Sunday, April 28, 2013

Conflict of Interest

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

-- Matthew 6:24     

When you hear the term conflict of interest, maybe you envision a supposedly neutral politician who supports the pet projects of his or her largest campaign contributors. But according to a paper published in the Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organizational Studies, such double-dealing extends well beyond local government offices and the Washington Beltway. In fact, the authors tell us, conflicts of interest are all around us--from investment banks to accounting firms to the Pentagon to the publishing industry...even the medical community is involved. And it's an extremely costly problem. For instance, the consulting firm Marsh & McClennan lost nearly $12 billion in just a few days in 2004 after New York's attorney general announced his investigation into the firm's alleged conflict of interest involving price fixing and collusion. 

The study also reports that such conflicts prevent organizations from running efficiently and remaining competitive in the marketplace. Indeed, it concludes that conflicts of interest have arguably produced the greatest and most widespread management failure ever!

That's quite an assertion. With so much at stake, what should be evident is the importance of eliminating even the appearance of such conflicts. And this principle is just as applicable to our own careers. Our reputation in the office should be beyond reproach. But how do conflicts of interest affect something that's much more important than any job: our spiritual life?

As Christ-followers, we've accepted God's invitation to meet all our needs. This covers deeply intimate issues involving our significance, happiness, value and self-worth. And let's not forget our money and possessions. Deep down, too many of us depend on the size of our bank account, 401-K and stock portfolio for security. We struggle for years to build up our nest egg. But even if we ever make it to the top by the world's standards, this supposed victory turns out to be a worthless idol that gains us nothing once we leave this life.

As the saying goes, money is a wonderful servant...but a horrible master. It's yet another illustration of what happens when we turn a good thing into a god thing. Money and possessions can become an idol that conflicts with the real God for the loyalty of our heart and mind.

We read in the Old Testament that King Solomon had his own problems with conflicting spiritual interests. Rather than depending strictly on God and following His Word, Solomon pursued a life of pleasure by accumulating hundreds of wives and concubines. He relied on them for his happiness instead of looking toward his Creator. 

What about you? Do you have conflicts when it comes to your relationships, money and possessions? The fact is that what we do with each paycheck and how we treat others is a test of how well we use God's blessings. As Jesus reminds us, we'll one day be rewarded with the opportunity to manage many things. But first, we need to demonstrate that we're faithful with just a few things. 

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