Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our former Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.
This Series explores “business as calling” – what it means, barriers to seeing business as a calling and its implications for followers of Jesus who desire to live out their faith in God not only on the weekend but also in the marketplace.
“It’s nice to have an elephant in the room. There’s nothing more helpful than something everybody’s thinking about.” ~Seth Meyers, Comedian
“I am going to argue that many aspects of business activity are morally good in themselves, and that in themselves they bring glory to God – though they also have great potential for misuse and wrongdoing.” ~Dr. Wayne Grudem, “Business for the Glory of God”
IS INEQUALITY OF POSSESSIONS MORALLY GOOD?
“I’ve been in revolt for years against ignominy, against injustice, against inequality, against immorality, against the exploitation of human beings.” ~Hugo Chavez, late President of Venezuela
“The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.” ~Aristotle
Based upon media reporting and editorial opinion, it would be natural to conclude that inequality of possessions is an evil that must be righted. Indeed, a brief google search confirms that attacks on inequality are the norm.
Of course, there is much inequity in the world. Mary and I have spent enough time among the very poor not only in several third world countries but also in Toronto to appreciate the magnitude of extreme economic inequality – if only by contrast to our own blessings.
Most of the time, the root cause of grinding poverty in the third world relates neither to business in general nor evil multinational corporations in particular. Rather, it is often the product of inequality of opportunity resulting from a combination of totalitarian ideologies and corrupt leaders. In developed countries like Canada, poverty is caused or exacerbated by a multitude of factors including poor individual choices, broken homes and ineffective government programs.
Sometimes leaders attempt to level the economic playing field using the power of the state. The best (and most unfortunate) current example is Venezuela. While the idealism underlying the opening quote is laudable, Chavez’s approach to correcting inequalities in Venezuela has effectively bankrupted what was once among the world’s wealthiest countries as measured by natural resources.
To be clear, the Bible strongly encourages followers of Jesus to take care of the poorest among us. That said, the Bible also supports the notion that the inequalities that flow from the way God designed us are a moral good because humanity benefits as people strive to excel.
Essentially, unequal outcomes are a function of unequal inputs. Three relevant inputs come to mind. First, each of us is endowed by our Creator with different talents. God’s differential distribution of gifts is not unfair, since He holds us to account only for our stewardship of the gifts He has entrusted to us. Moreover, the possession of unique gifts should encourage us to use them to love others who don’t have those specific gifts.
Second, God endows us with the freedom to choose whether or not to develop our talents. Sadly, many don’t and, as a result, the world is poorer (to say nothing of those to whom the gifts have been given). Third, if we don’t apply our gifts with energy and focus, nothing happens. The reward for nothing is nothing, which brings to mind some “professional students” I knew during my university years! Hopefully, they ultimately applied their multiple degrees to some useful purpose.
Some Christians point to pooling of resources in the early church as a model the modern church should follow. They contend that this example affirms the moral goodness of redistribution of possessions to produce equal outcomes. This interpretation stretches the historical record. Unlike socialism, the communal sharing in the early church was voluntary, not coerced. Moreover, many followers of Jesus continued to own possessions including their houses in which they met to worship God.
Hopefully, my posts over the last several weeks have dispelled some common objections to business as a legitimate calling. Next week, I will conclude with some observations regarding what a business calling means to me.
Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.