While all eyes were on Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B) CEO Warren Buffett this weekend, Fr. Emmanuel Lemelson also had the honor of speaking at Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting in Omaha.
Fr. Lemelson Speaks
In his 21-minute presentation and subsequent Q&A session, Lemelson addressed a number of topics, including the distinctions between ownership and stewardship, ways investors can use their talents to contribute to the greater good and the good that capital can do in the world if managed in the right way. Here’s a summary of some of the highlights from the presentation.
Lemelson has used the scripture for guidance throughout his investing career, and he spoke about the Bible’s parable of the talents. In the parable, a master went on a trip, leaving his three servants in charge of his talents (assets) while he is gone. The first two servants took the talents and traded with them. The third servant buried his talent in a hole in the ground. When the master returned, he rewarded the first two servants for profiting off of the talents and punished the third servant, who simply focused on preserving what he was given.
Lemelson offered his interpretation of the parable.
“It’s saying don’t be afraid because faith and fear are incompatible,” he said.
“We can look at capital allocation as the good beyond oneself […] If we can make the intellectual leap from ‘this is ownership — this is my work’ to ‘this is stewardship to glorify an infinite God,’ to look beyond just the contributive factor of your own self to a source of those talents, a doxological activity, then it releases us intellectually,” he said.
Lemelson added that investors motivated by personal gains chasing ideas about ownership and social self-advancement will never get the type of peace that investors who act in accordance with God’s message can.
Balancing Stewardship With Ownership
“By having a notion of ourselves as instruments of God, using our talents, which were given to us freely, to glorify God frees us up […] to love a transcendent God who brought us into being in loving creation.”
Lemelson also noted charitable giving can be beneficial both financially and spiritually.
“Charities, as we all know, are incredibly tax-efficient,” he said.
Considering the massive amount of resources in financial markets today, Lemeson said there is a need for more of a Christian voice in the world of Wall Street.
“Let us bear witness in our faith to transform the activity, which has historically been owned by a separate religious group — I don’t know why, it’s not incompatible at all with Christianity, in fact I think it comes to its fullest manifestation in our Christian faith—to glorify God,” he said.
Capital As Incarceration Or Inoculation
Lemeson concluded his presentation by urging investors to think of how the rewards of their investing efforts can be used to glorify God and do His will rather than spent on fleeting pleasures and attempts to climb the social ladder.
“Capital can be a prison. It can absolutely be an inoculation to joy.”
In his Q&A session, Lemenson discussed…
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