The National Football League is a $9 billion dollar business. The owners and players, even those making the minimum salary, live very comfortable lives (assuming they spend their money wisely). Yet, here we are, in the midst of another week of an NFL lockout with both sides asking for more money and benefits. Is it really so difficult to divide all that money fairly?
With all that is happening around the world- earthquakes and tsunamis in the far east, complete chaos in the middle east, and a terrible economic climate in our own backyard, there really is no excuse for the selfish and greedy behavior being exhibited by both sides.
In all honesty though, greed is not only a problem that plagues the NFL; it’s a societal issue. In almost every financial partnership and subsequent dispute, both parties are often hesitant to find a happy medium; each one waiting for the other to cave in and agree to take less. No one is satisfied with having ‘enough’ money. And that is why King Solomon writes in Proverbs, “one who loves money will never have enough of it.”
The Biblical account of the dispute between Abraham and Lot’s shepherds perfectly illustrates this unfortunate human condition. Both Abraham and Lot were independently wealthy. Yet, after their shepherds began to argue over some real estate property, Abraham decided that the best way to resolve their differences was to separate. Lot went south and Abraham north. Even relatives have great difficulty making concessions.
Why is it so difficult for people to compromise and learn to live in peace and harmony?
The answer is found in God’s first blessing to man: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” Expounding on the command to ‘subdue the earth,’ one of the great Jewish thinkers, Nachmonidies, writes that God empowered every human to rule over the world, to conquer it, and to make it his own. Translated into modern parlance, one can argue that God’s first blessing to mankind was founded upon the ideals of capitalism; to own and earn as much as possible in one’s lifetime. If one takes that Biblical command seriously, it is not surprising that humans have such difficulty taking less then they feel deserving of.
Yet what people often fail to realize is that God did not intend to create a chaotic world full of greed and selfishness; a society where each person cares only about their stock portfolios. Quite the opposite! He fashioned laws that are compassionate and empathic, with the purpose of molding us into people who are kind and loving. We are required to share with others by tithing our earnings, to take special care of the orphan, the widow, and stranger, and to love everyone as one loves himself. We are required to remember that whatever success we achieve in life is because of God and therefore, we are to use the fruits of our financial success to serve others, as He has commanded us. If the players and the owners kept that in mind, they would recognize that their inability to figure out how to divide $9 billion equitably will impact most on the “little guys” who rely on football for their livelihoods, like the concession vendors, parking attendants, and ticket takers who literally will not have enough money to feed their families if the lockout/strike results in a lost season.
So does God want us to conquer the world, or does He want us to be selfless by putting ourselves and our needs secondary to everyone else?
I think that God wants us to strike the perfect balance between these two conflicting, yet positive values. Do you know what that is called? That’s right- a compromise.