The Business of The Spiritual Formation of Business (Part III)

As I said yesterday, The Market is neither good nor bad. It isan amoral entity, a mechanism for producing and distributing milk and meat. And let me reiterate, don't we all need milk and meat? Don't we need clothing, homes, and transportation? The college professors and television scholars tell us The Market is the most efficient means of delivering that milk and meat to the people, and experiences teaches us this is true. (Aren't you reading on a screen produced, distributed, and sold in The Market? Didn't your morning cup of joe come from The Market?)

But what happens when The Market is pumped full of steroids and hopped up on cocaine? What happens when its chief aim becomes wealth-creation at any cost? What happens when we-the-people fail to shape The Market and it grows, and grows, and grows into a Frankenconomy? Humans become resources to be managed instead of people to be cherished. Consumers become targets instead of individuals to be served. In any Frankencompany running in the Frankenconomy, everyone from the CEO to the janitor becomes a corporate tool--expendable, fungible, fireable at will. The people either become centaurs--half market, half men--or they burn out. They either succeed in delivering profits or they fail.

(As a matter of course, not all companies are this way. There are some very good companies out there. I'm simply making macro-observations.)

The Market--doesn't it shape society, too? Doesn't it reward the successful Centaur (which I have been, perhaps am) while demoting the one who doesn't quite fit the Frankencompany mold? See the system of advantages (credits) and disadvantages (debits) it creates.

The credits--larger bonuses, nicer toys, bigger houses, better schools.

The debits--low hourly wages, Frankenfood sold by the company store, substandard education.

The Market operates on an us and them accounting system. And though this might seem harsh, ask yourself: is it true?

What, then, is the role of the Christian in The Market? My hunch is that it's to refuse to see the Frankenconomy as the norm. It's to see it for what it is--strung out, hyperactive, sometimes inequitable--and to note its effect on the people. It is to be in The Market, connected to its tenuously, not umbilically (which is to say "In the World but not of it"). And for those Christian businessmen in The Market, it's to see where we've corrupted the system and set it to rights.

This involves sacrifice; yes?

Sacrifice a little time. Find the burned out employee and listen. Share their burden. Show them that there is a better way to live--not as half man, half market centaurs, but as fully human, made in the image of God. Find ways to show them God's love, which doesn't give two bluechips about their performance.

Sacrifice a little money. Use your own market rewards to invest in people, in systems of equity. Invest in projects that share the good news to the disadvantaged. What's the good news? Let's say it again--people do not need to become half man, half market centaurs; people are fully human, made in the image of God, loved outside of our systems of debits and credits.

Sacrifice your own pride. Preach the good news to yourself. Look at your quotas, your goals, and work hard to complete them ("he who is faithful in little," and all of that). But when compromise comes knocking, when The Market asks you to discard half your humanity, remind yourself--you are no centaur; you are fully human, made in the image of God.

Sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice. This is the word of the day. Let's practice.


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