The Expository Files

 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 Lord.

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
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 From Expository Files 9.3; March 2002