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Thinking of God with Larry Sheehy

Honesty a cornerstone for all

    James, the Lord’s brother, says of rich farmers who took advantage of their workers, “...listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every whim. Now your hearts are nice and fat, ready for the slaughter. You have condemned and killed good people who had no power to defend themselves against you.” (James 4:4-6 - New Living Translation)
    Stan Mitchell told this story, which occurred more than a decade ago.
    Bob had worked for a vending machine company for forty years. He felt his job was safe. There were disquieting signs, but he ignored them. His company had built another factory in a state where the wages were lower. But he was safe. Forty years of company loyalty stood for something, he felt. He even assisted in the packing up of machinery from his factory to be transported to the new site. When he was laid off, he went to his house, curled up into the fetal position, and wept like a baby (Los Angeles Times, November 26, 1995).
    There are at least two important questions raised by this story: 1) Do my Christian convictions include how I conduct my business, and treat my employees? 2) Should there be a difference between the way a Christian and a non-Christian employer treats his workers? The answer, of course, in both cases, is "yes."
    Looking back at the passage in James, we learn that the wealthy employees should care about the position of their poor employees. (Of course, we should care about this whether the employee is poor or not.) If it is in their power, those in charge should make sure fair wages and decent conditions are provided. Now, an employer isn’t obliged to fire a lazy or dishonest employee, though most, no doubt, would at least consider it. But the owner of a business has the right to make a profit. Otherwise, he wouldn't stay in business long if he didn't, and his other employees would suffer along with him and his family. Certainly a Christian should seek to be the best employer in town. He should ensure that children are cared for in case of injury or illness, and he should reward his workers’ loyalty with his commitment to treat them fairly and justly.
    The Christian who is wealthy has been given that wealth for a reason. All of us, in fact, whether rich or poor, are given what we have so that we may help others with their needs, as well as providing for ourselves and our loved ones. In this regard, take a look at chapters 8 and 9 in 2 Corinthians, especially 9:8-12.
    As one writer said, “...there is the Great and Final External Audit to consider. The judge of all the earth might look less at your profit margin and a little more at your fairness.”
    Larry Sheehy is the preaching minister at Statesboro Church of Christ. He can be reached at (912) 764-5269 or sborococ@frontiernet.net.

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