In today’s super-competitive world, would we as ministry leaders, technology or business professionals, entrepreneurs, and educators uphold our integrity, especially when the temptation to compromise moral values, sometimes for mere survival, becomes so tantalizingly strong? True enough, some sadly take the road of dishonesty and fraudulence to outdo their rivals, often driven by greed and a perpetual drive for success, wealth, and fame at any cost. However, several more subtly cave into the demands of peer pressure and follow the usual business “tactics,” justifying these as survival strategies in a ruthless environment. This leaves most of us wondering: Can we still conduct business in honesty and integrity, staying true to our core ethical values and principles? But aren’t then traits such as humility and honesty associated with weakness and incompetence in a world that glorifies strength and clever manipulation? Why should someone risk uncompromising ethical integrity when most around do not play by the rules? Who is there to reward one’s virtuous choices and what system is in place to ensure their fair share of success?

Here is an interesting perspective for our reflection from John Hare, Kant scholar and philosophical theologian at Yale Divinity School. Hare explicates Kant’s idea of the highest good attainable for every one of us, which is the combination of both happiness and virtue. Kant also conceives a “kingdom of ends” in which every human being is on a journey to achieve his or her end or life purpose, which is ultimately realizing this highest good. However, as we know, in this “kingdom,” everyone’s journey in pursuing their life goals is different from someone else’s. How then would one achieve their own end or highest good when several others are also working on theirs, often with conflicting goals and priorities in a world of seemingly limited resources and opportunities? Kant answers this question by postulating a “supersensible author of nature” as the “head” of this “kingdom of ends,” who ultimately ensures the real possibility of achieving the highest good for any human being. This head has infinite resources at disposal for coordinating the many different and competing human ends and assuring that anyone’s life of virtue and morality is duly rewarded with happiness proportional to that virtue.[1]

Now for someone who believes in this “supersensible author of nature” or the head of Kant’s kingdom of ends, living virtuously and holding moral high ground in pursuing life’s various goals becomes an easier logical outcome. This means, no matter how diligently and fiercely my neighbor and I may compete in life, and vie to increase our business revenues within the same market pie, both of us are undergirded by a good moral faith that our honest pursuits of success will be duly rewarded, and that both of us have a real chance of achieving our highest good (combination of virtue and happiness). This kind of thinking would certainly help elevate the moral discourse of business dealings and corporate relationships, granting the freedom to pursue excellence and integrity together. Hare sums up this Kantian ethical principle as the “argument from providence.”[2] From the standpoint of Christian faith, the apostle Paul sums up this notion of divine providence so well: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Yes, one could always trust in this God and stand steadfast on moral values with uncompromising integrity, knowing that our future is secure and there is a just reward for both excellence and virtue. In facing life with all its complexities, challenges, trials, and difficulties, the wise words of Job resonate with us as we continue to hope in God’s providence and goodness: “The Lord is able to do all things. None of his plans will be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

________________

[1] John Hare, God’s Command (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2015), 5–8. Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, trans. and ed. Allen Wood and George di Giovanni (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998), vi. 6. Idem, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. and ed. Mary Gregor and Jens Timmermann, rev. ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 4:433, 434.

[2] See Hare, God’s Command, 5–11. Also, see idem, The Moral Gap (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 69–96 and idem, “Naturalism and Morality,” in Naturalism: A Critical Analysis, eds. William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland (London: Routledge, 2000), 201–8.