Most CEOs and other top executives of large organizations have access to a wide range of business advisors and teachers. Many of these consultants arrive with the latest business ideas and fads. Fads come and go, however, being replaced by other novel and often short-lived strategies. Left in their wake are confusion and questionable business practices that are not rooted in time-tested wisdom. Wes Cantrell, former CEO over a $14 billion corporation that manufactured copying machines sold worldwide, had many opportunities to utilize some of these new and innovative ideas. But he chose to take a very different path. Speaking at a recent gathering of business and professional people, Cantrell made a statement some of his listeners might have found surprising – that his management style and principles he followed were based on and rooted in the Ten Commandments. Rather than following business practices that seemingly change with the wind, he was able to guide his organization consistently by using commands that have survived thousands of years and countless challenges. As Psalm 119:98-99 teaches, “Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers for I meditate on your statutes.”
The Ten Commandments are presented in two places in the Bible’s Old Testament – Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. The first three commandments deal with mankind’s relationship with God; the remaining seven offer principles that can be applied to any business setting. For instance, the fourth commandment directs us to observe a Sabbath day. Practically speaking, it reminds us if we work day and night, not pausing for rest and refreshment, we will break down mentally and physically.
Hardly any of us would find fault with many of the Ten Commandments. The most controversial, of course, are those requiring worship and obedience to God alone. For atheists and agnostics, that is a great stumbling block. But in the Scriptures, God explains a practical motivation for obeying His rules: “Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathers” (Deuteronomy 8:1).
What if a consultant like those cited above were to arrive at your office and declare with great conviction, “If you follow what I tell you, your business will grow and prosper, and you will experience more success than you ever could imagine.” Would you not at least pause to consider his recommendations and see how they could fit with your company’s mission and culture?
The problem, of course, is obvious. Next week, next month or next year someone else will come along and make similar boasts, claiming his or her proposal amounts to the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel. Yes, fads and gimmicks come and go – in the business world as well as other realms of society. Unlike those, however, the Ten Commandments have been around for thousands of years and remain rock solid as a consistent, reliable guide for conduct, both personal and professional.
Leading an organization requires wisdom. If you want to create a strong advantage over your competition, you would be wise to consider Wes Cantrell’s advice to study and apply God’s Word, the Bible, to your business as well as your personal life. And the Ten Commandments would be a good place to start.
Copyright 2011, Integrity Resource Center, Inc. Adapted with permission from “Integrity Moments with Rick Boxx,” a commentary on issues of integrity in the workplace from a Christian perspective. To learn more about Integrity Resource Center or to sign up for Rick’s daily Integrity Moments, visit www.integrityresource.org.
1. How many of the Ten Commandments can you recall from memory? If you have a Bible handy, look them up and see which – if any – do not seem familiar.
2. What is your reaction to the concept of establishing management and organizational principles according to the Ten Commandments? Explain your answer.
3. Some experts have asserted that a person does not have to be religious – or even spiritual – to find practical value in the Ten Commandments. Consider each one again and try rephrasing it in a way that relates to a business setting. For instance, the fifth commandment which states, “Honor your father and your mother…”, could be restated as “Maintain proper respect for authority.” How might you paraphrase the other commandments to fit your organization’s mission and culture?
4. What do you think would be the impact at your workplace if everyone agreed to use the Ten Commandments as the foundation for how they conduct business? Why do you think people might oppose such a stand? How do you feel about that personally?
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:
Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Matthew 22:36-40; John 13:34-35; 1 John 2:7-8, 3:11-24