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.
Ken Boa is one of the smartest and yet most humble men I have been privileged to learn from. Check out Ken’s website for a host of great resources that will aid you in your spiritual development. In Ken Boa’s recent Reflections Teaching Letter he published a prayer for work entitled “Work as a Mode of Worship.” I pass it on for your consideration.
You have called me to participate in Your purposes through the work I have been given to do during my earthly sojourn. May I do my work with care and excellence in the desire to be pleasing to You. I realize that all things become spiritual when they are done in Your Name. May I honor You in my choices and activities and view the works of my hands as a mode of worship. I want whatever I do in thought, word and deed to be honoring to You and edifying to others. I ask for a clearer sense of purpose and calling and for the power to accomplish that for which You have placed me on this earth.
May it be true for all who bear the name of Jesus in our daily work.
In this blog I’ll address the first Big Idea that can change the way we do church.
Big Idea One: The workplace is the most strategic place of Kingdom influence for most Christians. Contrary to popular perception, you don’t need to quit your job and move to a Third World country in order to make a significant contribution to the Kingdom of God and help fulfill the Great Commission. God has called most of His people to workplace vocations meeting a variety of human needs emotional, physical, and spiritual and wants to use them there for His Kingdom purposes.
I cite numerous examples of men and women who are pursuing Kingdom purposes in the “secular” workplace, but my favorite is Steve Bigari. I wrote about him in my April 20, 2007 blog. But I just met another man this week, who convinced his Fortune 500 company to sponsor a Christian Diversity group within the company. Of course this opened up the gate for a host of other faiths to begin groups as well, but I’m pretty confident in biblical faith in the free marketplace of ideas. One of the reasons that the company allowed this to happen was because they trusted this individual. They had seen the quality of his work and the quality of his character lived out before their eyes for twenty years. This individual knows he is called to his work and is making a significant Kingdom difference in his workplace. Because of the size of his company, he actually has a bigger audience that his pastors (of a very large church). He told me, “A person can hide in my church. But I can’t hide at work. People see who I am. They see everyday whether my faith makes a difference in my life of not.”
We don’t need more churches. We need more churches committed to equip men and women to take their faith to work!
These four Big Ideas are discussed in detail in Going Public with Your Faith. To order a copy click here.
Appearing as a guest on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country recently, Bill Maher launched the most recent attack on people of faith suggesting that we have a neurosis that stops people from thinking. He said, “I love America. I am just embarrassed that it has been taken over by people like evangelicals, by people who do not believe in science and rationality. It is the 21st century. And I will tell you, my friend. The future does not belong to the evangelicals.”
Although his views about religion aren’t held by most Americans, we’re experiencing an escalation of negative rhetoric. Rather than dwelling on ideas, more and more individuals with platforms like Maher’s resort to a barrage of belittling comments about the intelligence of people of faith. While we shouldn’t retreat from such frontal attacks, most of us don’t engage in daily debates with the men and women with whom we work. Many of them, however, will have heard or read Maher’s comments. Do they agree with him? If they don’t have evidence to the contrary they might.
Do you think the men and women in your workplace who know you have enough evidence to make them think twice about buying Maher’s diatribe? I hope they do, because we can be sure that this line of attack will continue. In fact it’s never stopped since the serpent suggest to Eve that she was misled by her faith in God. The question of whether Maher and his tribe increase has much more to do with your life and character at work than you might imagine. Are you a person of competence and intergrity? Do you show your intelligence by giving thoughtful answers or are you parroting talking points? Do people trust you? Do people know you care about them? This line of evidence has more power than reversing the attack on Maher. That’s why I co-authored Going Public with Your Faith, to help you know how to build spiritual influence in your workplace.
Beyond our competence and character, we do need to be able to give thoughtful, respectful answers to men and women’s honest questions about our faith. Dr. Tim Keller of Manhattan’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church has provided some of the most thoughtful answers to the critics’ challenges to the Christian faith in a serious of messages entitled The Trouble with Christianity. Keller has seen Redeemer grow to several thousand smart, savvy New Yorkers over the last decade. That should be testimony enough to suggest that he knows how to intelligently answer the tough questions we get thrown at us about our faith. You can find this series for download at the Redeemer website. After listening you’ll know how uninteligent Maher’s comments really are.