Practicing one’s faith in the pragmatic, bottom-line business and professional world, where seeing is believing, is difficult enough. Faith is especially hard to come by during times of economic adversity. A recent mortgage fraud case reminded me of this truth.
The borrower’s business grew rapidly by purchasing houses at below market prices and rehabbing them, making them more attractive to potential buyers. The business owners would leverage as much debt as possible, borrowing large amounts of money to acquire as many low-cost houses as the bank allowed.
Eventually, however, mistakes were made. The borrower made poor decisions on some properties; reconstruction work was slowed on others, and the company bought houses much faster than it could sell them. As a result, a number of the properties remained unsold, consuming much of the borrower’s available cash resources.
Eventually the borrowers had an important decision to make: “Do we admit our problem and accept the consequences, or do we lie to the lender and use their money on other projects?” Unfortunately, fear overcame their conscience and faith, leading the company into fraud and ultimately, criminal charges.
Faith, in all likelihood, was violated in two ways in this case. First, the borrower proceeded more aggressively than the unstable real estate market warranted, even with the devalued status of properties that were purchased. Most likely, the borrowers did not seriously consult God for guidance about whether to proceed when the growing risk became evident.
Second, the borrower lacked the faith to trust God with the outcome of being straight-forward with the bank about the increasing debt load. Instead, the owners of the company chose to lie and presume they could wriggle their way out of debt by spending more. (Does that scenario sound at all familiar?)
They might have avoided their fraud and the criminal consequences if they had heeded the promise of Psalm 23:4, which offers the assurance that God can be trusted when it says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”
This verse and the entire psalm were written by a shepherd faced with the daunting task of guiding his sheep through dark, threatening passages where the animals might encounter predators of various kinds. Operating a real estate business is very different from shepherding sheep, but the principle remains the same: Followers of Jesus need to trust their Lord in times of uncertainty and even danger.
Another passage, Philippians 4:6-7, offers a similar promise: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The owners of the residential refurbishing business did not believe or act upon this assurance. If you are faced with a similar dilemma, I have a recommendation: Choose faith, not fear.
Copyright 2013, Integrity Resource Center, Inc. Adapted with permission from “Integrity Moments with Rick Boxx,” a commentary on issues of integrity in the workplace from a Christian perspective. www.integrityresource.org. His book, How to Prosper in Business Without Sacrificing Integrity, gives a biblical approach for doing business with integrity.
CBMC INTERNATIONAL: Jim Firnstahl, President
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1. How easy – or difficult – do you find it to live out your spiritual faith in today’s marketplace, where decisions are often made according to bottom lines, sales quotas, ruthless competition, and ever-changing economic environments?
2. If you had been one of the owners of the real estate company discussed in this “Monday Manna,” what course of action do you think you might have encouraged? Explain your answer.
3. Some people would contend that remaining true to their faith is relatively simple during times of prosperity, but very difficult during times of adversity. How do you respond to this perspective?
4. The passage from the New Testament book of Philippians advises not being anxious about anything, but in all things to submit prayers and petitions – with thanksgiving – to God. Have you ever done this? Why or why not? If you have, what has been the outcome?
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Psalm 1:1-6; 37:1-6; Proverbs 3:5-6, 10:9, 11:3, 13:6, 16:2-3,9; Matthew 5:13-16