Matthew 7: 13 - 23
The Narrow and Wide Gates
13 "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.
14 "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
15 "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
16 "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?
17 "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
18 "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.
19 "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 "So then, you will know themby their fruits.
21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
22 "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'
23 "And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; 'DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'
Scripture is clear. Your success, whether you prosper or perish - in this life and the next - depends largely on only a few major choices made over a lifetime:
"... choose this day whom you will serve",
" You cannot serve God and mammon,
" But who do you say that I am?"
Most of life's other choices - as well as your prosperity - depend on these few major decisions.
But making the right choices can be easier said than done, "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves."
That's true in making life's big choices, and it is especially true in choosing "advisors" consistent with those big choices that will help you stay on the right path and not stray while you pursue your short term and long term objectives.
So by what criteria are you choosing your advisors? The criteria should be consistent with and reflect your "big decisions".
One of the reasons people of faith are not more prosperous is when retainingg advisors, they neglect to "test them by their fruit" and simply defer to political correctness "worldly wisdom", corporate, and government oversight to choose their advisors.
An advisor's size, history, prestige, credentials, pedigree, or regulatory oversight is no indication of their character or their competence and certainly is not enough to protect you - ala the 2008 crises in the fiancial markets that bankrupted many of the leading financial and investment advisors and exposed the activities of such "long trusted, successful, and well respected" advisor Bernie Madoff.
Are you putting your faith in the subsequent regulation of Dodd- Frank to protect and maximize your wealth?
Ripping - off clients is not isolated, but has a long and rather endemic history within the financial industry - in spite of all of the regulations.
In the mid 1990's Bankers Trust was the 2nd largest asset management firm. Tape recordings obtained in litigation discovery revealed:
• "Fraud was so pervasive and institutionalized that....employees used the acronym 'ROF'-short for rip-off factor, to describe one method of fleecing clients."
• "Funny business, you know? Lure people into that calm and then just totally f---'em."
• "Here's the positive side: I've buried my clients so much that it's going to take me four years to trade them out of this loss."
• "What Bankers Trust can do for Sony and IBM is get in the middle and rip them off."If the largest and supposedly most reputable financial firms "rip-off" the largest and most sophisticated companies, what do you think your "rip-off factor is?
What do you think they really think of their individual investors?
Obviously, we are not condemning all wealth managers or other advisors, as there are good and bad apples in every profession.
But the question is, how do you know? The answer is to test their fruit!
It worked for J. P. Morgan.
In the age before wide spread regulation of industry and financial markets, John Pierpoint Morgan, 1837-1913, financier extraordinaire, the most important person in American finance, and a prominent lay leader in the Episcopal Church, built his colossal financial and industrial empire, not on collateral, capital, or credit scores but on character.
At the time when the burgeoning American economy grew to be the largest and most powerful in the world, he was the driving force behind America. But for Morgan, trust and integrity -- not wealth, power, or money -- were the standards by which he measured his colleagues and clients.
Known as "The Master of the Money,” regarded as the nation's foremost banker and one of the most successful industrialists, when asked by a 1912 U.S. Congressional banking committee if money was not the basis of commercial credit he replied,
"No sir, ... The first thing is character ... before money or anything else," he told the committee. "Money cannot buy it ... because a man I do not trust could not get money from me on all the bonds in Christendom."
From his earliest days Morgan was exposed both to international banking at the highest levels and to the ideals held by his father Junius Spencer Morgan and his partner George Peabody: that personal integrity was indispensable to financial success.
No doubt that he was also influenced by his maternal grandfather John Pierpoint, a lawyer, businessman, poet, and a Unitarian minister, believing that salvation is achieved by character - dependent upon deeds rather than creeds whose ethic derives primarily from that of Jesus Christ.