by Tim Hall
The prospect of material gain can obscure principles of ethics.
Annie Green, acting director of Laradon, a nonprofit program that works with developmentally disabled adults, was puzzled. John Francis Beech, a Denver businessman, had dropped off an envelope for Green while she was away. When she received the envelope four days later, she read the message on the front: “Wait untill [sic] you hear from coroner”. A second message was written below: “Please don’t call everything is OK [sic]”.
Green was intrigued enough to open the envelope anyway. Inside she found a copy of Beech’s will, bestowing $100,000 and other items from his estate to Laradon. Green later claimed that she twice tried to call Beech about the matter, but he never returned her calls.
A few days later Beech’s body was found near his home. He had taken his own life, a week after Green read his message.
A headline in “Westword”, a Denver newspaper, posed the ethical challenge clearly: “Where would you take a $100,000 check that is also a suicide note – to the cops or to the bank?” The implication is that Green should have notified authorities after reading the suspicious message. Instead, some claim, she didn’t want to jeopardize the windfall for the organization she serves.
If that was indeed Ms. Green’s motive, then most would agree that she failed her test. Even though the large gift might have been lost, saving the life of another human being should have taken precedence. But judgment must be reserved until more is known.
In 1991 James Patterson and Peter Kim published “The Day America Told The Truth”. Among the many interesting items found in the book is this one: “What are you honestly willing to do for $10 million?” Disturbingly, 25% said they would abandon their entire family, the same percentage that said they would abandon their church. Three percent said they would put their children up for adoption. The values of some are obviously up for the highest bidder.
One commodity that should never be for sale is truth. “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding,” wrote the wise man (Proverbs 23:23). He’s referring, of course, to the truth found in God’s word. If we begin there, we’ll find ourselves on the right path throughout life.
Here’s something else that should never be negotiable: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). A few years of material prosperity will be forgotten the moment we enter into an eternity of torment (see Luke 16:22-24). The only thing we carry with us out of this life is the soul God gave us.
People above things – always. That’s the simple message God teaches to those who listen.
by Tim Hall