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A foundation for ethics in business

In today’s column, a businessman explores how Jesus’ teachings can inspire honesty – and the courage to express it – in our lives.

While running a business years ago, I had to prepare for what was shaping up to be a difficult board meeting. Several months of declining revenue had left me with little positive news to share with my investors.

Then a colleague suggested we could inflate the profitability of the company, not by increasing sales, which is how businesses normally grow, but by reducing future expenses needed to grow the company. That’s like thinking we can make our personal budget look better by going without food! It was an attempt to lessen bad news by ignoring common sense, and it was a recipe for failure. Nonetheless, thinking this would make for a more positive meeting, I followed the advice.

Thankfully for the company, a board member saw through the charade. I was censured for creating an illusion of good news by undermining the principles of good business. Lesson learned.

To me this illustrates something I love in Christ Jesus’ teachings, where Jesus likens those who heard and followed his teachings to “a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.” Those who were familiar with his teachings but failed to put them into practice he likened to “a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great” (Luke 6:48, 49).

Jesus wasn’t lecturing engineers; those who heard his sermon were from all walks of life. The message was clear: When building our lives and legacies, we have choices. We can dig deep into, and build upon, the enduring spiritual foundation of values that bring health, joy, and prosperity. Or we can build on the shifting, insubstantial, and oftentimes alluring sands of the kind of values, such as selfishness and deceit, that end in lack, limitation, and destruction.

Whether we’re in business or some other endeavor, everyone has the God-given ability to choose the good foundation. Christian Science explains that we are all God’s children, and therefore eternally anchored to the rock of Christ, the true idea of God that Christ Jesus manifested. Our spiritual oneness with the divine Father can never be undermined because it stands on the foundation of God, infinite Love. The only building we have to be concerned with is reinforcing, or nurturing, our receptivity to the Christ, which inspires honesty, creativity, and diligence.

On another occasion, I witnessed the indisputable benefits of building on the sure foundation of honesty and truth. My company was in discussions with a new investment firm about a much-needed infusion of money. The investor expressed particular interest in a person we had just hired as our new vice president of sales.

Two days before the investment firm was to make its final decision, this employee informed me that he had been offered a dream job at another company and was leaving us. My first thought was that this would derail the investor discussions, and I considered not sharing the news until after the transaction was completed.

But as I considered some of these ideas about everyone’s true, spiritual nature as one with God, divine Truth itself, it became clear to me that the right thing to do was to tell the investor about the departing executive before the decision was made.

I called a meeting with the firm, and despite feeling some trepidation, I shared the news. A deafening silence fell upon the room, then smiles appeared. The firm’s representatives told me that they had already heard of the employee’s decision to leave. They wanted to see how I would handle the situation, and my honesty was exactly what they had been hoping to see. They decided to work with me on the spot. Basing my decisions and actions on an honesty founded on the rock of Truth blessed me, my company, and the investor.

When confronted with adversity, our best defense is to know that the rock of divine Truth is already firmly established as everyone’s enduring foundation. We have spiritual authority for asserting the presence and power of God and His goodness. Filled with this understanding, we find our lives and legacies increasingly based securely on this rock.

Adapted from an article in the Sept. 17, 2018, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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