Published on: 11:08AM Feb 06, 2009
The ethics discussion at the Top Producer Seminar, Finding Agriculture’s Ethical Boundaries, got a little heated two weeks ago. It was particularly heated when one farmer raised the concern that aggressive farm growth may be in conflict with his faith, particularly if it’s at the expense of his neighbors.
Many farmers in today’s competitive environment struggle with these concepts as they try to run a business in a rural culture that does not readily welcome change, and even fears success because it is perceived as being at the expense of others. Being a good neighbor, while being an aggressive business owner cannot go hand-in-hand, and many feel it conflicts with predominant rural Christian values.
I will grant you that among my many shortcomings is a severe lack of theological depth - I know only enough to stay away from this discussion, but this is something the industry needs to discuss. Many farmers struggle with their own growth and many more struggle with the growth of their neighbors.
According to the experts I consulted (my wife, my own pastor, and others) nowhere in the Bible is there scripture that says growth of any business is a sin. But, as pointed out by my own pastor, there is scripture (Luke 12:12-21) that says great responsibility comes with that growth. Growth without giving back to the community is not acceptable, says this passage.
How can you possibly go to church and look people in the eye? Oddly enough the Bible study lesson (2 Corinthians 10: 12-13) my wife participated in the same day as this discussion dealt with this subject. It says the only person you really have to justify anything to yourself. In other words, you have to look yourself in the eye each morning and don’t worry about the chatter of those around you.
If your business grows and people talk about you - which they will - ignore them. Do the right thing, remember their comments are likely rooted in jealously and do what is best for you and your business. Just do it ethically.
In short, it’s not up to you to think you’re better than anybody else, and it’s not up to them to decide if you’re not.