Sunday, February 2, 2014


     It's just a one-syllable five letter word, but it's getting stretched in different, if not conflicting directions these days. The word? SHARE.
   Many words of our beloved English vocabulary have different shades of meaning, and this one no less. Let's start with one that's very much in the coinage (no pun intended) of money matters today: shareholder. In the context of pushing for a raise in the minimum wage level across the land, a recent Washington Post piece by Jia Yang discussed President Obama's call in his State of the Union speech for corporations to voluntarily boost worker's wages. The writer went on to point out the problem with that request. Companies have discovered that precisely by keeping wages lower, they have been able to boost profits to record levels and fulfill their ultimate goal: rewarding shareholders. Repeating the point, the article went on to say that executives are hard-wired to think that their primary responsibility is to return value to their shareholders.
   Well, if you hold some shares in a particular company, you aren't going to argue with that point, are you? After all, financial security is at stake, both one's personal and family security now and in the future. But that raises a question: when is enough enough? And your answer might be, "You can never have enough. You can never accumulate too much, even if it means it results in others having too little. So, Mr. or Mrs. CEO, increase my shares!"
   So let's interject another shade of meaning to share. Many families know what it's like to have to share and share alike, not so there is equality, but so there is enough. And then sometimes there is still not enough. Now carry that concept over into the larger family of our neighbors, as well as citizens of our common land, America, and even beyond our borders. It's been said many times that there is enough food in the world that there should be no starvation anywhere. It can also be said that there is enough profit in the corporate offices of America, and enough huge bonuses handed to CEOs, that their employees should not have to work for wages that keep them in poverty.
   So, what are Christians to do? Continue to be good stewards of the resources with which God has blessed us. There's nothing wrong with investing to ensure secure futures. But there is something wrong with bowing to the altar of corporate profits and individual avarice when we know it contributes to the poverty of others.
   Christians can remember the basics of their faith, beginning with Proverbs 22:9 - "Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor." And when the crowd asked John the Baptist what they should do to fulfill the expectations of their faith, he didn't say go to church, or mouth pious prayers, but he said "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."

A share holder is, after all, a contradiction of terms.