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The Messenger is the Message

Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our former Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.

I have often observed that “the messenger is the message.” By this, I mean that an individual can become the embodiment of a product or service. If the latter performs well, people often come to hang on the messenger’s every word and to buy the associated product or service – sometimes long after its “best before” date!

In the investment business, forecasters can acquire almost mythical status if they predict something radically different from the expert consensus and their forecast comes true. Such success can attract a lot of attention, often in the form of more money to manage. I know one economist who correctly called the bursting of Toronto’s real estate bubble in the late 1980s and was able to leverage that one successful call for many years following!

One of the best examples of the messenger becoming the message is Warren Buffett, often called the “Sage” or “Wizard” of Omaha by the press. According to Wikipedia, Buffett is the fourth wealthiest individual on the planet with a net worth of US$81.1 billion.

In an article published in July 2017, John Maxfield says that “a $10,000 investment in Berkshire Hathaway [the company of which Buffett is CEO] stock in 1965 would be worth $88 million today.” Maxfield goes on to note “that Berkshire’s best days were in the late 1970s, a tumultuous decade thanks to wildly fluctuating energy prices and rapidly accelerating inflation…Most recently, the rolling five-year average of Berkshire’s alpha dipped into negative territory [i.e. underperformed the market] in three out of the past five years.”

No matter how articulate or entertaining the messenger, over time performance inevitably becomes more important.

The reality is that no matter how articulate or entertaining the messenger, performance inevitably becomes more important than the messenger. For many different reasons, the probability of today’s investors in Berkshire reaping long-term future returns comparable to those generated since the seventies is zero!

The foregoing example notwithstanding, there is one messenger who is and always will be the message. His name is Jesus Christ. Most historians agree that his message, which permeates the Bible from beginning to end, has played an important role in shaping society over the last two millennia. Specifically, much of the western world’s economic, legal, educational and scientific progress over the last few centuries is grounded in the application of Judeo-Christian principles and teachings.

However, according to the Bible, Jesus cannot be separated from his message. Specifically, he did not say that his message is “the way and the truth and the life.” Rather, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Then he went on to say, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Moreover, unlike the gyrating stock market, his message of reconciliation with God never fluctuates as a result of our behaviour, good or bad!

For followers of Jesus, the assertion that his message and his person are one is cause for celebration and worship. After all, do you know anyone else whose claims have been validated by their being raised from the dead?

Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.