What is your moral understanding of wealth and how it should be used?
Jeff Hassler: "Like all blessings from God, material wealth is neither an end unto itself nor only a gift for our enjoyment, but is primarily a resource for the recipient to steward for God’s glory. This stewardship can be exercised in myriad ways, among them generosity, care for the vulnerable, hospitality, economic development, and investment in others. Those who are blessed with great wealth must constantly guard against greed, self-indulgence, and idolatry, and instead seek to understand and follow God’s will for His abundance. Those who work with the wealthy should always be looking for opportunities to encourage these virtues in their clients."
Brian Brown: "The crucial thing is to remember we are trustees, not owners. We have an obligation to the person or people who gave us these riches, and to the people who might benefit from them in the future. While owners can do whatever they want with their property, and think their ownership gives them superior insight or rights, trusteeship requires humility, because we are responsible for the consequences of how we use our wealth—not just our intentions."
David Evans: "I really believe in the idea that we are stewards of his wealth. If we are to be good stewards of wealth (and gifts), we need to be about our Master's business. Wealth, in its proper role, is a tool like all other tools. Used in the right way, it can be a blessing to the steward. How should it morally be used? After tithing, listening to the Holy Spirit and using it to glorify the Father."
How does business tie into the Creation mandate? What's the theologically-informed purpose and essence of business? What does your business do and how is that good in a fundamental sense?
Jim Lerner: "People may enter into business ventures for the sake of making money, but an individual or an organization cannot do so without a firm purpose. A company, in the words of Pope St. John Paul II, is a community “who in various ways are endeavoring to satisfy their basic needs, and who form a particular group at the service of the whole of society.” In other words, individual entrepreneurs or collective groups must understand the particulars of their business model, work in such a way that compliments human dignity, and apply their understanding to use their product or service to the betterment of their fellow man. A business, then, by its very nature must be situated within a wider culture of life."
Jeff Hassler: "At its best, business can facilitate human flourishing by enabling individuals and groups of individuals to discover and live out their vocations in ways that are personally fulfilling and that provide a net benefit to their communities. Like any human institution, business is susceptible to corruption and abuse when done in sinful ways or with sinful motives. In the world of wealth management generally, I see the role of my bank as helping families steward their resources and business owners provide good and services in ways that serve and bless Richmond, Virginia, and the world."
Brian Brown: "The business owners who create the most net flourishing around them (including their own) are the ones that have figured out a way to solve a real problem, and empower other people (employees, customers, etc.) to be a part of that solution. This is why great entrepreneurs, with a right understanding of trusteeship, are so important—they can be catalysts for thriving people and organizations, not just in how they give away their profits, but in the actual process of making their profits.
Current technology and social trends have created an opportunity: for a new generation of companies to arise that are built to thrive like never before, by operating more like people were designed to than ever before. We built Narrator to help organizations take advantage of that opportunity—to make more profits or raise more donations, because they are making a significant difference in lives at both ends of their funding process (input and output), drawing millions of people out of loneliness and disenfranchisement into flourishing."
David Evans: "Business gives us the ability to bring order to chaos and create systems to serve people better on a scale that could not be done individually. I think it is a fallacy to separate the individual from "business". Business is a structure, not an entity. The theologically-informed purpose of business is the same as the individual purpose, we must serve our Lord and be about his work."
What's to be done about barriers to entrepreneurship in our society? How can more people more readily participate in creating or improving for-profit businesses?
Brian Brown: "The places that are most entrepreneur-friendly are the places where the local government is committed to making their city an awesome place to live, where people with great ideas can find and help and learn from each other. Doing this well goes far beyond fiscal policies like taxes; it’s about creating a culture where ideas and energy are welcomed and nurtured.
In my own experience starting a company, I felt very alone for the first several years; one thing I’ve tried to do in retrospect is give as much support, encouragement, and advice as I can when I meet others who have an idea they want to turn into reality. That’s one easy thing everyone can do regardless of the political context—when a friend wants to start a business, care about her enough to learn about it, so you can help in whatever ways make sense as time goes on."
David Evans: "As the rewards for innovation and entrepreneurship and innovation get less, people are not going to be motivated. To over-simplify it, from a political level, we need to become more libertarian - reducing the legislative barriers and red tape that hamper new businesses. As an individual, God created us to create. Be about God's work and creating and improving will take place."
About These Alumni
Jeffrey B. Hassler is Personal Trust Specialist and Vice President with BB&T Wealth in Richmond, where he provides advanced estate planning guidance to clients and administers large and complex trust and fiduciary accounts. Jeff is an attorney by training and a member of the Virginia State Bar. He earned his B.A. degree from Wheaton College (Illinois) and his J.D. from Pepperdine University, and was a Witherspoon Fellow in Spring 2003. Jeff, his wife Lyric (Witherspoon Summer 2000), and their four daughters live in Richmond, VA. Connect with Jeff on LinkedIn.
Brian Brown loves building the environments, habits, and networks that make people thrive. In 2009, this led him to found Humane Pursuits, where he is working with a stellar team to help people build richer, more fulfilling lives. In 2011, he started a consulting company (Narrator) to empower mission-driven organizations to coalesce stronger networks of people to make a difference. Then he launched an arts organization, the Anselm Society, to fire up a renewal of culture that could serve as the groundwork for stronger, deeper communities. Brian lives with his wife Christina and son Edmund in Colorado, where they mix cocktails, hunt for historic architecture, and see how many people they can squeeze into their house for scintillating conversation. Brian was a member of the inaugural class of the John Jay Fellows Program in 2007. Connect with Brian on LinkedIn.
David Evans is the CEO and steward of Fidalgo Bay Coffee Roasters. He lives in Anacortes, WA with his wife and three daughters. When he isn't busying being a Dad, he is involved in Tierra Nueva, a ministerial outreach to people on the margins. David was a Witherspoon Fellow in 1997.
Jim Lerner serves BNSF Railway as Manager of System Intermodal Hub Operations. He has over ten years experience in transportation and logistics. Jim received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in political philosophy from the University of Dallas and was a Fall 2001 Witherspoon Fellow. He and his wife Amy reside in Fort Worth, Texas, with their four children and will welcome their fifth in November. They are parishioners at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Keller, TX. The opinions expressed are his own and do not represent BNSF. Connect with Jim on LinkedIn.