Corruption in Business

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Last week we looked at the flywheel principle which is causing the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. I suggested that income inequality wasn’t social injustice, but the design of the universe. Most of us simply do not have a framework for how this can be possible, yet alone see it as part of God’s benevolent kingdom.

“Keven, something must be wrong with your assertion.”

The principle I discussed is still valid because of a generative (abundance based) economy (which is what the “Kingdom of God” is). One apple has several seeds. Each seed has the potential to become a tree generating hundreds of apples, thousands of seeds, and abundance of apples. That’s the design of God’s world. 

Investment is the work of replanting the seed instead of discarding it. Abundant futures require investments. Debt erodes the abundance of the future. Managing and investing whatever we have is the essence of the parables of the talents and minas. The principle is sound. Everyone who applies them, gradually increases what they possess.

The problem is corruption. As Richard Rohr says, there is enough for everyone’s need, there isn’t enough for everyone’s greed. We all want just a little bit more. Therein lies the problem. Everything we hate about corrupt governments, businesses and economies also lives within our heart too.

Corruption is a truth problem. We make corrupt decisions because we don’t possess the truth or because we won’t apply the truth we possess. A struggling student may cheat if he or she perceives it will give some sort of advantage. Our individual success requires that our employers are able to make advantageous exchanges in the marketplace. We’re interconnected. Corruption is NOT seeking to find an advantage, but prioritizing that advantage as a distinct thing from all others. It’s a form of “otherness” disease. Shareholder value very important, as we saw in the parable from last week. However, shareholder value is not distinct from all others in society (kingdom). Corruption is the loss of an integrated worldview.

Institutional power emerges when disintegrated people use an institution for personal advantage. Advantage obscures the truth. We close a blind eye to systems that give us our well being. We defend them, we protect them. Institutions make trades with us; “In exchange for our livelihood and identity, we will put the institutions interests above other people.”

Corruption is otherness disease which infects us with competition. The test of whether we’ve become what we hate is the amount of competition in our heart.  Carefully think about it. If you hate big corporations and their impact on government, but at the same time you hate it when a competing business gets work you could have obtained, then the same corruption lives in you. The only difference is the scope of influence on others.

You might say; “But I run a very honest, fair business, I’m not corrupt in my practices.” That may be true, and your business may be a better alternative in the long run, but if you want more power and influence in order to diminish another’s power and influence, then you don’t really understand corruption. There is nothing wrong with having power and influence, but there is everything wrong with desiring power and influence.

Consider the story of Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector (Luke 19:2). He had power and influence. Jesus had such an effect on his soul that he was finally free enough to let go of power, influence and identity. He remained the chief tax collector but his role in the institution was no longer used to his own advantage and the power he had he freely shared with others. Jesus said this is the very definition of salvation.

Salvation is when self promotion gives way to the promotion of others. It’s not the loss of the organization. Zacchaeus was still a tax collector. Salvation is integration. Zacchaeus no longer saw “others.”  Every example of corruption surrounds self interest. Every great transforming, redeeming work in the world, is based on the interests of others, but not to the exclusion of those who established it. Now you know corruption.

Corruption in business is the same as corruption everywhere. Corruption is the most widespread truth problem in the world. It’s a stranglehold that is loosed from the inside out, not from the outside in. The problem is not capitalism or big corporations. The problem is corruption.

The world is gradually waking up to realize that scarcity, fear and competition are the wrong ways to grow a civilization. There is a wave of conscious capitalism that is redeeming the world by using an others first model or servant leadership. We can each join the revolution at any moment, no matter where we are employed.

Because the switch from corruption to the promotion of others is flicked from the inside, a completely new world is actually possible within a single generation. Of course that seems like a pipe dream. While there are a lot of hard hearts that will not part with their power (because they think its theirs) the only heart we must concern ourselves with is our own. 

Whatever happened to Zacchaeus’ heart needs to first happen to ours. Salvation must come to our house too. Our consciousness must rise. And the moment it does, we move from scarcity, fear and competition, to abundance, liberty and service. We move from two-divided, to one-united.  

We don’t have to wait for the promised new world to arrive, because for some of us, it already has. What’s amazing is that the kingdom doesn’t come despite business, but because of it.