Wednesday, February 5, 2014

THYME Magazine: A Case for Vision IV

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VII, Issue VII

A Case for Vision IV

A recent buzz on social media was one to the effect that Hobby Lobby was planning to close stores in response to the Obamacare insurance contraceptive/abortificant mandate. The rumor was not new. The company is actively fighting this regulatory infringement upon its right of conscience. Founder and CEO David Green was quick to respond to the news piece in which he is reported to have announced the downsizing [1.]. Actually Mr. Green said that the company had plans to build 30 or more new stores this year. Doing the news involves checking facts and we found Mr. Green's actual statement in a report issued in conjunction with receiving an award from a major university this past April [2]. The reasons for the award actually spoke volumes about the life and vision of David Green. From the news articles it would appear that Mr. Green was quietly doing what CEOs all do, just running his company to make a profit, when all of a sudden he became the object of Federal regulation. The fact of the matter is that David Green's work itself springs from, and is dedicated to, a higher vision.

Dr. Henry Smith, President of Indiana Wesleyan University said in conferring the honor: "I am excited to announce that Dr. David Green, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby Creative Centers, has accepted our invitation to the Society of World Changers as our 2013 inductee. David Green is a business leader, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, an author, a patron of scholarship and culture but above everything else, he is a servant of Christ like any one of us, a saved sinner dependent upon the grace of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He attributes any success he has had to his trust in G-d, and acknowledges that G-d has used that success as a platform to minister to the world. IWU recognized David Green and his achievements previously through the conferral of an honorary doctorate in 1999."[3.]

FORBES notes: "There are very few members of The Forbes 400 who bring religion to work. Most notable are Chick-fil-A's Truett Cathy and Forever 21's Jin Sook and Do Won Chang, born-again Christians who keep Bibles in their office and print John 3:16 on the bottom of each shopping bag. More typical is Warren Buffett, who admits to being agnostic. Green joined Buffett’s Giving Pledge in 2010: His public letter doing so quotes 2 Corinthians ('Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver'). And that's about all that Buffett and Green have in common philanthropically." Green has a vision to change the world and it plays itself out in the way he conducts his business. He does not see any part of his life as outside of G-d's oversight: "You can't have a belief system on Sunday and not live it the other six days."[4.]

Green is the son of a preacher who's small congregations in Oklahoma barely supported their family. He wore hand-me-down clothes and ate many a meatless meal with his siblings. His five siblings all became pastors (or pastors' wives). Green took "the road less travelled," struggling through school and eventually becoming a stock boy in a general store. FORBES says of him: "Green spent most of his time sweeping floors and unloading boxes for 60 cents an hour, but he fell in love with the romantic idea of buying something for 10 cents and selling it for 20." He served in the Air Force Reserve, and was working as a manager at TG andY stores when he borrowed $600.00 to buy some picture frame making equipment. He and his wife Barbara and another manager literally started the business working on his kitchen table. Their first product was miniature picture frames which they began selling in 1970. In 1972 they opened their first 300 square foot retail location.

Green credits the bead buying craze of the hippies for growing his business to the point that he was able to quit his day job and open a larger store in 1975. Barbara was not thrilled. Those days he was doing about $100,000 in sales and TG andY was doing two billion. Today Hobby Lobby makes well over three billion dollars annually. He speaks candidly of the businesses' struggles and near failure. In 1985 the business was overleveraged and struggling under the weight of bad inventory decisions. Green says of that time: "It was a pride problem, and I had to get rid of it. It's sort of like God says to me, because I was arrogant, 'I'm going to let you have it by yourself.'" Green prayed, worked hard, cut costs and negotiated with his creditors. In the end his perserverance paid off and the company not only survived, but thrived.

Hobby Lobby stores close on Sundays to allow staff time to worship and enjoy time with family. He starts employees well above minimum wage and sees the company's profitability as a gift from G-d. He has given much to further the work of the Gospel and Christian education. Green says: "I want to know that I have affected people for eternity. I believe I am. I believe once someone knows Christ as their personal savior, I've affected eternity. I matter 10 billion years from now." Dr. Henry Smith says of him: "We thank God for David Green's example precisely for that reason: because he sees his wealth as God's possession rather than allowing himself to be possessed by it; because he judges himself by the standards of Heaven and not of earth; and because he recognizes that his own efforts are in vain unless he trusts and depends upon the Holy Spirit." [5.]

A Vision For Work and the World

"Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it." -- Psalm 90:16-17

I am reading The Poverty of Nations, A Sustainable Solution [click to read] by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus. It examines the reasons successful nations are successful and how successful nations can forget the roots of their success and fall into decline. Like Alvin Schmidt's Under the Influence [click to read], the book does not hide the influence of Biblical principles in advancing the state of humanity. As many in the academy and the media today criticize free markets, Grudem and Asmus point out that the flaws are not necessarily a flaw in free markets, but in human morality. If a people have no moral barrier to it, markets will indeed deliver drugs, slaves and a host of evils, but that is not necessarily a fault of a free market. Indeed the attempts of government to control such evils will inevitably cost far more than imagined and have far less effect on curtailing the evils than proponents of such action desire. Thus the authors show how the Rule of Law, Respect for Property and Good Leadership are all essential for national prosperity... these things being rooted in values presented in the Bible.

Markets, influenced by morality, are actually quite fertile for creativity. When the slave trade was ended in England by William Wilberforce, the initial result was the economic decline of the port of Bristol. Creativity responded to the need as Isambard Kingdom Brunel built the Great Western Railway and steamships to link Bristol to America. The heart of George Müller ministered to Bristol's cast off children, but it was possible largely due to the creativity that linked Bristol to the economic pulse of the world. In fact, Grudem and Asmus point out that a wonderful coming together of talents and resources occurs in markets that requires no huge agency of oversight. In a simple little story called I Pencil, the beauty of this phenomenon is wonderfully illustrated.

I Pencil.

"No single person on the earth could make a pencil without the help of countless others."

Read, Leonard E., "I, Pencil: My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read." [click to read] 1999. Library of Economics and Liberty. 5 February 2014.

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