14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many…
20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
Show me a company where people truly care for one another, and I’ll show you a company with a sense of purpose.
During the Great Depression, George Marvin distributed Christmas trees and bags of flour to needy families in rural Warroad, Minnesota. His lumber company was one of the few businesses in town to survive those tough years. Marvin personally saved several struggling families from bankruptcy or worse.
Under the leadership of George’s son Bill, the company began manufacturing door and window frames to provide jobs for veterans returning from the second World War. It grew from a few dozen employees in the 1950s to more than 4,000 employees today, and became known as Marvin Windows and Doors.
When the housing market crashed after the 2008 financial crisis, many contractors and suppliers in the construction industry laid off workers, and many went broke. Not Marvin. Susan Marvin (George's granddaughter and now the company president) announced the company’s no-layoff policy: “If you treat your employees right, they’ll treat you well.”
Marvin’s family values and concern for employees demonstrate this spiritual truth: a healthy body is more than the sum of its parts, and a healthy company is more than a collection of individuals.
Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 12 [cf. Romans 12:4, 5; Ephesians 4:12; 5:30] refers specifically to the church, but the lesson of mutual interdependence and commitment also applies to companies. Indeed, the very word “company” derives from Latin (com pane) referring to people who take bread together [cf. 1 Cor. 10:17]. Similarly, “corporation” comes from the Latin word meaning to embody.
The lesson is simple yet profound: To the degree that a company upholds a living mutual commitment among its members, it will thrive.
As Paul explains, those who hold positions of power and privilege must do their best to care for those who do not. Furthermore, all members must work together in a spirit of collaborative compassion. This is what Marvin employees did during the recent “great recession.” No one was laid off. Full-time workers cut their hours from 40 to 32 per week. "Perks" were voluntarily reduced. And company-wide profit sharing was suspended until the end of 2012.
The willingness to share financial risks and rewards is just one indicator of a company’s spiritual health. Deeper levels of mutuality are evident in personal relationships characterized by care and service. Every day, every employee and every manager in every company have the opportunity to care for the community of work.
That’s how a company grows great in spirit.
© Bruce D. Baker, 2014