By Rev Darryn Hickling

Judges 4:1-10 Matthew 25: 14-30

“Are you a lawyer?”
“How much do you charge?”
“A hundred dollars for four questions. ”
“Isn’t that awfully expensive? “
“Yes. What’s your fourth question?”

In my reading of the passage today, I see an issue of justice or more precisely, a strong conviction, by one of the servants.

What is the name given to people in our communities who speak out against their employer or make a stand about an issue etc? Whistleblowers.

From a historical and traditional perspective, crime and serious wrongdoing has generally been regarded as an act that can involve violence, drugs, robbery, burglary, theft and the like, generally governed by the Crimes and other Acts.

There is however another insidious aspect of wrongdoing, which is now known as ‘Economic Crime’. This can occur in the workplace (or organisation) involving fraud, theft, corruption and other associated misconduct by a person at any level who is engaged within that workplace. This description comes from www.whistleblowers.co.nz, a surprising discovery I made searching on the web this week. This is an organisation that offers:

  • New Zealand Independent Experts
  • Protected Disclosures
  • Secure Disclosure System – Phone, Website, Email or Post
  • 24/7 Support
  • $100 Monthly Retainer

Terry read to us a story about a landowner and his slaves/servants….

Who is the one that has the power in the story?

What do they ask of their workers to do?

Who owned the vast fortunes (talents) that were given?

It’s not the servants, they are the ones who were given the fortunes to increase, it’s the landowner who owned the fortunes.

Who is the one who questions the owner?

The owner has made an investment with the servants, desiring or demanding that the investment increases.

The one who calls out the owner is punished, harshly, stripped of what they have, pronounced as being worthless and thrown out into the outer darkness, where grief and pain abound (weeping and gnashing of teeth). But why, why is the servant treated this way? He was the one who had a conviction, he knew that his master was dodgy in his business practices, ‘reaping where he did not sow’ and ‘gathering where he did not scatter seed’. How could he have accomplished this without being underhanded, or sly or threatening or stealing from others? The third servant was the whistleblower.

Three accountants started at the same time at a prestigious firm. This could be their lucky break, an excellent career move which could set them up for life. They worked hard, long hours and earned a good wage. The CEO of the company had a meeting with all three of them present and he approached them to ask of them to increase the amount of money and the portfolios they had in order to keep the shareholders happy.  To one of them he gave five portfolios, to the other two, and the last one he gave one portfolio. The pressure was on and the carrot was dangled in front of all of them, do well and a promotion would be the reward for a job well done. They were given a set timeframe to work with as the CEO was heading overseas for a period of time and all would have to account for what they had done, upon his return.

After the meeting all three of the accountants begun to work on their portfolios and sought ways to increase the amount of money for the CEO and the shareholders. All three had to wrestle with their ethics as they discovered unethical practices and investments in weapons factories etc.

Upon his return the CEO called the three accountants to a meeting and asked the first one, ‘what have you been doing since I was gone and gave you instructions to follow?’. The first stated that they had extended the five portfolios by another five and had increased the revenue for the company. The CEO said, ‘well done and now accept a promotion’. The second accountant was asked the same question. And the second replied, Sir you gave me two portfolios and I increased them by another two and also increased the revenue for the company. Just like the first, the CEO responded by saying, ‘Well done now accept a promotion’.

Now it came time for the last accountant to be asked the same question by the CEO and the accountant responded, Sir I looked into the portfolio you’d given me and there were inconsistencies, figures did not add up and the activity looked illegal. So here is the one portfilo you gave me and there is no increase in revenue. The CEO was fuming and said, ‘Oh so you’ve discovered some of the business dealings I’ve had and investments I’ve made and you’re afraid of me. Yet you did not do what the others have done, increased the portfolio and increased the money for the company. You’re useless to me and this company. You’re fired’! To the first accountant he said, ‘here take the portfolio of this degenerate. Leave immediately and clear out your desk. Your name in this industry is going to be mud!’.

What is the price of conviction?

We are asked in a manner of speaking to make ethical decisions each day, where do we buy our clothes from? Companies that exploit workers in overseas factories, buying goods wrapped in plastic, where are our superannuation companies investing?  Do we believe that a living wage is actually necessary or not, GST on goods such as fresh food and vegetables? What is our price of conviction?

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