The Economics of the Ten Commandments
By Allen Laudenslager & Bryan Neva, Sr. (Note: I wrote this with my friend Allen in 2005; read his blog "A Voice in the Wilderness" at http://allenandson.blogspot.com/)
The Ten Commandments are the central moral edicts of all the Judeo-Christian faith traditions. All these commandments can be summarized in loving God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, as well as loving our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22.37-40). St. Paul summarized the Ten Commandments in Romans 13.9-10 by saying, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” We can learn to live by God’s standards by extrapolating these commandments into lessons for business. We may not always be successful in living up to these standards, but making them our daily focus will keep us from the situational ethics that cause so many moral and ethical lapses in business today.
The 1st Commandment
I am the LORD your GOD; you shall have no other gods before me (Ex 20.2-5; Deut 5.6-9, NAB). You shall worship the LORD your GOD and him only shall you serve (Mt 4.10, NAB).
God desires that we all relate to him very personally; not superficially, or mechanically. He wants us to love him as intensely as he loves us, and he’s personally offended when people sin because it not only hurts us, but more importantly, it hurts others. So in order to gain the happiness of heaven in the next life, we must know, love, and serve God—as well as love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves—in this life.
The secular world falsely teaches that we can find happiness in wealth, pleasure, power, or fame. But Jesus said in Matthew 6.24, “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Keeping God first in our lives isn’t just about worship: it also means not putting money or prestige or anything else before God! By making a little god from the material trappings of success (like a house, a car, or a successful career) we bow down to those things and loose our ability to judge our actions as good or bad. When we judge our actions based on how much money we make, we are bound to forget that how we made that money is more important than making it.
Putting God first and not money, power, or prestige ensures that when it’s time to make the hard decisions we will use clear consistent guidelines and not just the path that is self-serving or expedient. The problem with self-serving or expedient decisions is that all too often they are short-term solutions that result in long-term problems. Imagine the senior management at Enron putting God (or the secular world’s principle of honesty) first. Had they done so, they never would have succumbed to the temptation to cheat their investors, customers, and employees. Imagine all those business people involved in the unethical mortgage crisis which precipitated the 2008 recession; had they put God first we wouldn't be in the mess we're in today.
How many business people today sacrifice their friends, family, and even their own health in serving their companies and careers? How many books have been written and movies made about the unsatisfied businessman? These generally end with the businessman recognizing that self-satisfaction comes from relationships with family, friends, community, and a spiritual relationship with God and not from material possessions.
These books and movies are popular because most people identify with the character’s dilemma in choosing between short-term personal gain and those things that return long-term happiness. Jesus said in Matthew 16.26 (DRV), “For what does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”