Applying Bible Principles in Business—Does It Pay?
RUNNING a business is a risky undertaking these days. A business starting now has, at best, a 50-50 chance of survival, according to a Chicago expert in the business-administration field.
A factor that makes a businessman’s life hard is widespread business dishonesty. When competitors resort to bribery, kickbacks, cheating customers and “cutting corners” on taxes, it is harder for the honest businessman to give full, correct weight and measure, with good service, and still make a reasonable profit.
The extent to which dishonesty has permeated the retail-business field was revealed in a recent three-state survey. Various items of merchandise were checked—vitamin pills, nails, paper clips, electronic parts, facial tissues, foods—packaged goods labeled to contain a certain number of items. It was found that the percentage of packages that shortchanged the customer was alarming—in foodstuffs, for example, 40 percent. In a box of “eight” frozen lobster-tails there were only six. A bottle of “100” vitamin pills contained 85. All products examined turned out to average from 10 to 30 percent short.
Furthermore, stealing by employees and executives has become so great as to outstrip all losses from shoplifting and robbery. This adds to the burden of all businessmen.
With all these things working against him, can a man be honest and survive in a selfish business world? And are there any practical advantages in applying Bible counsel to business?
The Bible advises: ‘All things that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.’ (Matt. 7:12) And as regards business dealings: “You must not commit injustice . . . in weighing or in measuring . . . You should prove to have accurate scales, accurate weights.” (Lev. 19:35, 36) “Two sorts of weights [one for selling and one for buying] are something detestable to Jehovah, and a cheating pair of scales is not good.”—Prov. 20:23.
A businessman who has regard for God will follow these principles. It is true that doing so may cause him to be looked upon as strange, even foolish. He may encounter inconveniences and troubles. But if he maintains a good conscience, which is of great value in the eyes of God, this will be worth more than money. Moreover, many have followed the course of honesty and still have a flourishing business.
This is because honesty is a more powerful weapon than many suppose. On the other hand, dishonesty can be a “two-edged sword” that can turn against its user and bring him to ruin. If a businessman is found to be dishonest, his customers will often forsake him. But the honest businessman gains the confidence of his customers, his suppliers and creditors. Also, his employees will respect him and will tend to be honest with him.
No businessman can afford to underrate the value of prompt, efficient service and a quality product that gives the consumer his money’s worth, along with friendliness and honesty in dealing with customers. Without these qualities, a business is in greater danger of complete collapse than is the honest one. This fact is highlighted in the experiences of some of Jehovah’s witnesses.
For example, consider the experience of an owner of three grocery stores in the southern United States. When medical evidence brought to light the health-damaging effects of tobacco, he gave serious thought to the matter. Not wanting to be responsible for selling his customers something detrimental to their health (he felt that, conscientiously and in all honesty, he could not advertise, display and sell such a product) he consulted with his store managers, getting their agreement to remove all tobacco products from his stores. This was a risk, not only because tobacco sales were profitable, but also because people tended to trade where they could get tobacco when they bought their groceries.
What was the result? For three months the sales in the three stores dropped sharply. Then they began to go up, finally returning to their normal level. Why? The customers appreciated the honest, friendly, considerate service in these stores and were willing to buy their groceries there and get their tobacco elsewhere.
DEALING WITH EMPLOYEES
An employer can benefit his business by applying Bible principles in his relationship with his employees. The Bible counsels: “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all badness.” (Eph. 4:31) Threats and shouting, “bossing” men around, make them unhappy and therefore damage a business. The Bible states why: “An answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up.”—Prov. 15:1.
An employer must remember that those in his employ are not slaves. But the Bible’s advice to slave owners and slaves applies with equal force today to both employer and employee: “Whatever you [slaves] are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men, for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the due reward . . . the one that is doing wrong will receive back what he wrongly did, and there is no partiality. You masters, keep dealing out what is righteous and what is fair to your slaves, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”—Col. 3:23–4:1.
HONESTY AS AN EMPLOYEE
As employees, there is often strong pressure to be dishonest. Employers sometimes encourage employees to misrepresent or lie about the quality of merchandise. Cheating on weights and measures is practiced. Subordinate supervisors may encourage “loafing” or a “slowdown” for various reasons.
However, it has often been found that employers appreciate an employee who sticks to upright principles. They feel that the employee will be loyal and will not steal from them or lie to them.
An instance of this occurred in a West African country. An official in the government invited an efficient young man under his employ to work as his private secretary. The job carried with it a big pay raise and other benefits. The young man explained that he would be happy to take the position, but there was one thing he could not do. When the country’s president phoned at a time when the official should be working in his office but was absent, he explained, he could not conscientiously give the customary answer that the official was in the men’s room. The official argued that others in the office, even religious persons, did not mind telling such “white lies.” The young man replied that a good name with God was more important than position or money, saying: “I would not like to do anything that would displease God.” The official was favorably impressed and said that the country needed trustworthy men like him.
In New York city, employees at a firm having several branch stations had been under surveillance because they were suspected of stealing. Finally a meeting was held. Each employee was interviewed. Each one, in turn, was fired because he had been observed stealing, until four men who lived by Bible principles were interviewed. The detectives who had been investigating commended the men, for they were the only ones who had not stolen anything. These men, all of them Jehovah’s witnesses, were then offered managerial jobs.
Similarly, a grain mill in a Latin-American country was losing money in its flour department, because sacks of flour were being stolen from the shipping room. Flour was scattered over the floor and the excuse was made that sacks had been broken. The owner then hired a man to take charge of the floor and noticed that for the first time in years he began making a profit in that department. On investigation, he found that the recently hired man, as one of Jehovah’s witnesses, lived by Bible principles and had put a stop to the stealing. The owner made the man manager of his entire mill.
These experiences show that there are people that appreciate honesty, and that honesty is rewarded. Even though some may have to resign or lose their jobs because of pressure against them to be dishonest, applying Bible principles as an employee pays, and the person who sticks to what is right finds encouragement in the words of the psalmist, who said: “A young man I used to be, I have also grown old, and yet I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, nor his offspring looking for bread.” (Ps. 37:25) Also, Jesus comforted his disciples with the words: “Never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ . . . Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matt. 6:31-33.
So, whether a businessman or an employee, one who truly applies Bible principles can take courage from the Bible’s words: “The eyes of Jehovah are upon the righteous ones [for their good],” and can keep confidently in mind that “the righteous are the ones whom good rewards.” (1 Pet. 3:12; Prov. 13:21) And the greatest reward of all will be a good conscience before God and men.
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Employee theft in the U.S. increased to 10 billion dollars in 1974.
Shoplifting was half, robbery 1/70 as much.
Billions of Dollars
10 EMPLOYEE THEFT