Category Archives: The Economy

Investment Bankers Doing God’s Work???

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.

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How good a liar are you?

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.

Benedict’s Business Paradigm

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).

Economic Decisions and Moral Consequences

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?

What Is the Recession For?

preacher1My wife Kathy recently began blogging for AOL’s Parent Dish. She offers great information for Family Managers who want to make their home a great place to be. But, it’s not surprising that her editors ask her to give her blogs an economic twist. Not a bad idea at a time when everything else sounds trivial compared to the economic realities we experience daily.

The economy is even making it into the pulpit. And I say thankfully so. We need to hear what the Bible says about what we’re all thinking about. A friend send me a copy of John Piper’s sermon from February 1, 2009 entitled the same as this blog. I highly recommend it for anyone not wanting “to let a good crisis go the waste.” Here are “some” of reasons for this economic downturn according to Piper:

  1. He intends for this recession to expose hidden sin and so bring us to repentance and cleansing.
  2. He intends to wake us up to the constant and desperate condition of the developing world where there is always and only recession of the worst kind.
  3. He intends to relocate the roots of our joy in his grace rather than in our goods, in his mercy rather than our money, in his worth rather than our wealth.
  4. He intends to advance his saving mission in the world—the spread of the gospel and the growth of his church—precisely at a time when human resources are least able to support it. This is how he guards his glory.
  5. He intends for the church to care for its hurting members and to grow in the gift of love.

What do you think?

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