Does moral and ethical character matter?

| August 31, 2012 | 0 Comments

Labor Day should remind professionals of essential duties to protect, guarantee

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Donald Eubank
U.S Army Garrison-Hawaii

Eubank

Eubank

This Labor Day weekend will certainly be a great time to celebrate summer weather, family and friends, but before you head out to Bellows or Hickam beaches for that mouth-watering barbecue with family and friends, consider for a moment what this Labor Day is all about.

As a young boy, I had the opportunity of learning from my grandparents what life was like in the United States before laborers were respected and valued.

My maternal grandparents were general store owners from 1912-1929. Their store sold groceries, hardware, tools, farm equipment and animal feed on credit to the local residents and farmers of Joplin, Mo.

Customers paid their bills at the end of each month; this system worked well until late 1929. With the devastating crash of the stock market, Oct. 29, 1929, the Great Depression began. The economy deflated and people had no money. My grandparents lost their store when customers could not pay their bills.

My grandmother described what she and Grandpa did with the records of the people who owed them money: “We didn’t want to hate anyone, so we went out to the backyard, started a fire and burned all those bills.”

Grandpa explained how the local Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian ministers began preaching and publishing sermons that addressed equal rights and justice for workers. Business owners were challenged to pay fair wages and provide worker protections, shortened workdays, safer conditions, the abolition of child labor and assistance to elderly and disabled workers.

Celebrating Labor Day reminds us that business people and workers provide services and goods for each of us, with moral and ethical boundaries.

Historically, the five great professions of Western civilization include Soldiers, pastors, physicians, lawyers and merchants. It is the responsibility of these professionals to protect and guarantee justice and freedom necessary for the lives of civilized people.

With respect to our nation, the Soldier’s profession is to defend it; the pastor’s, to teach it; the physician’s, to keep it in health; the lawyer’s, to enforce justice in it; and the merchant’s, to provide for it.

And the duty of all these professionals includes the commitment to die, if necessary, in order to protect these values: The Soldier, to die “rather than leave his post in battle”; the pastor, “rather than teach falsehood”; the physician, “rather than leave his post in plague”; the lawyer, “rather than tolerate injustice in the courts”; and the merchant, rather than … what?

When you and I pay our hard-earned dollars for goods and services, what is the moral responsibility of the merchant to us? What is it that the merchant would rather die than do?

We hope the answer is that he or she will honestly provide to the community a fair product or service and not be motivated merely by profit.

It should not be enough to say that “the law of supply and demand” will drive you out of the marketplace if you do not do what is right. That slogan, with its grain of truth, is like doing brain surgery with a meat cleaver, and that principle only serves us because moral calling and moral character are at an all-time low in determining individual practice and public policy.

Except in your house.

We can make a difference by starting with ourselves and making sure when we work, buy and sell, we are being honest, moral and ethical. We should require nothing less of ourselves and our children.

A framework of moral calling and character must be restored to each of the professions if professional life is to function as provider and protector of the public good and individuals throughout our neighborhoods and nation.

Does it matter if Soldiers, pastors, doctors, lawyers and merchants are men and women of moral and ethical character? It only matters if you cherish peace over war, truth over falsehood, health over sickness, justice over lawlessness, and honest business dealings over profit.

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Category: Footsteps in Faith, News, Observances, Standing Columns

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