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The Forbes magazine headline tells it all: “U.S. bankruptcies smash record as fraud takes toll.”
American business news for 2002 was dominated by stories of bankruptcies and deception. As a nation founded on Christian beliefs and entrepreneurial spirit, we must carefully examine what the past year means for our nation – not measured in economic numbers, nor in statistics of white collar crime – but rather in terms of the moral health of our nation.
The statistics are staggering. According to the Forbes article, 186 public companies with a total of $368 billion in assets filed for bankruptcy in 2002. This included five of the ten largest bankruptcies of all time. Many of those, including four of the top five, involved “accounting scandals” – more truly characterized as lying and stealing.
However, the impact on the health of our nation is more staggering.
It is clearly time for us to turn from our sinful business practices.
We live in a world not dominated by moral absolutes, but rather by principles that are “generally acceptable.” We work in an economic environment that is motivated to grow, or appear to grow, at all costs.
But more importantly, although we live in a fallen world, we are called to a higher standard and we are called to be salt and light to those around us. These absolutes we hold dear:
“A just balance and scales belong to the Lord; All the weights of the bag are His concern,” (Proverbs 16:11) while “differing weights and differing measures, both of them are abominable to the Lord” (Proverbs 20:10).
“A righteous man hates falsehood, but a wicked man acts disgustingly and shamefully. There is one who pretends to be rich, but has nothing; another pretends to be poor, but has great wealth” (Proverbs 13:5,7).
“When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5).
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,’ when you have it with you” (Proverbs 3:27-28).
Are you a beacon of honesty and integrity among your peers, or are you continuing to sin? Now is the time for each of us to examine our own heart and our own business practices.
Are you tempted to exaggerate performance, either for financial gain or “merely” for increased honor? (see 1 Peter 5:6-7)
Are you pressured to go along silently, or worse, explicitly approve of false reports? (see Proverbs 1:10-19)
Are you aware of false reporting elsewhere in your organization and have you failed to confront it in a Biblical way? (see Matthew 18:15-17)
Are you afraid that you will lose your job for holding to principles of honesty and integrity? (see Matthew 5:10-12)
Unfortunately, these challenges are all too common in business today. In fact, these challenges are timeless and we can be thankful that there is a timeless One who has promised to take care of His own.
Is it better to walk with the wicked, as they set the ambush for the innocent (see Proverbs 1), or is it better to be obedient to the Lord and trust Him with your circumstances? (see Matthew 6:31-34 and Deuteronomy 28)
As a fellow Christian in business, I cannot promise you that your decisions will be easy, but I can promise you that the Lord is in control of your situation and that He honors those that honor Him.
May you be blessed as you strive to live these truths in the marketplace.