It's True

“But what is truth? Not easy to define; we both have truths, are yours the same as mine?”                                                          –Pontius Pilot, Jesus Christ Superstar

What do Whole Foods, Progressive Insurance, and Buffalo Wild Wings have in common?

Two weeks ago, I found myself whisked away to Philadelphia. The trip had come about sort of last minute, but the opportunity it presented was flattering. My business law professor had stopped me on the last day of the semester, as I was just seconds from getting in my car and speeding home for the summer. He offered to send me to a conference in Pennsylvania for the Center for the Public Trust (CPT.) CPT is a non-profit made up of leaders from across the country that work to promote ethical management and accounting practices in business. Just a few weeks later, I found myself sitting in a room with business leaders who had more letters after their names that you would find in a can of Alphabet Soup.

And that was when I learned the answer to the question I presented above. Whole Foods, Progressive Insurance, and Buffalo Wild Wings have been voted three of “America’s Most Trustworthy Companies” by Forbes Magazine.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

But as I sat through the conference, I began to get a little disgruntled. One of our speakers made a comment to the extent of, “Business ethics is easy! Just don’t lie! Ever!”

Don’t lie? Ever? It seems like something out of a kindergarten ethic course or a third grade Sunday School lesson. But to me it seemed too simple. As cynical as it sounds to say, isn’t the old adage “everybody lies?”

“Whether it's to yourself, or lookin' at someone else…buried deep inside, Everybody lies.”                                    ~Jason Walker, song: Everybody Lies

Colin Powell said in an interview with Time Magazine that, “A soldier always wants to do what he's supposed to do. But there is not a morning when I put my feet on the floor and [absolutely] say, ‘This is right.’” I think that there is a lot of truth to Powell’s statement. Sometimes the line between “right” and “wrong” is not as easy to find as we think it should be. The black and white often shows up between the shades of grey.

Jesus himself makes an interesting statement on “right choices” vs. “grey areas.” In the story where he is staying at the home of Mary and Martha, his two hosts make different choices. Martha chooses to busy herself readying the house and serving her guests while Mary sits down and talks with Jesus. When Martha becomes frustrated with this, Jesus says, “Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better.” Luke 10:41

So often, I’ve heard this text used as an example of slowing down to be with God. When I read this verse during my time in Philadelphia it stuck out to me in a way it hadn’t before. After spending a day listening to people say “just make the right choice” Christ’s words jumped out to me. He doesn’t say “Mary made the right choice.” He says, “Mary has chosen what is better.” Mary made the “better choice.”

In my mind “never lie, ever” is unrealistic. If we made spirituality about following the rules all the time, we’d be in a lot of trouble. After all, in the first five books of the bible there are 612 commandments. That’s a lot of rules to never break ever!

But that begs the question of what is a realistic ethical line. According to Forbes Magazine, Whole Food, Progressive Insurance, and Buffalo Wild Wings all had some common practices that made them “trustworthy.” CPT founder David Costello says that each company used tools such as “moral reminders,” codes of conduct, conflict of interest statements, frequent employee meetings, “truth and transparency in their communications to employees, vendors, customers, and stockholders,” and promoting a “continuing, constant awareness of what [they] stand for and how they want to be viewed.”

Costello’s last line there jumps out to me: “continuing, constant awareness of what [they] stand for and how they want to be viewed.” Do we as the church think about this? Do we as people practice this?

We live in a world that tells us to “Understand the game…command respect…bring bigger dollars…learn the unspoken rules.” We live in a world that says “conform: just lie!” But as the high school and middle school youth have shared with us these past two weeks, Romans 12:2 tells us “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but instead be transformed through the renewing of your mind.”

If we follow the example of Whole Foods and Progressive, then we need to find ways to seek a constant reminder of what we stand for. When we look to the bible for guidance on ethics there is a verse in which Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” John 14:6. If Jesus is the “truth” then living like Jesus is the way to live an honest life.

Unfortunately, that isn’t entirely easy. In fact, it means taking a fairly counter cultural approach to just about everything. It means being kind to the people society labels as outcast. It means giving your time, money, and resources to causes that many people consider lost. It means spending a few more minutes in that awkward conversation, lending a non-judgmental ear to someone in need. It even means giving your life to help people you’ve never met, but love unconditionally.

Of course we are going to make mistakes. We will fudge a little and we will probably screw up at some point. But the continuing, constant reminder that Christ gives us is that if we are to err, we should always err on the side of love. For as Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians, “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of them is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

Special thanks to David Costello and his blog centertrust.blogspot.com.

Zach Herzog

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