Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Over the past decade, compensation for chief executives of major U.S. companies has soared more than 400 percent, while the average household income has risen just 12 percent since 1992. Delphi Corp., a subsidiary of General Motors, recently sparked renewed interest in (and anger over) this type of earnings disparity when Delphi’s chairman proposed 90 million dollars in bonuses for its top executives while seeking a 60 percent pay cut for it’s hourly employees.
Delphi, one of Indiana’s largest industrial employers is in bankruptcy, having lost 1.2 billion dollars through September of 2005. General Motors has reportedly lost nearly half it’s market share to foreign competitors such as Toyota and Honda, making it difficult to sustain the strong wages Delphi workers are accustomed to. That being said, Crystal Graef, an independent compensation expert agrees that wages may have to be adjusted down some in an attempt to reduce costs and preserve jobs but objects to the stock and cash bonus proposals as unreasonable.1
Delphi’s new chairman, Stewart Miller, was hired to help turn the company’s fortunes around and is only accepting a token 1 dollar per year in salary – after receiving 3 million dollars for joining the Delphi management team. He in turn asked for the 90 million in bonuses to convince his top executives to stay on with the company as they negotiate a recovery; the same executives who oversaw Delphi’s current collapse!
This is but one example of numerous corporations being charged with ethical and legal improprieties. Practices once winked at, such as faulty record-keeping, financial fraud and perjury are now taken seriously as the ‘white-collar’ crimes they are. Buy-outs, pay-offs and hostile take-overs are big news; as are the corresponding lay-offs, benefit cut-backs and depleted retirement funds. Ethical behavior has been lost in the mad rush to make, save and make more money ; leading some to lie, cheat and steal from the corporations they run, the government and their own employees through inflated earning reports, hidden sales, disguised losses and cut-throat business practices and negotiations. They would do well to heed Christ’s admonition to, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."; as he bemoaned those who had, "…neglected the more important matters of (lawful living) - justice, mercy and faithfulness." Luke 12:15 and Matt. 23:23They epitomize Paul’s description of, "…people (who) are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites." Romans 16:18
As many of these companies suffer dire financial problems their top executives revel in expensive lifestyles with multiple homes, cars, and jewelry; having accumulated millions of dollars in personal wealth. They take advantage of their company, their employees and their customers while expecting someone else to bail them out when their improprieties are discovered. They use people who actually work for a living, depending on their salary and benefits not to live in excess but often to merely survive. A real appreciation of Proverbs 16:8, "Better is a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice."; would go a long way in alleviating many of the problems being reported today, leading us to a recognition of Paul’s definition of personal contentment alluded to in Philippians 4:11,12. The demand for justice and fair-play is addressed repeatedly throughout scripture, John dealing with it on a personal level by warning, "Do not love the world or anything in the world… For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the father but from the world." 1 John 2:15,16
As Christian employers and employees, our ethics should revolve around, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men." Colossians 3:23The issues of corporate expectations and workers’ rights can be deduced from Paul’s instructions to slaves and their masters; not condoning slave labor but resolving it from within by changing the attitudes that made slavery desirable as an enterprise. Laborers must respond with respect, sincerity and diligence in doing their best – just as they would obey or work for Christ; not only to win approval when attention is focused on them but working hard at all times in an honest attempt to please and produce. They were to serve wholeheartedly, realizing that their reward for such work might not come fully from their master but from The Master. (Ephesians 6:5-8) Peter added that we should always offer our best not only to the good and considerate "employer" but to the advantage–taking one as well. (1 Peter 2:18) On the flip-side of this issue – the "employer" was to likewise treat his "workers" as if serving Christ; being considerate, non-threatening, supportive and fair. For all of us have a Master to answer to, who will reward everyone according to how they serve him. (Ephesians 6:9 and Colossians 3:24)
There has always been an issue of convincing men – especially those in positions of power and influence to, "Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight,…" Deuteronomy 6:18 Why is that? As a result of our inclination to sin, we are often selfish and are tempted to manipulate, take advantage of and use people as things; willing to, "…with a word make a man out to be guilty, who ensnare the defender in court and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice." Isaiah 29:21Fairness is called for repeatedly in scripture; Proverbs 11:1 declaring that, "The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight."
Consequently there is a recurring theme of judgment on those who are dishonest, unjust and oppressive; depriving the poor their rights, workers their wages and the widow and orphan adequate care. (Isaiah 10:2 ; Amos 5:11,12; Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24: 14,15) In God’s eyes these activities are considered on a level with those practicing sorcery, perjury, adultery, etc. (Malachi 3:5) In the New Testament, Christ asserted that, "…the worker deserves his wages." Luke 10:7 and Matthew 10:10 Paul reaffirmed this principle in 1 Timothy 5:18, citing Deuteronomy 25:4; stressing as well the responsibility believers have to do their best while working by declaring,, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." 2 Thessalonians 3:10 That however was tempered by compassion and generosity, prompting careful investigation into the difference between people who can not work – for a variety of reasons – and those who will not do so.
Proverbs declares that one of the benefits of Godly wisdom is acquiring the ability to do what is right, just and fair. (Proverbs 1:3) Paul warning that "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:9,10) In fact, James taught that Christianity is expressed, at least in part, by how we care for others; especially those who can do little for themselves such as widows and orphans. (See James 1:27; Deuteronomy 14:29, Matthew 23:14) We can achieve financial success by being productive citizens who aren’t, "…dependent on anybody."; living in such a way that our "…daily life may win the respect of outsiders…" We do this by learning, "…to devote (ourselves) to doing what is right, (which will enable us to) provide for daily necessities…" 1 Thessalonians 4:12, without taking advantage of others.
1 cited by Ted Eunoff in The Indianapolis Star
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Fred Price - married (48 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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