THE IDEAL IN THE BUSINESS WORLD
There is often a wide difference between the methods actually employed in doing business and when they should be. Good men who are in the thick of the battle of competition and rivalry with other firms in the same line of trade, are the quickest to admit this fact. They would gladly see things managed so that every employee should be satisfied with his wages and hours of work and every competitor and customer gratified by the treatment he receives.
Business as a Fight. -- "The truth is," says a recent eminent writer on this subject, "modern business is a fight. At bottom it is a question of strength and courage." In this fight there are all sorts of men engaged; men, who are honourable and upright and who fight fairly, taking no mean advantage, yet nevertheless fighting strongly for place, power and wealth. Over against this company of men are those who are fair only when they are compelled to be fair and who contend with any means, good or bad, for the objects which they seek to attain. It is this latter class which upsets trade, causes great commercial and banking houses to fail, and casts suspicion upon all corporations, by the sale of watered and fraudulent stocks. It is this idea of business as a struggle which causes working men to strike sometimes rightly, against great abuses, and sometimes wrongly, over minor matters which might easily have been adjusted if they had been taken up in the right way.
Business as a Service. -- So long as the ideal of the business world is that business is a fight, little can be done to improve the present conditions under which capital and labour work and suffer. There is nothing which is so costly as war, nothing which is so far-reaching in its disastrous effects and which leaves such a trail of misery behind it. Industrial war is no exception to the rule.
But why look upon business as a fight? Already a new ideal is before the world, that of service. This is what business really is, it carries things from the place where they are abundant to where they are not, it seeks to feed, to clothe, to house all mankind and to facilitate travel and commerce. Upon the earth, and in it, enough of all things has been provided for all the inhabitants -- the table spread by God has been bountifully furnished -- if only there were a proper distribution no one need want. It is this matter of unwillingness to unselfishly serve others which slows down commerce to-day. When, however, men shall cast aside all other ideals save that of being of the largest service to their fellow men we shall have a new order of things. Men will no longer seek to accumulate for themselves alone and the labourer will work with his full strength and a glad enthusiasm.
No man ever did his best work without some great ideal before him which refreshed and quickened all his energies. If the business man would save himself from becoming sordid, and the poorest paid working man from becoming sullen and hardened, they should keep ever before them this vision of service.
If the ideal of service is accepted in the business world as true, then the question arises, What or whom shall man serve? Shall it be a thing, silver, gold, house or land? Shall a man serve another man as a man? Whatsoever a man serves he becomes subject to. He is dominated by it and his thoughts go no further. Every man is tempted to serve the lower instead of the higher. Jesus was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11) by certain seeming great and temporal advantages to relinquish His service of His Father, but He made it clear once and for all that the supreme object of service should be God (Matthew 4:10), "Him only shalt thou serve." Paul also exhorts all men, in all occupations, to keep in mind first of all the service of God and of Christ, and to do whatever they do to God. Then if they administer great or small affairs, if they are masters or servants, they will seek to please God and, having this higher ideal, will do far better work, than they otherwise would, in every sphere of life (Ephesians 6:7; Colossians 3:17,23; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 8:5).
God, the Owner of All. -- God as sovereign, and over and in all, is the proper object of service (Exodus 20:3,4,5) for the business man. Nations have parceled out the earth amongst themselves and claim ownership. Men hold the titles of lands under the laws of the nations. Men dig, plant and reap and call the products of the soil their own. But back of the titles of men, and the claim of nations, God is the great proprietor.
"The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1; 1 Corinthians 10:26). "For every beast of the field is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills" (Psalm 50:10-12). "The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine, saith the Lord of hosts" (Haggai 2:8).
Man is a Tenant at the Will of God. -- No man really owns the goods in which he deals or the lands to which he holds the deeds. He may be called away from the temporary ownership at any time. It was asked, when a certain very rich man died, "How much did he leave?" The reply was, "He left it all, he took nothing with him." "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out" (1 Timothy 6:7; Psalm 49:17; Job 1:21). Christ emphasized the uncertain tenure upon which all property is held by the parable of a certain rich man who had much goods laid up, who congratulated himself upon this fact and proposed to pull down his barns and build greater, saying to his soul, "Take thine ease, eat drink and be merry," but God said, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided" (Luke 12:16-21)?
Man as a Trustee. -- There is no truth more clearly brought out and stated in many ways in the Bible than that man is in the position of a trustee. Jesus used the parable of the talents to illustrate this great truth (Matthew 25:14-30). It is plainly taught in this parable that man is under obligations to God. No man ever brought himself into the world. No man ever originated his own talent; some men have been endowed with what seems to be greater possibilities than others. To one man has been given the talent for administration, to another that of a ministering spirit, to another mechanical genius, to another that of wealth and to another the power of song or speech. But whatever the talent given, great or small, it is distinctly set forth in the New Testament that it is given in trust and is to be used in the service of Him who has bestowed it.
The business man is expected, by his Lord, to buy and sell, not for himself alone, but as a trustee. In this office it is of great importance that a man be found faithful to the confidence reposed in him (1 Corinthians 4:1,2; Luke 16:2,11; Romans 14:12; Luke 19:11, 27).
A man in a trusteeship, if he is honest, will not waste or squander the property entrusted to his care. He will treat fairly and honestly all men who work for him. The men working for him will feel that they are also trustees seeking to use their skill and time, so that the best interests of God and man may be served.
Man's Right to Hold Property and Do Business is recognized by Christ. In the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:12-26) He commends those who used the money in trading to gain more and were ready when "the nobleman" returned to render a good account. He condemns the man who having received one pound made no effort to increase it. He says, "If ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches" (Luke 16:11). He made no demand of His disciples, so far as the record shows, to give up their property. The case of the young man of great wealth (Mark 10:17-27), who would follow Christ, and of whom Jesus required that he should divest himself of his property, is fully in accord with Jesus' teaching concerning wealth and the holding of property. The key to the whole matter, on this point, is found in what Jesus says of this very case, "How hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:24). This young man did not possess his wealth but his wealth possessed him, he was the servant of his money. Jesus' teaching is that a man should hold money in trust. Jesus warned men of the risk of possessing property, lest it become their master. Money, considered simply as money, is a hardening influence and in the restive desire to get more the best things in men are quite sure to be eliminated (Matthew 13:22). "The danger lies in the power of money to gather affection and to absorb trust, thus displacing God" (Matthew 6:19,20,24; Luke 18:24; 12:15).
The Reckoning. -- There comes a time when every trustee is called upon to render an account of how he has administered the business entrusted to his care (Matthew 25:19; Luke 19:15). This time may be long delayed, and in the meantime many abuses may grow up, and it may appear that no accounting will ever be demanded; these conditions are plainly pointed out by Jesus in the parables of the vineyard (Luke 20: 9-16) and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30), but it is also made equally clear that in the end every man's work shall be judged.
In this reckoning there can be no making of things appear as they are not. There can be no juggling with the accounts. Every business man must show his books (Revelation 20:12) and how he has dealt with that which was entrusted to his care (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; Romans 2:16; Matthew 25:31-46).
It is the looking forward to the time of reckoning which makes men, who are in offices of earthly trust, pay careful attention to the investment of funds and painstakingly investigate the security offered. Jesus would have every man equally careful in the investment of his time, labour, talent and money for he will surely be called upon to give an account of his stewardship.
In the uncertainty of the time of reckoning every business man is expected to be ready for an investigation at any time when the examiner shall appear (Matthew 24:42-51; Mark 13:34-37; 1 Thessalonians 5:6).
The Profit of business done, as a service in the sight of God, is declared to be sure and large. Whatever sacrifices may have to be made will be more than amply repaid (Matthew 19:27,29; Luke 19: 16-19).
It is a well-known fact that, in the business world at large, there is a very great percentage of failures and too many mark not only wrecks of business, but of characters. The reason often given is that the eye is fixed too frequently and earnestly on immediate and large profits for self. But no man ever yet made a failure who openly and honestly sought in his business to be of service to God and his fellow men. Real failure in business is a failure in character. A business man may be carried down by unexpected circumstances or the fall of other firms but, if he keeps his character intact, he is no failure; on the other hand a man who has taken a selfish advantage of others may be made rich in goods, but he is a rank failure in character. The standard of character in business is after all that by which the small or the large dealer in any kind of goods is judged, and by business men themselves; business transactions are constantly being raised to a higher level by the enforcement of this standard.
If employers and employees are ever to be brought into harmony, strikes and lockouts abolished, the industrial forces attain to their highest efficiency and the products of the world distributed with the utmost facility, it must all come about not by the invoking of courts of law, but by the bringing in of a new sentiment and the adoption of certain principles. A sentiment is at the base of the present troubles and, until it is changed, they will be likely to continue and the world at large will suffer the consequences. So long as men think only of the inequalities of life -- and there are glaring inequalities -- the unfair distribution of wealth and the comparatively obscure positions which they hold, they will be discontented and will fight to better themselves, no matter who suffers. The spirit of discontent and contention finds lodgment in the heart of the humblest working man, up through all grades, to that of the richest employer, for no man, however wealthy, ever thinks he has enough of this world's goods; those who have the most are often the most eager in grasping for more. Courts of law can only regulate the more flagrant outbursts of the prevailing sentiment, they do not and cannot remedy the causes.
What are some of the principles which are destined to help the industrial world out of its difficulties?
The Observance of the Golden Rule. -- "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matthew 7:12). Just before giving this rule Jesus was speaking of a man whose chief object was to serve God (Matthew 6:33) and in the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, He showed the blessedness of the character which was to be sought (Matthew 5:1-16), before this rule could be rightly carried into practice in any life. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:39) is in the same line of thought as this rule, but, and here is the point, we do not want certain men to love us as they love themselves, the thief, the gambler, the drunkard, and we do not want them to do to us as they do to themselves.
In order then that this rule be rightly observed there must be first an avowed allegiance to God. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God" (Matthew 22:37) precedes the command to "Love thy neighbour." It is only when men love God aright and obey His commandments that they can come into proper relations with their neighbours.
Hence, in seeking God first and obeying the Golden Rule, the whole outlook of employer and employee will be changed, the attention will not be fixed upon the inequalities of life or the making of a fortune, but upon the desire to be of service; each man will look into his work to improve it and seek to help his neighbour; whatever the compensation, he will seek to do his best, serving as in the sight of God. "A just consideration of the rights of others is the very beginning and end of true social economy." It is difficult to enforce any law which works against a public sentiment, but let the latter be in favour of the former and the law will enforce itself. Let the sentiment in the industrial business world be in favour of a supreme service and the difficulties and trials of strikes and lockouts would disappear; the energy, time and money now spent in fighting could be turned to the benefit of employer, employee and consumer.
Cooperation. -- Jesus never set class over against class. He mingled with the wise and the unwise, the rich and the poor. He sought to draw men together in a common brotherhood; this brotherhood was not composed of employers or of men who worked at a certain trade but of those who sought to build up the kingdom of righteousness.
There is cooperation to-day amongst men but it is the coming together to build up some trade and make it strong that it may contend more stoutly for its rights. There have been various attempts for the federation of unions, but they have too often been for the purpose of coercing a like federation of employers' unions into taking a desired course of action. The world awaits a cooperation of all men in the business world upon the basis of love for each other and seeking for the best interests of all concerned. This again is a sentiment but it is one which must work against the prevailing sentiment of selfishness and looking out for self alone, if ever a better state of things is to be brought about.
The Acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Great Example and Leader. -- No man was ever so marvellously endowed with power as Jesus, yet that power was used for the good of mankind. He said "All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18). He made it a proof of His business on earth that the blind received their sight, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf heard, the dead were raised (Matthew 11:2-6).
The man who follows Christ is the one who makes his business minister to the wants of men and helps them to better conditions, whether he be ruler or ruled.
The glory is that, to-day, there are many men who are trying conscientiously, in the ranks of the employers and employees, to carry out the Golden Rule, cooperate with their fellow men and to follow Christ in His business of ministering to men.
What can be said of the ideal in the business world; fight or service? What can be said of the ownership of property? Who is the owner of all? Who is a tenant at the will of God? What can be said of man as a trustee? What can be said of a man's right to hold property? What can be said of the reckoning? What of the profit? What are some of the principles which can help the business world out of its difficulties; the observance of the Golden Rule, cooperation, the acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Great Leader and Example?