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July 1979 · Vol. 8 No. 3 · pp. 19–20 

Legality, Competition and Faith

Response to “The Church’s Responsibility in the Marketplace” by Calvin Redekop 8/3 (1979): 3–13.

Arthur DeFehr

Calvin Redekop has very wisely selected key relationships which are critical to involvement in the marketplace, and raises questions about the manner in which biblical principles apply to these. I find this helpful because any reader—regardless of profession—quickly recognizes that in some manner he is also involved in these types of relationships. For example, most of us must deal with the property question as homeowners, with the competition question in advancing within any profession, or seeking employment, with the question of organization right within the church.

The categories selected are very relevant but Cal has retreated to the safe academic practice of raising a great many very interesting questions without more than the hint of an answer here or there. In the discussion on Labor Relations, however, the writer does allow himself some interesting assertions. For example, it is maintained that “The contract must be clearly spelled out and adhered to. Clearly spelled out stipulations of work to be done . . . and any reneging or evasion from either side is a breach of the promises made.” In the light of the Sermon on the Mount—or the parable on laborers in the vineyard receiving a full day’s pay for different amounts of work—that hardly seems like a “Christ-like” relationship. There is no room for love or compassion or anything—just keep the contract. The questions raised in the other areas of relationship suggest that what is legal may not necessarily be Christian but here the law is lord.

The discussion of the concept of competition is helpful, since this {20} is one of the most misunderstood areas relating to the marketplace. Competition exists in all aspects of our daily existence, but the opponent or competitor often remains unknown. Competition exists wherever there is any limitation to anything such as access to housing, job openings, positions of leadership in the church. We tend to limit the discussion to the relationship between the direct competitors, and to forget that there may be other interested parties. The person who gets the teaching position will have an impact upon the learning experience of your child. Should the better person teach, or one who needs the income most, or the one with greatest seniority or the one who will feel most psychologically hurt by not getting the position? Who should control the farmland? Should it be the farmer who is most efficient, the one with the most advanced education, or the one with the least ability to compete for other jobs? The price and availability of food may be at stake. You and I may be willing and able to pay a premium for less efficient farmers—but what about those families with a very low income?

Many people are willing to decry the evils of competition, but then will shop for the best value in a house, a car, furnishings or food. To the extent that we insist on value in what we purchase, we are forcing a competitive attitude on those who provide that product or service. How many of us would like to see an extra tag on everything we buy which would read: $35 extra to pay for the inefficiencies of the handicapped we employ, $18 to pay for the higher costs of locating in a needy community, $25 to reduce noise and pollution above and beyond the requirements? How well would such a product sell in our society?

Competition can indeed be destructive if there is the unfair application of power by a much larger competitor or if tactics are used which do not reflect real efficiency but are simply meant to destroy. But where genuine competition is involved, we should treat it with great respect since most of us are not willing to share in the consequences of less than full competition. In looking at this question, let’s draw the circle a little larger and include everyone who is involved and then make a judgment.

Arthur DeFehr is General Manager of A. A. DeFehr Furniture Manufacturing Ltd., Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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