Vertical News - March 2009

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Vertical News - March 2009

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This old saying makes the point that what we observe others doing—especially those in positions of responsibility—often has a much greater impact on us than what they may say or teach. Children are great examples of this principle, often emulating what parents do more than what Mom and Dad tell them to do. Of course, grown-ups do the same. When leaders set examples of greed, sexual immorality and aberrant lifestyles, many within society begin reflecting these same wrong behaviors.

One of the more stunning examples of greed in the news recently was the revelation that Bernard Madoff, former chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange and owner of a large New York based investment firm, was actually running a Ponzi scheme—a fraudulent investment scheme named after one of the greatest swindlers in U.S. history, Charles Ponzi. Upon investigation, Mr. Madoff admitted that his firm had liabilities of more than US$50 billion. Many of the investors were wealthy individuals, major corporation pension funds and charitable institutions who trusted Mr. Madoff with their investment funds. Now they are facing the reality of their money being lost forever.

While this incident drew great attention in the news, it seems that other investment funds may have been run similarly to Mr. Madoff's and likewise cost their investors millions of dollars. Adding to the public outrage against this kind of fraud, we regularly hear reports of company executives who receive phenomenal salaries and bonuses while their companies teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.

Sometimes the impact of a mistake can be lessened when a person admits he or she made a mistake. After King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and their newborn son lay dying, his servants and advisers saw him refuse to eat and pray fervently to God (2 Samuel 12:15-20). They knew he was truly repentant for his sin. He didn't have to tell the people around him that he was sorry. They could see for themselves. This type of conduct actually sets a good example for those being governed. They see that even though everyone—even a leader—makes mistakes, the proper course of action is to admit the mistake and then once again live as God commands.

The life of David is a great illustration of both good and bad. Should we then conclude that it doesn't matter if we do wrong? No. David was always quick to repent when his sins were revealed to him. Rather than justifying himself, he acknowledged that his sins were first and foremost against God and His way of life (2 Samuel 12:13).

In this way David set an example of repentance for others to see. He showed that he was not like other kings who demanded of others a life they themselves wouldn't live. God wants us to face our sin, repent and be a man or woman of integrity.
What sermon do we preach by our example? Do people see us doing what we say or just saying? As a reader of Vertical Thought you have already made the commitment to understand how life works and to think vertically as God's Word directs. The next step is to live a positive example for others to see and follow.

As worldly institutions around us fail and the negative examples pile up, our positive example will stand out more and more to that world. Let's remember that we are being watched by others and that they are more interested in seeing a sermon lived than hearing one.