I always feel a bit self-conscious when I walk around Eastern dressed in a shirt and tie. Business generally receives a negative rap at Eastern, a place where radical figures like Shane Claibourne have large followings. For a people called to service and anti-materialism, aspects of business can seem quite detestable.
Recent media attention has focused on executives paying themselves bonuses while calling on the government to bail them out. Sources estimated the total Wall Street cash bonuses to be around $18.4 billion. There can certainly be ugly sides to business, but this is similar to looting the city while electricity is out – it exposes the wicked nature of man.
Perhaps the most detestable part of business is corporate greed. No one is void of evil, but high-ranking businessmen are generally taken as the scapegoats for all that is ethically wrong with the world. In a country where the “dream,” is to accumulate wealth, coincidently those with the most have become the most hated.
In response to the Wall Street bonuses, President Barack Obama set in place capping executive pay at companies that receive government bailouts in the future. His move was bold, and a good first step. Yet, there are loopholes to the equation that will surely be exploted. The decision sets a $500,000 salary limit on some executives but still allows them to be paid bonuses in additional stock. It also only applies to certain top executives – ignoring many others who milk the system.
The greed on Wall Street is ugly. What sets it apart is that we can sit here and point to huge billion-dollar numbers while blaming Wall Street for much of what’s wrong with the economy. It’s the hard fact of being in power that all the attention gets placed on you.
So how do we escape this ugly cycle? Unfortunately, human nature is to be and act selfish. The only thing that can cause us to act against our nature is a conviction to something greater.
No government law will stop someone from stealing when no one is looking. When a city is in chaos, the only thing that will keep a person from looting is a personal conviction not to.
As Christians, the greater Being we answer to is God, and God’s call to us is to serve. Business is an amazing avenue for service, but also corruption. Any position of power makes possible both great and terrible things. Luke 12:48: “To everyone whom much is given, much is expected, and from the one who is entrusted with much, much more will be expected.”
Business’ scope of influence is what magnifies its sins and makes them so terrible. It is not business that is evil but selfishness. For this reason that a Christ-centered business philosophy is so beautiful.
Inquiring Minds is the opinion of the writer with collective thoughts of the editorial staff included, although not altogether representative of the editorial staff’s views.