Conducting Business by the Book This exercise of examining the relative values of Christianity, Judaism and Platonic values in order to discover which is more applicable to today s business environment is in no way intended to be condemnation of the two passed over. All have had their place in business practice over the centuries, with the one being most important at any time and in any place being largely a function of the beliefs of the people of a specific region and heritage. However, business has changed so much just in the past decade that it has become apparent that there are increasing numbers of traditional value items creeping into daily business operation overall. As business has struggled in America to meet the demands of the American consumer for increased quality and reduced price, it has discovered also that it is the old values, those that have survived the centuries, that work best and provide the highest returns. Of all these, Christianity appears to be the best suited to today s business operation. Plato furnished us with the basis of ethics and a method for determining the value of situations and events in terms of ethical consideration, but the role of the individual was less important than that of the whole. Plato tries to make us realize there is no way we can bring order in the city unless each one of us first brings order within himself; that justice, which is the goal of man and the idea of man, is a private business before being a social one, because you can’t ask others to do what you yourself don’t want to do. He does that best of all in a dialogue, the Republic (Bernard, 1998; p. 951027_1). In terms of business, the city can be viewed as being the organization. If a manager cannot ask someone (i.e., delegate) to do something he neither has the time nor desire to do, then he is in violation of Platonic principles. There is an impressive growth in the numbers of one- or two-people operations where that view could apply, but it is unworkable in most organizations. Jewish heritage is that of successful enterprise. It was Jewish wealth that built much of modern-day Jerusalem; it was Jewish wealth looted from all of Eastern Europe at the hand of the Nazis. As a class, the Jewish enjoy a stereotype of success and are committed to taking care of their own. In the earliest part of their history dating only after Moses delivery of the Ten Commandments were additional laws given by God to His chosen people. The additional laws were specific in all aspects of life, including those of business. Deuteronomy 24:14-15 (NIV) states Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin. Much the same sentiment was revealed in Leviticus 19:33 (NIV) in When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. Israelites also were not to charge their brothers interest on money or anything else (Deuteronomy 23:19, NIV), though they were free to charge non-Israelites interest on anything they might please. Conducting business with such a base of favoritism based either on ethnic group or religious conviction today would cause any organization to become the instant target of all manners of special interest groups. Cries of discrimination would eclipse any chance of the business to attain prosperity, unless all its managers and employees were Jewish or, as in Israel, Jewish tradition were the base of the law of the land. Such is not the case in America. While the laws of the Pentateuch are admirable and many are applicable in today s world, a requirement of hierarchy preservation alone excludes the principles of Judaism from providing the most efficient manner of business conduct in today s climate.
Christianity offers the highest degree of personal responsibility of any of the three approaches. After the Messiah appeared, many of the rules set by God were changed, such as most dietary laws and those of animal sacrifice and annual atonement with the services of a priest as intercessor. Instead, Jesus took on the role of the priest intercessor on behalf of believers in their communication with God. God was not some far-off and abstract being to be feared in any manner but in awe. The message shifted from one of holding individuals and groups accountable to stringent laws to one of God s love and acceptance of any that would come to Him through His Son Jesus Christ. So what does that have to do with business? It is the focus on the individual and each person s accountability for his own actions that makes the difference. Jesus was accused by the Jewish leaders of being a drunk and carouser for His habit of going wherever people of all types collected (Matthew 11:18-19, NIV). While He held the highest of standards both for Himself and for His followers, He nonetheless had great love and tolerance for all. Were that not true, He would not have been so kind to the woman at the well or the woman about to be stoned for adultery. While they participated in behavior He did not condone, He nonetheless upheld their right to live in peace and without condemnation. Such is the need in business today as the workplace becomes increasingly diverse as the global economy continues to expand. Christianity s emphasis on personal responsibility without condemnation of others and exhortation to coexist in peace with others also is a requirement of successful business today (Burkett, 1990). Plato assumed that the highest form a life could take was that of contemplation, but that leaves the mundane duties of actually accomplishing something left to those who are somehow inferior. Judaism protected the Jews, but was largely intolerant of anyone else. Christianity promotes personal responsibility along with a strong work ethic: If a man will not work, he shall not eat (II Thessalonians 3:10); and …never tire of doing what is right (II Thessalonians 3:13). References Anckaert, L. (1995, October). Language, ethics, and the other between Athens and Jerusalem: a comparative study of Plato and Rosenzweig. Philosophy East and West, vol. 45, p. 545. Bernard, Suzanne (1998, November 21). E-mail Archives : Why bother studying Plato, anyway? At http://phd.evansville.edu/email/951027_1.htm. Burkett, Larry (1990). Business by the Book: The Complete Guide of Biblical Principles for business Men and Women. (Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, Inc.).