“Never take advantage of poor laborers, whether fellow Israelites or foreigners living in your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they might cry out to the LORD against you, and it would be counted against you as sin.” - Deuteronomy 24:14-15
Integrity results when things are integrated—when such things as belief and behavior fit together and coincide. For instance, business integrity means that the businessman delivers on what he promises and stands by what he says. Promise and performance match each other.
The moral integrity of God’s people was clearly a major concern for Moses as he gave final instructions concerning life in the Promised Land. He explained that the legislation was designed to “cleanse the evil” from among them, and that the Lord would “count it as a righteous act” if they followed these precepts. In other words, there was a profound spiritual dimension to the way the Israelites conducted their daily lives. It was not just a matter of being good for goodness’ sake or of being kind because their neighbors were nice people. It was more important than that! It was a matter of living according to divine dictates so that evil might be banished and so that the Lord would be honored among them.
From our modern perspective, these laws appear to be remarkably detailed, but the underlying factor in most of them was relational integrity. The evil that had to be banished was the evil of wrong relationships, and righteousness was the way they treated other people rightly. This was to be applied particularly in the area of business dealings. Great emphasis was placed on treating the underprivileged rightly, and great censure was placed on those who failed to do so.
Integrity in business is of paramount importance because it helps save society from moral pollution, it helps ensure proper care for the downtrodden, and it helps protect the powerful from spiritual degeneration through the wrongful exercise of their power. By treating people rightly, the “haves” are protected from debilitating greed and the “have nots” are delivered from cancerous envy. Then the workplace is a better place to be, and the changed attitudes find their way home, where the family benefits, too.
In disputes about working conditions or remuneration in our culture, remedies are usually sought through unions, strikes, and arbitration. In many instances, equitable solutions are discovered. But in ancient Israel there was another powerful factor. A disgruntled worker could always “cry out to the Lord against you,” and if you were in the wrong, “it would be counted against you as sin.” That way of looking at things is most appropriate even today. Heaven keeps books on our business dealings, too.
For Further Study: Deuteronomy 24:10-22
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