Politics And The Ubiquitous Good Of Business

Saturday was a good day (Exclamation Point)! I woke up, which is always a good thing, had a great time of devotion, and then traveled with my wife, picked up the grand-daughter (dropped her off at school), and took the grandson with us to Portland. We picked up some equipment for the daughter, and then traveled to Braking Cycles on Powell. It was Braking Cycle’s one-year anniversary. It was great to support the ministry and make new friends. After we spent some time there we travelled back to the Couv, where we dropped off the daughter’s equipment, and then went home and the grand-son helped with my yard responsibilities. He is now sleeping and I am writing. However, I did not post this blog on Saturday, and I have picked it up again after the midterm elections. I am interjecting my thoughts on the election.

First of all, I am appalled at the negative rhetoric in this campaign. I am horrified at Trump’s language, but I am just as appalled at the left’s willingness to do the same thing as they “resist.” Now the results are in, and it appears the Democrats will take the House, but the Republicans will increase their hold on the Senate. It also appears that Republican Governors will outnumber the Democrats. Congrats to the many women who have been elected in this midterm elections. Now is the time for leadership, not partisan politics.

My two favorite Presidents in my short life have been Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. People have strong feelings about both of these individuals, but both could lead. They both faced an opposition party that had control of all or part of Congress, but they got things done. If Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House and follows her desire to act like adults, then America wins. However, if she follows her rhetoric to destroy the GOP then America loses. On the other hand, we will now see what kind of leader Trump can become. If he tones down his rhetoric, just maybe he can get some things done even with a Democratic House. If he doesn’t then he will not have a chance in 2020. Obama never got the Congress on the same page as he, which is why, as much as people like him, I am not that impressed with him as a leader. He is eloquent, and smart, but I don’t put him at the same leadership level as Clinton and Reagan. Now back to this regularly scheduled show.

Today’s offering comes as a result of an experience I had at Braking Cycles. I had a conversation with Salvador. He is a young man who Transitional Housing helped get off the street and into a good paying job. He is now married and working in construction. It is a great testimony of the work Transitional Housing and Braking Cycles is doing with at risk youth. These ministries are not just about giving help, they are about giving young people skills and abilities to transition to a productive life. The greatest poverty reduction tool at our disposal is giving people the skills needed to be successful in their jobs. I think right now is an incredible opportunity for young people to find those jobs, good paying jobs, because of the booming economy.

In October business created 250,000 jobs. It also stated that wages grew another 3.1%, which is due to the tight labor market. In other words, there are so many jobs available that people have to leave a job they are currently at to take the new one. This means employers have to have better incentives, pay, to get employees to change, or stay. Over the last three months business has added, on average, 210,000 jobs. This is amazing for a nine-year economic expansion.

Although the unemployment rate has stayed the same, 3.7%, the workforce participation rate ticked up to 62.9%. This represents a prime working age (25-54) percentage of 82.3, a .7% increase. Teens increased to 35.5%, but the 20-24 year-old age group declined. Not sure why this occurred, maybe they are still living at home (just kidding). The labor force participation rate for those without a high school diploma increased to 47.7%. All of this is exciting.

What I find very interesting was reported back in May by the Washington Post. “The United States now has a job opening for every unemployed person in the country.” The Post also stated that “many business executives say their top worry is that they can’t find enough workers. Unemployment is at the lowest level in nearly two decades, and the jobless rate for African Americans and Hispanic Americans is at an all-time low.” This is the power of business to do good. It is about helping people have the ability to be productive and provide for their family’s needs. What is very good, “companies are revising their hiring practices to ensure that they do not rule out any potential good workers, especially those who might not have a college degree or people who have criminal histories and have served time in jail.”

I want to place this in juxtaposition with what just happened with the United Auto workers. It appears the justice department just convicted seven United Worker leaders and Fiat-Chrysler Executives for corruption and conspiracy. According to the WSJ, “The FBI’s three-year investigation has revealed that Fiat Chrysler executives funneled cash to UAW worker training centers in return for backing collective-bargaining agreements.” Union Leaders then used this cash for “lavish retreats to Palm Springs, condo expenses, and other things of value.” Regardless of one’s political affiliation, corruption is a possibility.

In this WSJ editorial the writers also discuss a report from the Detroit News about Union Leadership misappropriating union dues. “UAW Union leaders tapped the union strike fund to build an 1,885-square-foot cottage on Black Lake in Onaway, Michigan, for retired President Dennis Williams.” The hypocrisy continued when a UAW spokesperson said they always use union labor when available, but the news report stated that when union contractors are too expensive the UAW used non-union laborers to save money. Hmm, core values are one thing, but being pragmatic is another. This is the end of our regularly scheduled show, now another commercial.

Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Mitchell, and President Trump now is the time for leadership, not more partisan politics. The right does not have a monopoly on corruption, or even on politicians with allegations of abuse (Keith Ellison, Tony Cardenas, Bobby Scott, and Bob Menendez), the left has its issues too. Thus, it is time to stop throwing stones and work together for relief, development, and new social policies that help to create both economic opportunity and strong social programs. Good luck to the three of you, please for the good of the country exercise leadership instead of perpetuating hate.

And that is my thought for the day!

Romans Chapter 5: Faith Triumphs Over Trouble

Over the first four chapters of the Epistle to the Romans we have learned that all have sinned, none of us have the right to judge anyone else, and God knew we couldn’t deal with the sin problem, so He did. I love the first four chapters, but we are now getting into the meat of Paul’s letter. In other words, how we can practically live for God, knowing that He loves us and wants us to be blessed.

Chapter 5 begins with the word therefore. Pastor Chuck Smith used to say, “when you see the word therefore, you need to ask wherefore.” Therefore, reaches back into the previous chapter. Because we have saved by grace through faith we are declared justified, as the old timers used to say just if I’d never sinned. And, we now have peace with God. The first verse in chapter 5 is one that deals with standing. Because of what Jesus has done we now have peace with God. Wuest in his wonderful commentary states that this is a doctrinal point that demonstrates the difference between standing and experience. Our standing is one of peace based on the death of Christ, and as verse two states faith allows us to have access into this grace provided by the death of Jesus Christ, and by faith we stand on the fact of His provision, but the hope is not just for the here and now, it gives a hope for the future.

As Paul demonstrates we have a good standing with God, but we also can trust Him to help us to grow in our lives. Because God was willing to do something wonderful for us, we can trust Him that experiences in our lives will help us grow stronger. In verse 3 through 5 we see that we glory in tribulations. The Greek word translated “tribulation” is interesting. According to Wuest it means, “pressing, pressing together, pressure, oppression, affliction, distress, and straits.” He also states that because of the sentence structure, “these are naturally expected” elements in the believer’s life. What this means then, we can expect occurrences that will create great tension in our lives, but we can know that they are there only for good purposes. As the song says, He is a good, good Father.

These tribulations work, “accomplish, achieve, to do that from which something results,” like patience, character, and hope. The word character has a sense of approval. In other words, we are tried and proved faithful as we stand in faith. I love this promise from God. All of us who walk with God have experienced many different tribulations, but God is faithful and therefore as we trust Him we are not disappointed. In fact, His love has filled and continues to fill our hearts as a work of the Holy Spirit.

This first part of chapter 5 demonstrates the rich life of the believer who walks with God. It starts with a foundation of value that gives one peace, and it continues through a life of faith through all of our experiences. This is a much different experience than what had become of humanity. As Paul explains, through Adam we all became sinners. Through the disobedience of Adam in the garden we all were plunged into death. However, just like all mankind became sinners, “the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ abounded to many.” Every human being demonstrates the reality of Adamic sin by our own sinful nature, but through the death of one man, we can experience redemption from this painful reality. Verse 18 states, “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all humankind, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”

Chapter 5 is an amazing testimony of God’s work in the world today. By grace through faith we have a new standing with God, one that has a foundation in peace. But we also have an experiential promise that God is making us more like Jesus every day. Improving our character, making us more approved through the various trials. All of this was done by a loving God who first loved us before we were ever able to love Him. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly,” and “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

I don’t know about you, but I am stoked by this. I am jazzed by this. I find it to be groovy.

And that is my thought for the day!

Capitalism And Business As Mission

Have I stated recently how much I love retirement? I am settling in to a routine that I think will be good for me. I start my day by reading. I read two newspapers, one local and the Wall Street Journal, three books, and my Bible. I have breakfast and pray, and then I go to work. I begin writing down my thoughts. I have a topic I am working on that really is just for me. If anyone reads my blogs then I am happy, if no one reads them, I am happy too because I am growing. However, I have decided to interject some additional offerings to increase my readership.

Capitalism versus Socialism is a hot topic right now, and I have just finished Ronald Nash’s excellent book Social Justice and the Christian Church, so why not wade into the muck again. So here goes.

Michael R. Baer in his book, “Business As Mission: The Power of Business in the Kingdom of God,” describes what can be accomplished via business if the owners or managers see themselves as stewards. Often Business, like Capitalism, is viewed as something evil. Baer states, “In much of the world there is a fundamental conviction among sincere Christians that there is something intrinsically wrong with business and that no serious follower of Christ would go into business, much less consider it a calling.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Business is a mechanism for creating opportunity for people and positive social change.

Ronald Nash argues that those who see Capitalism as immoral are incorrect. In 1974 Israel Kirzner, in his book “The Ugly Market: Why Capitalism is Hated, Feared and Despised,” Kirzner states “One of the most intriguing paradoxes surrounding modern capitalism is the hate, fear, and the contempt with which it is commonly regarded. Every ill in contemporary society is invariably blamed on business, on the pursuit of private profit, on the institution of private ownership.” To hold this type of mentality one must adhere to a worldview that interprets what occurs in the business world as evil, that worldview is usually based in some type of big government, socialism, centrally planned solution. I have criticized this view in previous blogs and will continue to do so. However, as a Democratic-Capitalist I also think there is a need for some type of referee in the market process. I will come back to that discussion later.

Critics of capitalism often retreat to the 18th and 19th century arguing the capitalism created misery for the working class. I will admit there were excesses and exploitation, but there was also growth and opportunity for people to advance economically. The industrial age helped to create products that were less expensive, so people could afford them, think of Henry Ford. Poverty did not begin with capitalism, and people starving did not begin with capitalism. The process of human change was occurring and is always occurring. Our country moved from an agrarian society to one that was industrial. Urban centers became the norm as people moved from farms to the city. As the new business models became more mature, more people thrived, and today we enjoy the fruits of those early difficult years of industrial capitalism.

It was also during this time that government and business worked on balances to ensure greed and selfishness were adjudicated allowing people to have the protections we have experienced in both the 20th and 21st centuries. I believe the market system allows people to make choices for themselves and their own benefit. They have the freedom to move where ever they need to and find that job that can support their family. Or they can start that business because they have the right to own their own business. Capitalism as an economic system allows that to happen.

But, and this is a big but, the people that own those businesses should behave a certain way. This is why I think Business as Mission is such a good thing. Business as Mission is about calling. I was called to business to do good in the aspects of business I have had responsibility for. As a worker, I always tried to do a good job. As a manager I tried to be a servant leader. I tried to help my employees be successful. And as a business professor I have always tried to be prepared and provide the best education I could for my students. Operating a kingdom business is doing the best we can for the glory of God.

Business helps people to provide for their and their family’s needs. Think about all of the stakeholders affected by a particular business. The owner, the employees, the customers, and the community are all impacted by a business. Each represents a need that is meant to be met, all of which will make everyone better off. In the movie Dave with Kevin Kline there is a great scene where Dave explains why he loves his small business, an employment agency. Dave gave this great speech about what it is like when a person receives a paycheck for a job well done. I also saw that when I used to hand out paychecks. That was my favorite day of the week when I used to go around and give each employee their check. The employees were always happy to see me.

Remember, business is about relationships. If there is one thing I have learned in my over 50 years of participating in business it is the importance of relationships. Business is not about who you can cheat, it is about creating a trust-based relationship that lasts for a long time. There is nothing more important in an organization than the relationship between manager and employee. There is nothing more important that the relationship between Employee and customer. Business is about relationships.

A for profit business is not evil, and it can be used to create great good in society. Through business and the opportunity it provides – people around the world are better off than in the past. But I think business can do better, which is why I see the importance of business as mission.

And that is my thought for the day!