Bring God into the marketplace

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A group of Christian businesspersons learned how to bring God into the marketplace during a breakfast seminar sponsored by Christians in Commerce. The event, themed "Doing the Right Thing in Business and Government," was held Feb. 2 at Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant in Tysons Corner.

The keynote speakers were Mark D. Lytle, assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Bill Colegrove, CEO of aspenhome and Furniture Values International.

Bill Dalgetty, former president and chairman of the board of Christians in Commerce International, served as moderator.

Lytle, a parishioner of St. Mary Church in Alexandria, spoke about government and business corruption cases, including the landmark case against former U.S. Rep. William J. Jefferson.

Lytle said people who get involved in public corruption, either in business or government, start slowly and gradually progress to the point where it consumes their lives. People often are relieved when their secret life of corruption is finally discovered, he said.

In the beginning, people convince themselves that "everyone is else is doing it," so stealing, embezzling or taking bribes becomes acceptable behavior.

"It's the human condition," Lytle said. "We're all susceptible to it."

In the bribery case involving Jefferson, the congressman used his political influence overseas to solicit bribes from companies that wanted to do business in West Africa. Lytle said Jefferson focused on smaller businesses that were most vulnerable to his influence.

Despite political pressure from Congress and the White House, Jefferson was found guilty of 11 counts of bribery and sentenced to 13 years in prison in August 2009.

Lytle warned his audience to be prepared for the unexpected in the business world. "Someone will surprise you," he said.

Colegrove, past president of the Phoenix chapter of Christians in Commerce, recounted how he guided his multi-national company through the recession in 2008, as well as a contentious litigation case involving the Chinese government.

"For the past 20 years, I have tried to lead a way in the marketplace that is pleasing to God," Colegrove said.

Most people are spending more time in the marketplace every year, "but it's the place where we're least formed," he said. "Through Jesus Christ, God installs His standards for the marketplace."

Colegrove abides by the Scripture admonition to love and serve God with your whole heart and love and serve your neighbor as yourself.

He said the great success his company achieved at the beginning came to an abrupt halt in 2008 when the market crashed. But the temporary setback galvanized his company. "By following the God-standard, we came out in a better place," he said.

He encouraged his fellow businessmen to "work for God and not for human masters. Don't settle for secular standards. Go for the gold.

"What you do matters for God," he said. "See what you do through God's eyes. We do the right thing by looking toward our Father."

Flach can be reached at mflach@catholicherald.com.

Find out more

For information about Christians in Commerce or business ethics, contact Bill Dalgetty at bdalgetty@cox.net, call 703/201-2954 or visit cicintl.org/novabusethics.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016