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What Does Religion Have To Do With Wall Street Pay?

October 16, 2010

What does religion have to do with Wall Street pay?

Nothing? A lot? Everything?

Or is this just a trick question.

Actually - it's all of the above.

How can that be?

Check out this article from Money Central on msn.com, titled Wall Street pay expected to rise.

If you're like a lot of people - myself included - this topic will likely get you at least a little upset. But - that's not the point. The reason I'm pointing it out is this sentence:

"Until focus of these institutions changes from revenue generation to long-term shareholder value, we will see these outrageous pay packages and compensation levels," said Charles Elson, the director of the Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware.

That reminds me of something I learned in a graduate economics class. The premise of the instructor was that "greed is good". Really?

You know what? He was right!

But - there was one really big caveat to what he said.

The entire statement was -- "Greed is good - if one has a really long term view".

His point was that corporations were too focused on short term profits. They needed to be more interested in what was good for the long term life of the company - it's employees - its stockholders - its customers - everybody. Then they would be willing to do things that may not seem to be in their best interest as far as the next quarter's profit results. But it would be good for the company in the long run.

That was quite a few years ago. More than 25. It would seem that not much - if anything - has changed since then. Sad.

So - what's that got to do with religion?

Nothing - because churches aren't in business to make money. At least they shouldn't be.

A lot - because churches do have to survive, both in the short term & the long term - otherwise they will disappear just as surely as the poorly run business.

Everything - because both can have either a short term or a long term view of things.

As for the trick question part - it's the difference as to what that short or long term view is all about.

For the business - it can / should be the things I mentioned above - it's employees, shareholders, customers, Etc.

For the churches - it's the souls of the people. After all - what is the church, but a group of people. It's not about the buildings - it's about the people.

In his book, Why Government Can’t Save You, John MacArthur talks about the short term view:

As noble as the desire to reform society may be, and as stirring as the emotions sometimes are when we’re involved in a political cause we really believe is right, those activities are not to be the Christian’s chief priorities. As we have seen in the previous chapters of this volume, God does not call the church to influence the culture by promoting legislation and court rulings that advance a scriptural point of view. Nor does He condone any type of radical activism that would avoid tax obligations, disobey or seek removal of government officials we don’t agree with, or spend an inordinate amount of time campaigning for a so-called Christian slate of candidates.

And isn't that what we keep seeing on TV and in the news.

If one watches Fox news - we see it as the "right" thing to do - support the conservative Christian candidates. If we can make sinful things illegal, people won't do them any more and then God will watch out for our country again. At least that's what they say.

If one watches most other TV news - we see the progressive liberals claiming that the religious right is trying to stomp on their rights and liberties by imposing their unconstitutional morals on an enlightened society that realizes those old morals are pretty much bigoted, racist, anti-woman, Etc. At least that's what they say.

And what does John MacArthur say?

The church will really change society for the better only when individual believers make their chief concern their own spiritual maturity, which means living in a way that honors God’s commands and glorifies His name. Such a concern inherently includes a firm grasp on Scripture and an understanding that its primary mandate to us is to know Christ and proclaim His gospel. A godly attitude coupled with godly living makes the saving message of the gospel credible to the unsaved. If we claim to be saved but still convey proud, unloving attitudes toward the lost, our preaching and teaching—no matter how doctrinally orthodox or politically savvy and persuasive—will be ignored or rejected.

And - of course - what does the Bible say?

In his book, MacArthur goes through a number of things from the New Testament - especially from Paul.

Since I'm going to take a slightly different twist on this - I'll use different references.

But let me explain why.

The book was written as an alternative to political activism.

I started to read it looking for more emphasis on literally why the government can't save us - thinking it would be as opposed to how Jesus can save us. The book didn't go there. Not that it's a bad book - it isn't. It makes a lot of good points, many of which I've included. But when I saw that quote about changing course to look at the long term - that's where I felt like this series should go - in the direction of saving the soul - and God's long term approach to saving us - and how the government, as MacArthur writes, cannot do that.

So - long term approach.

How about starting in the Old Testament?

Rather than have this segment come out as long as War and Peace - let's just say there are numerous references to the coming of the Messiah - the One who would save us.

But even in the OT - people had a short term view of things.

For instance, when the Israelites were wandering in the desert - after being delivered from the Egyptians, in Exodus:

Ex 15:24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

Ex 16:2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.

Ex 17:3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

All of this after God promised to take care of them. And this is only a small part of it. You can read the whole story in Exodus.

Sounds bad - but this wasn't even the first time. Or the second. Or ...

There's Abram, whom God promised would have more descendants that there were stars in the sky. And what did he do? When he got impatient - waiting for God to fulfill His promise:

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.”

“Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

Again - not very good. Short term view - can't wait for God. The whole sequence is in Genesis, Chapters 15 & 16.

I could go on and on with this - all from the Old Testament.

But - let's fast forward to the New Testament - to Jesus.

Throughout the OT - the prophets talked of the coming of the Messiah - one who would save God's people - bring them salvation - meaning to deliver them from evil and save their souls. When He did arrive - the Jewish people wanted an earthly king - one who would deliver them from the Romans and make their earthly lives better.

One reference to this before His death on the cross came after Jesus fed the five thousand with 5 loaves of bread and two small fish. From John 6:1-14 -

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

So the people didn't really understand His message. They were thinking short term, making their current situation better - not their eternal situation, where they could spend the rest of forever with Jesus.

Even after His death, and after knowing that His body was no longer in the tomb - some of those who had followed Jesus were still thinking short term. The following is from Luke 24:13-35 -

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Even when things happen that God has told us will happen - we still can't seem to get away from the short term view of what things are like - what's happening right now - even though the really important questions should be about the long term issues - and what does God have in mind for us.

That earlier sequence should indicate that truly - the government cannot save us - Jesus can. And if we want Jesus to be our "government" - or earthly style king / president / ruler - it's not going to happen. When the Jews tried that while He was alive - He withdrew from them.

So - what does God want us to do - here on this earth? If we're not supposed to force our beliefs / morals / view of right and wrong on others - what are we supposed to do?

How about this - from Matthew 5:3-12 -

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

These look like pretty good things to do.

But even here - there are those who believe that these are moral standards to live by that should point to social justice - a very worldly point of view - a very short term point of view.

The key phrase that separates Jesus' true, long term, point of view from the short term social justice on earth point of view - is the three little words - "because of me".

This whole sequence - The Beatitudes - it is all based on being & doing those things because of Jesus. Not because the government said to do them. Not because some person we just happen to admire said to do them. Not for any reason other than because of Jesus.

We can't do these things without Jesus.

Once we have Him - we can't help but want to do them.

Because of Jesus.

So - back to the question at hand - the short term question. Can / should Christians try to force our ways on the world? Do we have an obligation to do that? Can we prevent people from sinning by doing that? Can we save them - their souls - by doing that?


God gave us a choice - to follow Him or not.

Who are we to think that we have the right - or the ability - to force someone else to do what God did not force us to do?

If He wanted to do that - He could.

But He made us with free will.
The free will to accept Him - love Him - follow Him - and be saved by Him.
The free will to reject Him - hate Him - turn away from Him - and be condemned by Him.

It's our choice.

It's everyone's choice.

What does He want us to do?

How about live according to His Word - be a light unto the world - and let God do what only He can do? Let Him save people - because neither we nor the government can.

Only Jesus can save people.

I pray that you are have exercised your free will to accept God's gift of salvation.

From Matthew 5:13-14 (right after the Beatitudes)

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.