What does religion have to do with Wall Street pay? Of course – nothing! Right?
Thanks for playing, but that’s wrong. Maybe. It depends.
Actually – it’s nothing. A little. A lot. Everything. All of the above.
Wall Street and Religion
The picture at the left is the New York City skyline. Home to Wall Street. Many would say the business capital of the world. Also home to many famous churches. That doesn’t make for any kind of relationship between religion and Wall Street pay. After all, the way we look at churches is not much different that the way we look at Wall Street.
Both are buildings. Both are large organizations, although of different types. They are similar though, in that both are huge bureaucracies. And both are similar in that we tend to forget that it’s people – individual people – who make up those huge organizations. The church. And the big companies on Wall Street. Just like the little ones on Main Street.
I first wrote about this more than eight years ago. It seems that if anything at all has changed, it’s that things have gotten even worse. Many people would have expected a Democratic President, Barack Obama, to have made things better. That the gap between the rich and the poor would have gotten better. Smaller. But it didn’t.
Now, we have a President, Trump, whose actions make no secret of the fact that his goal is to make the gap as big as possible. And so, it’s time to revisit the topic. To try to get each of us to think. Think about what we’re doing. The kind of people we vote for. The kinds of companies we buy from. And most of all, since this is a Christian site, to think about who we owe our ultimate allegiance to. About our Creator. The one who, for better or worse, put us here to take care of this world – and each other.
What does religion have to do with Wall Street pay?
OK – you’re probably still thinking that religion and Wall Street pay have nothing to do with each other. But please, try to suspend your immediate reaction. Think about the possibilities as you read what follows.
I’ve added to this since the original writing, back in October, 2010. The starting point for it was an article from Money Central on msn.com, titled “Wall Street pay expected to rise”. Unfortunately, the link is no longer valid. I actually only use one sentence from the msn.com article. What’s missing is the chance to go back and see what else they said. However, that doesn’t take anything away from what you’re about to read.
I’ll put updates in text like this, so you can see what I’ve added, here at the end of 2018.
And so – here it is.
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 from a Money Central article titled “Wall Street pay expected to rise”:
“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 – its 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 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.
Actually, now it’s getting on to 40 years ago. And what makes it even sadder than before, as I pointed out – it’s getting worse, and there’s no end in sight. Even more 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.
I guess I really missed it on that statement. Big time. These days, maybe because of more advertising on cable networks and the internet, it seems like a whole bunch of “churches” actually are out to make money. See A Jet for Jesus for just one example.
A lot – because churches do have to survive, both in the short-term & the long-term. Otherwise they’ll disappear just as surely as the poorly run business.
The truth in that statement about disappearing because of a lack of money is also sad. The life of a church, a real church, shouldn’t be determined by the presence or absence of money. It really should be based on what they preach. Unfortunately, again sadly, money comes in for those who will ultimately be condemned as false teachers. At the same time, some who do give the correct message do fail for lack of money.
Everything – because both can have either a short-term or a long-term view of things.
In a way, it’s a trick question. 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 – its 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 The 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. MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2000). Why Government Can’t Save You: An Alternative to Political Activism (p. 131). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Before some of you get too upset, he’s not saying that we should just quietly suffer and do nothing. Hang in there. Something else is coming.
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.
That’s from back in the days when I used to watch Fox News. It’s probably a combination of they got even worse and I’ve gotten more aware, but I can’t even stand to hear a lot of those people anymore. I used to work with someone who asked how I could watch Fox News. Of course, I asked how she could watch MSNBC. Now – I don’t watch any of the news channels. There isn’t hardly any news at all. It’s all opinion. And yelling.
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.
I still can’t watch this either.
Now, it’s mostly reading the news agencies on the web. If it’s too much trash, I can just close the page and move on. It’s not like having to invest time on watching something. It’s always there. And it’s so easy to “turn off”.
But for me, it’s always done now with a view that Christians don’t seem to think of very much any more – what would Jesus do. Or better yet, what would Jesus want me to do?
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. MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2000). Why Government Can’t Save You: An Alternative to Political Activism (p. 131). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
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 I 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.
Short-term / long-term views from the Bible
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 …
Or how about this?
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:
Ge 16:1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 2 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. 3 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. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 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.”
Ge 16:6 “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 five loaves of bread and two small fish.
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
6:1-13 pp — Mt 14:13-21; Mk 6:32-44; Lk 9:10-17
Jn 6:1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Feast was near.
Jn 6:5 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?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Jn 6:7 Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Jn 6:8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Jn 6:10 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. 11 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.
Jn 6:12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
Jn 6:14 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.” 15 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.
On the Road to Emmaus
Lk 24:13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
Lk 24:17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 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?”
Lk 24:19 “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. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 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. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
Lk 24:25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Lk 24:28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29 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.
Lk 24:30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 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?”
Lk 24:33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 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 last 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 –
5:3-12 pp — Lk 6:20-23
Mt 5:1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying:
Mt 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mt 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Mt 5:5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Mt 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Mt 5:7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Mt 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Mt 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Mt 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mt 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 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.
Right after the Beatitudes, Jesus says this:
Salt and Light
Mt 5:13 “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.
Mt 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Conclusion: What does religion have to do with Wall Street pay?
So how does all this connect?
With people. People make up the church. People also make up the corporations. Now, while it’s true that the people at the top of the large companies – like the Board of Directors – set the standards for the company, that doesn’t mean you and I are powerless. However, it does mean we may have to be willing to literally pay the price to live in a Godly way.
For instance, most people are unhappy with many of the pay scales in these big companies. The few at the top rake in millions, if not billions of dollars. Most at the bottom get very little. Often not enough to live on. So in a two parent family, both parents can end up having to work two part-time jobs (each) in order to barely make ends meet. Or maybe they can, and still have to get some kind of aid for the kids. That’s ridiculous.
However – how many of us are willing to take the time and effort – and are willing to pay the extra cost – to shop someplace where that doesn’t happen? Are we willing to forgo the designer shoes, pants, whatever? And what about those famous athlete branded shoes and stuff?
When we go out to eat, knowing that the servers don’t get paid very well, are we willing to give them a tip that’s actually – and I hate to use this word – fair? Some things, it just depends on where we are.
Here in southern California, the cost of living is higher than it is in many parts of the country. A “living wage” here isn’t the same as a “living wage” in many other places. And there are cities that cost a whole lot more than even L.A. does. So while something like a $15 minimum wage may be a good starting point – we also need to recognize that even $15 won’t support a family in some cities.
It’s hard. I know. I have friends where both people are working full time jobs, but they still have to decide between health-care and saving for retirement. It’s not like we don’t know what’s going on. We absolutely do. But are we willing to pay the price to do our part to fix this?
Jesus spoke of counting the cost to be a disciple of His.
The Cost of Being a Disciple
Lk 14:25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Lk 14:28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
Lk 14:31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
Lk 14:34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Maybe all this doesn’t sound much like being a disciple of Jesus. But what about these two verses, just for examples.
Mt 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Mt 5:7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Jesus never told us to just hear His words and nothing else. There’s always an expected action. Even if that action is as small as doing the right thing – and being a light on the hill, where people can see what we do. Then they’ll want to be like us. Because we follow Him.
If we’re at the top of some large company – these words should burn right into us. They should make us want to stop taking so much for ourselves – and start giving to others. Not when we retire and have billions of dollars. Not after we’ve had our employees essentially work for “peanuts” and deprived their families of even basic necessities for all those years while we were getting rich. Not then. Right now.
But even if we’re not at the top, if we buy from them – we can always stop. Give our business to some other company that does take care of its people Even if they’re not Christian – at least if they take proper care of their employees, they are doing something.
We can hunger and thirst for righteousness. But are we doing our part to help?
And as far as mercy – it doesn’t say blessed are those who want mercy to be given. No – it’s an action, pure and simple. Blessed are the merciful.
Think about things like that when you can. Remember that the corporations are made up of people. At the top. And at the bottom. And really, the church is also made up of people. So when it comes to the question of religion and Wall Street pay – the simple truth is that we – people – are on both sides of that question.