Filings is an ongoing section of this blog where the posts focus specifically on issues of Christian life. The name comes about because “filings” are the natural by-product of Proverbs 27:17: “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
“Right is still right, even if nobody is doing it. Wrong is still wrong, even if everybody is doing it.”
– St. Augustine.
Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Mike Tice appears to have stepped on his whistle, admitting to having scalped Super Bowl tickets. This is likely to lead to scrutiny from the IRS, a significant fine from the league and possibly the loss of his job and even his pro career. It’s not too unlike what happened to his friend, former high school coach and Viking defensive coordinator George O’Leary who was fired shortly after being hired as head coach at Notre Dame when it was discovered he lied on his resume.
Whether they were aware of it at the time or not, both men jeopardized their dream jobs for what seemed like harmless, short-term gain.
Have you ever struggled to do the right thing on your job or in your business while it seemed like everyone else was getting ahead doing the wrong thing?
Several years ago I talked at length with a man by the name of Ronnie Carroll who had an amazing story. In the late ’80s Ronnie owned a satellite TV dealership in Tallahassee, FL. This is a great business to be in in that part of Florida because it is almost impossible to get TV reception there unless you have a dish.
Ronnie was having a tough time, however, because he was the only dealer in the area who refused to sell illegal decoders that allowed folks to unscramble HBO and the like without having to pay a fee. His potential customers would hear his policy and go on down the road and buy their equipment from a dealer that would also sell them the pirate decoders.
For months Ronnie watched business go out the door. He eventually had to close his shop and try to operate his business from his home. Ronnie prayed throughout the winter, asking God to “judge his cause” and seeking direction on whether he should find another line of business.
That spring a couple of gentlemen from the FCC showed up at Ronnie’s door. They said that Washington had made it a priority to crack down on illegal decoders and they were starting in his area. Their investigation had already shown that Ronnie was the only dealer in the area who wasn’t selling the devices and they wanted him to be in charge of collecting the pirate decoders. All dish owners were being told they had a 30-day grace period to turn in their outlaw decoders and pay Ronnie a $300 “disposal fee” or face prosecution. Simultaneously many of his one-time competitors were facing prosecution themselves and were going to find it hard to stay in business.
It also turned out that the company that made the bootleg devices also made legal decoders. Since the dishes wouldn’t work without some kind of decoder the FCC required the manufacturer to provide Ronnie with a line of credit to buy legal decoders to sell to the people turning in their outlaw equipment.
“Overnight,” Ronnie said, “I suddenly had people crammed in my living room and lined up down my driveway to turn in their devices and buy new decoders and subscriptions. There were judges, lawyers and police officers in line. I bought a sign that said, ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,’ and put it by my front door.” Immediately Ronnie’s business went from barely surviving to grossing more than $80,000 a month. Several newspapers and television stations interviewed him and he shared his story with all he talked to. When I last talked to him years ago his business was still thriving.
One moral to this story is that God doesn’t move quickly: He moves suddenly. It may not look like anything is going on, but His blessing is already on the way and in one moment to the next everything can change. Heaven forbid that the moment right before that is when we give in. When the FCC rang Ronnie’s doorbell he no doubt thought it was a bill collector, and not the answer to his prayers. We need to expect God’s faithfulness, and don’t let our actions or attitudes succumb to what appears to be reality.
What is the price you put on your honesty and integrity? Will you sell it – like Esau – for some piddling and short-term gain? We live in a world full of hustlers, always trying to shade themselves a little edge here and there. The dismaying thing to me is not that this happens, but for what little amounts people are willing to trade their name and integrity. The thing about a path that is straight and narrow is that there are no corners we can cut and still stay on it.
Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” Temptation is always around to provide opportunity and justification; when exposed to the light, however, these justifications are shown to be flimsy and selfish. Likewise, we may not see the true value of our reputation until we ourselves are exposed, and by then it’s too late. What we get never seems equal to what we give up. Indeed, it is “too late” the moment we cheat, not the moment we get caught.
Integrity is not something that can be taken away from us – we can only give it away. We need to be careful that in our efforts to make a name for ourselves that we don’t end up giving that name away.