Enron: The Greater Tragedy
"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that
are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are
moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a
witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up
treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your
fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have
reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure
and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have
condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you." James
5:1-6 (New King James).
In the paragraph just previous to this (Jas. 4:13-17), the inspired writer
speaks against that particular form of human arrogance that boast of future
personal gain, without sober regard for the brevity of life and the will of the
I'm persuaded, the section beginning with verse one of chapter five - cited
above - simply takes us to the next step in the course of corruption; corruption
driven by selfishness. Human arrogance takes the next step in the covetous fraud
and oppression of people described in the opening paragraph of chapter five.
Laborers and their dependants become victims.
I am not a student of economics, corporate accounting or records management
(though my wife is a records managements analyst!). Congressional investigations
of Enron are just now underway. But it sure appears that some top people behaved
badly, to say the least. And as a Bible student, there is little doubt that the
same arrogance that gave birth to corruption and oppression in the first century
is present in our time. The size of the Enron problem puts it under the media
spotlight. We all know the problem of greed, fraud and corruption can be found
in many smaller proportions.
As we listen and observe the Enron drama unfold, here's something we ought to
think about that may receive little public attention. Corporate careers pursued
with selfish vigor destroy marriages and families. Many employees lost their
life savings, jobs and benefits. But there is a greater tragedy here; the often
unseen destruction of marriages and the toil on children - when one parent or
both give priority to careers and profit. I'm talking about wives who find their
place only in social settings, or husbands who must manage the home alone. Think
about children, sitting on day-care carpets, unable to imagine how different
live might be with involved parents. While selfish executives position for
personal compensation packages, negotiate bogus partnerships, cover their
tracks, trade non-existence futures and fight for corporate welfare - a further
witness against them is the domestic loss they create.
Let us learn how greed (corporate and individual) can consume people, create
victims, destroy marriages and leave children under-parented. When we allow
arrogance to corrupt us and selfishness to rule us, we suffer loss and cause it
in our families. Self-centered greed expresses itself in many ways, less
spectacular than Enron. But every expression of this sin is offensive to God,
takes advantage of people and harms families.
Jesus said, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not
consist in the abundance of the things he possesses," (Lk. 12:15). "Therefore,
to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin," (James 4:17).
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 9.3; March 2002