Editorial: Living By Values

I am amazed at how quickly Greg Smith’s public resignation from Goldman Sachs has gone viral.  I do not know the man, at all, so I am in no position to write this post on the basis of any personal information.  I will have to leave it to the rest of the world to determine whether they think he handled his situation well, or poorly.

But I do know this (based upon a reading of the whole NY Times article, not just the snippets being shared via social media) that he made his decision based upon a deep sense of “moral values” which he increasingly found being ignored and violated.  I don’t know what values make up his moral cupboard; I only know that he came to the point where being faithful to those values was more important than having a job.  I hope you can read his entire article at some point.

From a spiritual formation standpoint, this incident gives us a moment to stop and think, and ask ourselves the question, “To what extent do I really live by my values?”—-or—-a related one, “To what extent have I accomodated my values to standards which, in truth, violate them?”

No Christian can bypass what Greg Smith’s decision has put on the table.  And what little I know about Martin Luther (one other example to note), I can only imagine that the day he appeared before the Diet of Worms was perhaps the hardest of his lifetime—precisely because “he could do no other” than live out the values in his heart.  We cannot celebrate that as a Reformation (then) and go on our merry way (now) when the same situations present themselves.

I don’t write Editorials on Oboedire much any more, because I do not want this blog to have any other identity than that of advocating Spiritual Formation and trying to help foster the life it engenders.  But as I have pondered Smith’s decision, I think he is “living from his soul,” and that is the only place where we can ultimately justify our actions—and all the more so if our soul is shaped by Christ and not culture.  I cannot think of anything more “spiritual formation” than that.

What is true on Wall Street can become true anywhere—including the Body of Christ.  Secular styles of leadership can be imported into any setting.  And when they are, we will be taken to a “place” where life and death are at stake—the place of values—to the place where Jesus had to remind folks in his day that just keeping the outside of the tomb “white-washed” was not sufficient, if it contains dead-mens’ bones.

I pray God will be gracious to Greg Smith in the aftermath of his decision.  I pray God will come to us in the shadow of his experience to remind us where we are called to live as well.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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