A Christian man I know owns a chain of car dealerships. As is standard practice in the industry, his salesmen were authorized to negotiate the price of the car with their customers. At one point, however, the CEO did some research and uncovered the fact that, in general, men were more persistent negotiators than women, and Anglos pressed their interests much more determinedly than African-Americans. In other words, black women, who were often poorer, were paying more for cars than more prosperous customers. The owner realized that this time-honored business practice took advantage of a class of people that needed help and protection. The policy was obviously not illegal, and few people would have considered it immoral. But it ended up being exploitative. So the company changed the policy to one of no negotiation — the listed price was the price. This would not have occurred to most people, but this Christian businessman was ‘considering the poor, and seeking to integrate the doing of justice into all aspects of his private and public life.
I once asked him, was this ‘good business’ on his part? He replied that there may be some future benefits for the company but that they would be minor, unquantifiable, and they didn’t matter. They made the changes because the practice was taking economic advantage of people with fewer resources. ‘Do not take advantage of a widow,’ said Exodus 22:22. Most ethics courses in business schools provide many case studies in which business owners and employees are urged to do the honest and just thing. But what motivation is given? Here is a typical answer: “Businesses can often attain short-term gains by acting in an unethical fashion; however, such behaviours tend to undermine the economy over time.” The argument is: Be ethical, and you will gain a long-term advantage for yourself and your business. But the Bible says that the righteous disadvantage themselves to advantage others, while ‘the wicked…are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.’ In this case, the Christian business owner was willing to permanently disadvantage his business, if it meant doing justice.Generous Justice, pages 110-112