Bible Studies
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Sunday, 14 November 2004

There's a crisis of confidence facing American business as recent revelations reveal the chicanery that often passes for sound business practices.  And who gets hurt?  Generally it's employees, soon-to-retire workers hoping for a deserved pension, and stockholders. What's needed is restorative justice, where perpetrators repay those they have cheated, and if they cannot, then they spend the remainded of their lives trying.


by Jim Jordal


Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

First Timothy 6:6-10 (NKJV)

For there is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.

Mark 4:22


If you see the oppression of the poor, and violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter...Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even the king is served from the field.

Ecc. 5:8-9

First Enron and Arthur Anderson; then Tyco, ImClone, Global Crossings, World Com, Adelphia, "Blue Chip" Zerox, and most recently giant investment houses and insurance brokers. Even Martha Stewart, the "Queen of Perfection" — tarnished by revelations of possible insider trading. One icon of American business after another revealing under pressure their creative accounting methods, grossly excessive executive compensation plans, shady loans, financial kickbacks, and generally onerous business practices all seemingly designed to fatten profits, make billionaires of their executives, loft into orbit their stock prices, and eventually bankrupt gullible stockholders.

Some wag once said that "Figures don't lie, but liars figure." How true! The World Com disaster od several years ago revealed a simple but effective accounting trick — merely transferring vast amounts of current expenses into capital investment, thereby enabling accountants to spread over many years costs which should count against current income. This questionable action fattened the bottom line sufficiently that World Com stock went to $64 per share, and it's top executives, their compensation linked to stock price, made hundreds of millions.

And the cost? Financial collapse, with 17,000 workers laid off; its stock falling to 6 cents. A consortium of banks faced with writing off $3.8 billion in uncollectible loans, and some $80 billion in stockholder wealth lost. So who cares?

The people who lost hard-earned investments care. So do those losing their jobs. And so does God, who speaks through David in Psalm 10:14-15: "But You [God] have seen, for You observe trouble and grief, to repay it by Your hand. The helpless commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; seek out his wickedness until You find none." God sees, and God accounts!

What more could possibly happen? What would happen to the vaunted and virtually worshipped American economy should foreign investors lose faith in the integrity of our financial and productive institutions and withdraw their hundreds of billions in investments? What would happen to our national debt and budget should trillions of dollars in foreign-held bonds be presented for redemption? And what could occur should American consumers simply decide to stop spending disposable income? Lots more could happen.

Let me say right here that socialism or any other form of different economic system is not the answer. I've been accused of sounding like a socialist, so let's clear this up. God favors capitalism! But not the kind we've got! God favors private ownership, competition, the profit motive, freedom of opportunity, and all the rest. But He doesn't favor naked greed, financial chicanery, oppression of workers, robbing of the poor, and every other crime or sin the recently exposed captains of business have perpetrated.

Let's also say that these wayward CEO's and CFO's constitute only a small fraction of the leaders of American business. Persons of honesty and integrity still make the vast majority of business decisions. But the cancer, while still relatively small, will grow and spread unless something halts it. I think that's exactly what all the recent revelations are about. God is exposing the shenanigans and tricks of those who would make themselves rich at our expense. He is doing exactly what He said He would do: bringing to light those secret things previously hidden and unknown so they may be dealt with by honest and forthright people who care.

But the sweeping broom of reform will have to reach further than business accounting and decision-making processes. It will also have to reach into America's business schools, where efficiency in making money appears to have superseded honesty and ethics. It must sweep into our halls of government, where corporate lobbyists seem to have the ability to buy whatever they want. And it must reach deeply into our financial and investment institutions, where greed has too often replaced integrity in making loans and touting various investments.

 So what does this say to us as Christian individuals? We also face God's revelation of deeds previously hidden. We also must repent and change our ways. And we will do so, as God brings upon us a new Spirit of repentance and renewal.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1978, 1980,1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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