Borrowing money. Going into debt. Christians are often warned about debt and rightly so, as recent financial meltdowns have highlighted.
Behind all the borrowing and lending is a multi-trillion dollar banking industry that people these days love to hate. An article in Rolling Stone (July, 2009), entitled “Inside the Great American Bubble Machine,” described Goldman Sachs, the most venerable of the investment banks, as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” With press like that it’s not surprising that one source recently reported an increase of filing for handgun permits for self-defense purposes by Goldman executives.
In a recent interview with the Times Online, however, Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs, made a shocking statement that attracted no small amount of verbal small-arms fire his way. He said that he’s just a banker “doing God’s work.”
“I know I could slit my wrists and people would cheer.” Blankfein confesses, but then argued, “We’re very important. We help companies to grow by helping them to raise capital. Companies that grow create wealth. This, in turn, allows people to have jobs that create more growth and more wealth. It’s a virtuous cycle. We have a social purpose.”
Step back a moment from the greed and arrogance of many of today’s financial sector leaders and consider Blankfein’s claim at face value—whether he understood it or not. Does lending have a positive social or even a spiritual purpose? Is it a predatory evil? Is it perhaps a necessary evil? What do you think?
For those of us who believe that all work is God’s work, we think Blankfein is right though he may not have taken his statement seriously. If he did, Goldman would likely be a different company. To read more about the moral good of investment banking you’ll want to read John Terrill’s article in Cardus. It’s a great reminder of the need to reclaim the moral high ground in any kind of work.
Are we experiencing an epidemic of dishonesty? (I admit I watch more news than I should—that’s another story.) But even if you don’t tune in to the numerous cable news outlets you know it’s true. We have a problem with veracity these days from the corporate boardroom to the halls of state, to the classroom, to the bedroom, the truth is getting harder and harder to find.
Since the fall, the entire human race has struggled with prevarication, myself included. I told some whoppers from my earliest years, like when I told some kids my father was a Texas Ranger. But I’ve never been very good at convincing others when I stretch the truth. Now, a new study explains the possible connection between my bank account and my less than stellar ability to convince someone else of a non-reality—even when I want to.
A recent posting on msnbc.com entitled “People in power make better liars, study show,” uncovers a startling finding—dishonesty comes more easily to those at the top. Maybe that’s why many get to the top.
Now that’s a scary thought when you consider the choices lawmakers are making in Washington—and Beijing for that matter. And what does this mean for what’s left in our retirement funds invested in publicly traded companies? Even the MSN contributor recognizes the precarious situation this puts us in.
The issue of integrity is at the heart of the predicaments these powerful men find themselves in. An organization’s health often hinges on the trustworthiness of its leaders, ethics experts say.
I wish I could say this finding didn’t apply to Christians or even churches, but experience tells me otherwise. We all have a problem with the truth at times. And it hurts everyone, including the liar in the long run. It may get you to the top faster, but then the bottom can come at light speed. Ask Bernie Madoff, Jeffery Skilling, Bernie Ebbers, John Edwards, Martha Stewart, or Tiger Woods.
Thank goodness there is one place where truth prevails, God’s Kingdom. We have a God with a solid grasp on reality. And he never holds back the truth, unpleasing as it may sound to those of us who want to create our own reality.
In the never-ending struggle for truth, justice, and Kingdom-thinking, I am constantly on the lookout for God’s heroes in the workplace. These men and women understand that their work matters to God and see themselves as a Kingdom outpost of God’s grace everyday of the week. They are not just serious about their faith on Sunday, but Monday through Saturday as well. My search this time led me to a cab driver.
In a recent weekly email devotion from my friend Patrick Lafferty, he told the story of Mosab Hassan Yousef, who was following in his father’s footsteps. His father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, is a founder of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. After the son was arrested by the Israelis, however, he agreed to work for the Shin Bet Israeli security service. But something extraordinary happened to Mosab Yousef in the course of an ordinary day in an ordinary place. He met a British cab driver.
Unbeknownst to Yousef, when he stepped into the cab, he stepped onto holy ground. You see, the taxi driver was an agent of the Kingdom of God. He gave Yousef a copy of the New Testament and invited him to a small group Bible study. Reading Jesus’ story for the first time, Yousef was “drawn to the grace, love, and humility that Jesus talked about” and in time, embraced Christ as his savior.
You can read more about Yousef’s amazing story in a Wall Street Journal Online posting. But while this sensational conversion tempts us to focus on the terrorist-turned-follower of Jesus, the real story is about an unnamed taxi driver who took his faith to work and walked through an open door with the gospel. It’s a pretty sure bet he wasn’t pushy or aggressive with the “son of Hamas.” I imagine he started a casual conversation like cab drivers do, and because he was spiritually alert, he saw an opportunity to talk about Jesus and he took it.
Your workplace is holy ground as well. There might be people there who Christ is drawing to himself. And you might just be one link in the chain of people who help them come to Christ. That is, if you are spiritually alert.
For more information about how you can take your faith to work click here.
In his latest post (10/2/09) at the Cardus website “Building an Economy of Communion“, Bruce Webb asks a thought provoking question,
Is there no way to change the business mindset so that profit is not seen as an end in itself, but as a means to address social needs?
While profit is a moral good in and of itself, a casual reading of Scripture tells us that our business better be about more than that or our accounting before the Lord of the Workplace will be uncomfortable to say the least. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the account I will give before Christ for the work I do. I think it’s something Christians need to ponder.
I would love to know what you think about the business model Pope Benedict proposes in his recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. Webb summarizes it at Cardus (a much easier read).
Last chance to Join Bill Peel and Chuck Lane in Montana for three+ days of glorious fly fishing: October 15-19. Learn the amazing connection between fly fishing and fulfilling the Great Commission.
Do you know how influential you really are?
Every day, in everything we say and do, we are influencing people spiritually, either helping them move toward or away from a relationship with Christ.
A person’s journey toward Christ is not one giant leap but many small steps of faith influenced by an average of 16 people, individual links in a chain of spiritual influence.
Becoming a spiritually influential person isn’t about convincing people to pray a prayer of faith in Christ. It’s about intentionally joining the Holy Spirit’s work, respectfully helping them take one more step toward Christ, whether they are at the beginning, in the middle, or at the culmination of their spiritual journey.
Every interaction you have with people counts for eternity. You may be the next link in someone’s chain. You don’t have to be the entire chain. Just don’t be the missing link.
Who are you helping move toward Christ? Remember everything counts.
I highly recommend a subscription to Comment from the Canadian think tank Cardus. In a recent article Bruce Webb commented on Pope Benedict’s latest social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (“Charity, or Love, in Truth”).
While one of Benedict’s proposed solutions is quite concerning, there are a number of points we should take to heart. Here is Webb’s comment on one that struck me as important.
We should also ponder carefully the claim that “every economic decision has a moral consequence.” How many of us take the time to consider seriously the moral consequences of our economic decisions to spend, invest or work at a particular job and for a particular company? Christians should devote more time to learning about the ways in which our economic actions either serve or fail to serve the common good and the well being of the poor.
The fact is that what we buy, where we invest, and who we work for does impact others. And in a global economy, our stewardship impacts a lot of people.
What do you think?