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Job Applicant Sacrificed Integrity for Money

In his book Every Good Endeavor, Pastor Tim Keller provides the following helpful illustration:

At twenty-seven years old, Howard was given an opportunity to move from one large company to another for a modest increase in responsibility, but greater future opportunity. At the point of salary negotiations, Howard was asked to share his current salary with his prospective employer. Howard pumped up the figure by a mere four percent, a few thousand dollars. Of course his thinking was that the higher they thought his salary was currently, the more they'd offer him. He justified the lie because the prospective company offered two weeks less vacation a year than his current one. He just added the value of that benefit onto his salary figure. On the very slim chance that he'd get caught, he had a plausible excuse. The benefit outweighed the cost and risk. And by the way, he was pretty sure everyone did this sort of thing. So was there anything wrong with it?
So what about Howard? How could his small lie possibly have wider effects on society? As Howard tells the story now, he shares that a real breakthrough in his thinking happened when he realized that the desire for just a little more money would so easily cause him to forsake his integrity. Why couldn't he just have been honest and shared that he thought the two weeks' vacation he'd be sacrificing was worth an additional few thousand dollars? Why couldn't he just trust that God, who was providing the interview in the first place, would provide for the salary? And was he basing his interest in the job on the salary or on the work God was giving him to do? He realized that the wider impact on society started with the recognition that, with integrity sacrificed on the altar of money, the next lie would be easier. He realized that others who might observe him could be tempted to do the same. Everyone would trust one another a little less. And he realized that to work for the money instead of the value that the work itself might contribute would damage the culture of the company he was joining.

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