Business students create Bible study, incorporate ethics

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At first Brothers and Sisters in Business simply wanted to change the businessmen and women for the better. Once they saw this was possible, they wanted to change the world one ethical decision at a time.

“It sounds so broad but having people make faith- and ethical-based decisions is going to change the corporate world and eventually America,” said Phillip Niels, a business honors and accounting sophomore.

Niels began throwing the idea around of creating a Bible study with a focus on business after alumnus Sam Acho went to an art gallery in the spring and Jesus was brought up in a discussion about business. Later that semester as they reflected back on the discussion, Acho, Niels and a few close friends decided they were obligated to spread Christian ethics to the business school in a non-radical way. The intention was to fill what they perceived as an “emptiness” at the business school.

The Bible study first began as a Business Honors Program entity but has expanded to include anyone interested, including non-business majors.

“As of late there’s been a push for making sure business schools cover ethics,” said Joe Shields, a business honors and finance sophomore. “As Christians, we feel the need to step up and lead it.”

Brothers and Sisters applies the teachings from the Bible to modern times with the purpose of serving God and completing business transactions ethically.

“The point is to think things through to yourself,” Niels said. “If you put yourself in a cubicle somewhere, how are you going to serve God and make a return?”

The Bible study is also a way for all the members to get together in a room Wfor an hour and share their thoughts without a hierarchical structure. The format is to bring either a Bible or a smart phone that has Biblical texts and read through a chapter. From there the members have an open discussion, where anyone says what they’ve found in between the lines of the text.

“We’ll be asked things in the business world like underselling property, but the Bible says you should pay fair value,” Shields said. “No one is perfect, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to be fair and ethical.”

Additionally they bring in speakers that talk, not necessarily preach, about how they’ve lived in the business world. Thomas Gilligan, dean of Red McCombs Business School, has made several appearances to discuss what it has been like to be a leader and a Christian. The students in the Bible study have come to respect his ability to maintain his faith and be humble in the business world, describing him as a man who doesn’t live by the work-hard-and-make-your-millions stereotype.

On days when a speaker isn’t scheduled to come, they take a section of a sermon and relate it to modern business situations.

“There’s a lot more to it than reading the Bible,” Niels said. “I don’t even know the right answer in many aspects of the Bible. It’s more complicated than being honest.”

Niels mentioned that ethics in business is almost a contradiction in itself, but that is precisely why the founders felt that there was a need for a Bible study like this one in the business school.

“I don’t want to be insensitive, but the business world has gone astray,” Niels said. “We want to change that [corruption] by using different practices.”

In one of Gilligan’s visits he posed a question as to whether it was ethical for a Christian businessman, under pressure from superiors, to fire someone just because they were no longer needed. At first Niels and a few others believed this was ethical as long as the businessman remained virtuous and truthful from the beginning. However, after some thought, Niels came to the conclusion that this was the same situation as hiding a malicious intent behind a supposedly good reason.

Despite the pressures on business students, members don’t teach a completely new way of approaching things. They point out that there have always been classes on business morals. Rather than grading themselves, the group tries to be there for each other as a support group and prepare themselves to make tough decisions as Christians regarding profit, labor and treating employees the way they would like to be treated.

“We just want to change the way we view the corporate world; it’s not just a high-salary statistic,” Niels said. “It’s okay to be involved in the business world, to get a big job, but there’s more to it than the paycheck; there’s also the social aspect that comes with it.”