DEERFIELD, Ill. (BP)–The phrase “Business as usual” has taken on new meaning as every few days journalists and prosecutors add a new name to the corporate scandal tally: Enron, Andersen, WorldCom, Quest and … Martha Stewart? Yes, not even America’s favorite homemaker could escape the recent allegations of financial scandal.
The fifth amendment is getting a lot of exercise, as CEOs and CPAs stand up before courts and committees and swear that they will tell nothing at all, at least not until they have to.
Employees simmer and rage as they learn the fate of their jobs and their retirement packages. Investors burn with anger as their stocks and their childrens’ college funds plummet while some in top management plan exotic trips overseas with stolen cash.
The stench of deceit fills the air. A matrix of manipulative, strategic cunning has been exposed. The public confidence in the corporate world cascades exponentially with each new breach of trust. Who knows the extent of this matrix?
Where is Amos, shepherd of Tekoa, prophetic voice of the northern tribes of Israel, when we need him?
He spoke a firm word from the Lord during the reign of Jeroboam II, when the “haves” of business, politics and religion manipulated its prosperous times by “selling the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes” (1:6) and using false measurements to trample the “poor into the dust of the earth” (1:7). They built houses of “hewn stone” and planted “pleasant vineyards” (5:11) as they neglected the needy, leaving them at the gate to fend for themselves.
The warnings of the Lord through Amos to violators of the covenant were firm and the judgment of the Lord was powerful — only a remnant of the northern tribes, “two ankle bones and a piece of ear” as Amos vividly put it (3:12) — would survive as a result of their systematic deception, oppression of the poor and religious hypocrisy.
But the grace of the Lord was powerful as well, for indeed, a remnant did survive.
The recent call of Southern Baptists for “Empowering Kingdom Growth” comes at a time when this nation needs it most. Interestingly, moral relativism, in the public forum, ceases when financial responsibility is at issue. There is a renewed cry for fidelity, for trustworthiness, for integrity. And in the wake of Sept. 11, people are looking both for stability, for protection and for transcendent meaning in life — things only the King of Kings can give.
May we keep our nation and ourselves from the greatest famine of all, the famine which the Lord brought on Israel in the eighth century B.C. — the “famine of hearing the Word of the Lord” (8:11). May we speak this Word powerfully and prophetically, forth-telling the Lord’s judgment, grace and desire to re-create a people for himself.
Roberts is a member of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church and a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield.