The Rev. Stanley S. Harakas is a priest of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and is Archbishop lakovos Professor of Orthodox Theology Emeritus in the field of Orthodox Christian Ethics at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA. Fr. Harakas is the author of five pamphlets and fifteen books, both scholarly and popular, and over one hundred thirty published scholarly articles and book contributions. For twenty-one years (1980-2000), he was a weekly columnist in the national Greek-American newspaper, The Hellenic Chronicle. He is a beloved teacher to generations of Greek Orthodox Christians in America, thanks to his many years as a professor and his prolific writings.
During the past few years, concern about business ethics has come to the fore with the collapse of large corporations, largely because of shady deals, manipulation of financial records, and the gaining of wealth by devious means that have ruined the retirement expectations of hundreds of thousands of employees and stockholders. Some have argued that the contractual awarding of stock options for business executives caused the manipulation of profit figures by them, so that they could personally gain, even if it meant using fraudulent accounting procedures to influence earning reports, and therefore, stock prices.
Elaborate ethical theories have been spawned as a result, in a whole industry of publications and corporate workshops to help executives formulate codes of business ethics for their executives and employees.
However, none of these will work unless there is a basic orientation of people’s character, whether they are CEOs, upper and middle management, or regular employees.
Long ago, the writer of the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament pointed to what is essential: the commitment to be and do what is good, right and fitting. It applies to business, as it does to any other endeavor. Read and reflect on Proverbs 11:19-12:6:
He who is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die. Men of perverse mind are an abomination to the Lord, but those of blameless ways are his delight. Be assured, an evil man will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will be delivered. . . . The desire of the righteous ends only in good; the expectation of the wicked in wrath. One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. A liberal man will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it. He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but evil comes to him who searches for it. He who trusts in his riches will wither, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. . . . The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, but lawlessness takes away lives. If the righteous is requited on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner! Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. A good man obtains favor from the Lord, but a man of evil devices he condemns. A man is not established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved. . . . The thoughts of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are treacherous. The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright delivers men.
Certainly, much more could and should be said about business ethics. But the commitment to developing a character of goodness, doing the right, and living fittingly is the key to business ethics!
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