Are Good Ethics Compatible with Good Business Practices?
In a day when corporate America is often portrayed as greedy and corrupt, the question of the compatibility of good ethics with good business practices is increasingly relevant. The challenges brought by the globalization of business further add to this question. Numerous attempts to address this have been made by the business community. Perhaps the most notable effort made by secular scholars to determine a universal code of ethics is the Caux Round Table (Caux, 2014). Formed from a group of international business leaders and academicians, the Round Table created seven principles for business as an attempt to develop a shared perspective of business behavior that would be acceptable and honored by people from all cultures and background. Christianity offers a set of ethical guidelines for business that align quite well with good business practices. One Bible scholar, Jerry White, argued that there are five clear biblical principles for conducting business activities (1978). Just Weight: Deuteronomy 25:13–15. The principle of a just weight calls us to make sure we give the purchaser what they are paying for or, in other words, make sure it is a fair exchange. It is important that the quality of work is equal to the payment and that we fulfill our obligation to meet the advertisement of the services. You must remember that you are responsible for the business you conduct and the resulting reputation you gain. As the owner of a business, are you fairly representing your product or service? As an employee, do you make sure you do a full day’s work for a full day’s pay? Colossians 3:23 reminds us that we are working for the Lord and not for our fellow man. Total Honesty: Ephesians 4:25 Ephesians tells us we are to speak the truth. In other words, we need to be totally honest in all our dealings. Jerry White reminds you that “Although you will frequently fail, our intent must be total honesty with our employer, our co-worker, our employees, and our customers” (p. 65). We all find this difficult to accomplish. In the Living Bible, James 3:2 tells us that we all make mistakes, but controlling your tongue proves you have control of yourself in other ways. The Living Bible states it clearly in Romans 12:17, saying, “Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through.” When you look at your world of business, are you totally honest in how you report your use of time, money, and achievements? Being a Servant: Matthew 20:28 Although Christians want to be known as servants, they do not always want to be treated like servants. We believe serving the Lord is a wonderful thing, but when we think about serving our fellow man, we have reservations. In Matthew 20:28, Christ offers Himself as the example we should be following. He tells us that He was not put on this Earth to be served but to serve. He goes so far as to tell us that He will give up His life for us. Businesses get their value from how they serve their clients or customers—this will determine the success of the business. Individuals who are willing to serve must staff the business. How well employees serve customers determines the value of the business. When we do this, we trust God to meet our needs as we put the needs of others first. Personal Responsibility: Romans 12:2 It is important that we take full responsibility for our decisions and our actions. What message do we give when we excuse our actions because we gave in to the pressure to do something illegal or unethical in the business or organization that employs us? The reality is that we all fail at different times in our lives to do the things we know we should do. Character requires us to accept responsibility for our choices and decisions and to not try to pass the blame or responsibility for our actions on to someone else or some other circumstance. Romans 12:2 tells us not to conform to the designs of this world so that we may be able to test and approve the will of God. Reasonable Profits: Luke 6:31 Although the principle of reasonable profits can be difficult to understand, it is still necessary to follow the scripture’s guidelines. First, we need to be able to define a reasonable profit. We must all determine this for ourselves, but Luke 6:31 gives us some basic guidelines. It states very clearly that we must treat others the way we wish for them to treat us. In other words, we need to attempt to look at things from the perspective of others and then determine how we would want to be treated in that case. From the business perspective, reasonable profits would be the price of the service or business above any costs that were incurred in the process of doing business. In the case of employees, it would be their salary or wages for the service they have given to their employer. Luke 3:14 reminds us that we are to be satisfied with our pay. In 1 Timothy 5:18, the Bible also reminds employers that employees deserve their wages. It is all too easy to rationalize your way around many of these principles, but God will hold us accountable in the end. Ultimately, it is God whom you serve and to whom you must give an account.