I’ll never forget the look in that engineer’s eyes when he interrupted the professor. “Wow,” he exclaimed, “I get it, I get it!” I know what he was feeling because I felt it too. It was as if the final nail in a bridge between islands in my mind had been hammered home. The class was Business Ethics, a requirement for both business and engineering majors like myself. I should have known it was going to be great when the professor, on the first day, wrote the title of the class on the board and crossed out the word “Business.”

She succeeded in an area in which our education system has absolutely failed our young people. Society at large and education in particular are inculcating our children with the idea that your ethic is your metaphysic, that to act for a cause is to be, “I act, therefore I am.” That one engineer happened to be happily snared when the professor, over a semester, not only successfully explained the meaning of ethics and metaphysics but brilliantly displayed the dependence of the former on the latter. There is no such thing as business ethics; there’s ethics, and your ethic is downstream from your metaphysic. In other words, how you act depends on what you believe about God, the universe, the meaning and value of life, what a human being actually is, etc.

This crucial reality is always and everywhere inculcated in our children by their upbringing. Mothers and fathers who trust in God no matter the circumstances, who live out the Golden Rule even at great cost, and who sacrifice time, money, and comfort to give of themselves in service to the Kingdom of God, are the arbiters of this philosophical reality without perhaps ever even knowing the meaning of words like “metaphysics” and “ethics.” They don’t have to; if Jesus of Nazareth linked a relationship with His Father to His daily interactions with those He encountered, that’s example enough. 

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