How Lawyers Are Part of Shalom

By: Rev. Scott Sauls

In John 14:15 Jesus tells us of the “Counselor” who will be with us forever. In the original Greek, the Counselor is the paraklete or Advocate—the One who, like a good Attorney, comes alongside us to support us, encourage us, defend us, and counsel us. It is significant that this Advocate is described also as “the Spirit of truth” (v. 15). Implied here is that any counsel we seek, whether legal or otherwise, should be the type of counsel that will help us be people of integrity in our ventures.

To be a person of integrity (from the root “integer” or “whole”) is to be the same in private as we are in public. It is to commit to do the right thing when doing the right thing will promote our cause, and when doing the right thing will weaken our cause.

A good friend of mine was a compliance attorney for a bank during the 2008 economic crisis. In the interest of hiding toxic assets from shareholders (so as to keep the stock prices from plummeting even further), my friends’ supervisor asked him to overlook this breach of integrity “for the well-being of the bank,” which would have made him party to a very public lie. Instead, he sought to encourage his company to do the right and truthful thing—believing that integrity, though costly in the short term, was not only the right thing but would also fare well for the bank in the long term. My friend was then swiftly fired from his position—and the bank developed a false narrative about my friend’s “incompetence,” adding lies upon lies, more cover-up to cover-up. He was and is, in fact, one of the most able attorneys in the city.

The irony of the situation was that my friend, pushing for integrity during a time of crisis, was one of the bank’s greatest assets—yet he was treated, and subsequently discarded, as a liability. The bank soon found itself in even deeper hot water—as its many cover-ups were eventually exposed.

What is my point? A failed venture in the worlds eyes can actually be a great success in the eyes of heaven—and even in this life, “failed ventures” that “fail” because its leaders refuse to breach integrity, often get the last laugh. Look at Jesus, the “entrepreneur” extraordinaire. At his death he had just 120 followers. Or the disciples. Eleven of the twelve had their lives end in martyrdom. In the eyes of the world they were failures. Had they just fudged a bit, told a few lies, accommodated their critics…would things have worked out better for them? In the short term, perhaps. But in the long term, it would have derailed the integrity and fruitfulness of the mission.

In summary, success, in entrepreneurial and all other ventures, should be measured first and foremost in terms of character, not outcomes. Financial success, for instance, is a wonderful by-product to celebrate and enjoy. Job, the godliest man in the land, was also immensely wealthy. As was Abraham, the father of the faithful. As was the woman of noble character in Proverbs 31. As was Jesus, who, “though he was rich, he became poor, that through his poverty we might become rich!” Success as the world defines it is a delightful by-product—but it should be regarded as “secondary success” which flows from the “primary success” of integrity—of an “MO” that follows the wind of the Spirit of truth. CS Lewis said it best: “Aim at heaven and you’ll get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you’ll get neither.”