Does seeking perpetuity with our endowment lead us to vice? The sneakiness of greed and how it (often unknowingly) shows up - with Luke Bretherton
Play • 21 min

I learned a new word last week from Luke: pleonexia. So I thought I would share the discussion that ensued.

In philanthropy and investing, I often hear family/board members carry the weight of:

"I need to invest our assets so the mission (grant-making) can continue into perpetuity."

Too often, what’s crouching right alongside that desire to evaluate the investment manager based on whether they’re getting that 8% percent return or not is what Luke Bretherton helps us see as pleonexia (greed). 

We were reading Colossians together when the greek word pleonexia first arose and that's what led me to be curious about the "vortex" that Luke described. In this conversation Luke brings Aristotle and Plato as well as the Gospels of Matthew and Mark to help us understand and better see our mandate as ethical stewards of endowment assets

Luke helps us unpack our primary call as Christians — to love God and our neighbor and together we try to apply that to the times in our lives when we do investing -- especially on behalf of foundations or family offices.

Luke makes practical theology accessible. This is the work the Francesco Collaborative picks up on and develops further in our Livable Future Investing workshop community -- where we seek to lift up specific examples of funds, enterprises, investment opportunities where we can live out what's described here. 

My favorite part is in the last two minutes

“This is not a condemnation…” Luke clarifies... and invites us into what I see is our most important work. 

Luke offers a blessing that invites us to truthfulness and forgiveness.

For me, it begs the question: Am I telling myself the truth about my investments? 

In my focus on trying to get a 5% return -- am I subordinating my faith to the vortex of money begetting more money and not the good of the city... and my desire to love God above all else?

Luke Bretherton is Robert E. Cushman Distinguished Professor of Moral and Political Theology and senior fellow of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. Before joining the Duke faculty in 2012, he was reader in Theology & Politics and convener of the Faith & Public Policy Forum at King's College London. His latest book is Christ and the Common Life: Political Theology and the Case for Democracy (Eerdmans, 2019). His other books include Resurrecting Democracy: Faith, Citizenship and the Politics of a Common Life (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

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