship is sinking.
How many people rush to get ON a sinking ship?
Nobody wants to be a part of a failing venture. People take money out of the stock market because it is heading down and they don’t want to lose any more.
People stop giving their time, talent, and treasure to the Church because they don’t see a good outcome and they want to limit their loss.
FULL STOP RIGHT THERE.
Loss? In the Church? Huh?????
The problems in the Church, and there are many, are human problems. They are created because of our sinful nature, and as sinful people we are ALL responsible for the problems. They are not the exclusive property of the priests, bishops, or the Pope. They are our problems.
Let’s think about this. The Church is the Church of Jesus Christ, who is STILL the head of it.
“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” Mt 16: 18
Why should you put your time, talent, and treasure towards the Church?
Because unlike the stock market, Jesus is a sure thing. Easiest investment decision you will ever make.