As we take the next step in the story, we arrive at a major theme of life on this planet found in God’s Word that continually confounds humanity because people refuse to take incorporate God’s Word into their lives. To some readers this scripture and its ramifications may seem harsh and unloving. To others, it is truth and righteousness displayed.
In 2 Corinthians 6:14 Paul urges the Corinthians to open their hearts to him again and states, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (NKJV)
The summary explanation from bibleref.org explains what follows well.
“Now he turns to a direct command: that believers in Christ not be yoked with unbelievers. The imagery of the “yoke” brings to mind the rigid harness used to keep livestock locked together and pulling in a consistent direction. The Old Testament used a form of the word to forbid mating cattle of different species (Leviticus 19:19). The Law also forbids harnessing together an ox and a donkey to plow a field (Deuteronomy 22:10).
The point of this phrase will soon become clear. Those in Christ are something other than those who are not in Christ. They are not the same—spiritually—and should not be locked together into any kind of binding relationship. Paul begins to ask a series of questions to show the absurdity of a believer in Jesus being “unequally yoked” with an unbeliever.
Paul asks: what cooperation can there be between virtue and wickedness? Those in Christ have “become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Those outside of Christ continue in their status as unrepentant, lawless sinners. The two cannot—must not—be joined together. To do so makes as little sense as trying to join light and darkness in fellowship. It can’t be done. As soon as the light arrives, the darkness must vanish.
It’s essential to realize Paul is not saying believers should never associate with unbelievers, at all (1 Corinthians 5:9–10). Believers should continue to live and function in the world, which includes contact with unbelievers (1 Corinthians 10:25–26). He has written to the Corinthians previously, though, not to sue each other in pagan courts of law (1 Corinthians 6:1–11), not to join themselves sexually to temple prostitutes (1 Corinthians 6:12–20), and not marry unbelievers (1 Corinthians 7:39).
Rather, Scripture’s teaching here is that Christians must not enter into binding, partnering agreements with non-Christians.“
God always has good reasons for His instructions.
Back to Business
Remember when I wrote about meeting with our state bank regulators along with our Chairman at the start-up of our division? The state officials suggested to our Chairman that he should execute employment contracts with me and our key people. My response was “no” to that. The Lord had revealed to me through the equipment company ordeal this scripture extended well beyond the commonly understood principle to only marry within the faith. From the point of understanding that passage better, I never worked under an employment contract the rest of my career after the equipment company.
In my mind, the principle is simply applied. I had yoked myself to the owners of the equipment company who claimed to be Christians. I learned that the claim of being a Christian does not necessarily make it the truth, although I have no authority to judge their claim then or now. I observed and absorbed their actions during my employment and they would not be considered Christ-like. Had I been more mature in the faith, I could have avoided a lot of heartache by avoidance of the situation and trusting God for his provision.
The allure to accept a yoke is increased by greed as well as hunger for power, prestige, fame, etc. Look at the yoking of all the celebrities, entertainers, media, corporate leaders, medical professionals, and so on. Most all are contracted to perform their roles. As a result, most will do and say about anything to fulfill the contracts and receive the worldly benefits. Politicians make their promises while receiving donations and receiving insider information. Their words and actions rarely reflect what Jesus wants us to say and do because the yoke they willingly accept is with the political party to which they belong. We the People are a means to the end purposes of the party and those that buy their votes.
That I was not yoked to the ownership of the bank became very important to me and others over the ensuing years. Especially as I learned more about all of the people involved.
The Phone Calls
One day that summer the major owner, the contractor, called and wanted to discuss where we were with profitability and my expectations. I put it back into his court, how confident was he that Judas could deliver on loan pool sales at or above budget? He had no answer for that. That was not why he called anyway. He told me about how he had to fire a close friend at his construction company after having worked together for 15 years because he failed to meet expectations. He then said he gave the guy a good severance package and they remained friends. I asked him if he doubted we would meet budget considering we were ahead of it at that point. He said that he was just reminding me it was important, that they had a lot on the line.
When you know your target is getting the job done, you attempt to move the goalposts and change the rules of engagement if your intent is to remove the leader.
I knew it was all BS. Step One of my eventual termination was complete.
A month later I got a call from Judas as he was working in the bank’s headquarters with the Chairman and President for a week. He said that it appeared to him that I was looking to get out, to retire soon. I told him (truthfully) that I was contemplating doing so at the end of 2008 with a consulting role to help the transition. He said, “I bet you would take a package of $… and retire.” I told him I would consider it. If it was a good package I would retire. If not I might have to crank another operation up somewhere else if ownership felt it was time for me to go.
Step Two of my eventual termination was complete, along with my counter move if they screwed it up.
Meanwhile the married contractor owner had caused a major problem chasing the skirt of the SCO’s assistant at a bank function. In addition, I got word from a couple of trusted sources on the Street that things were tanking fast in the debt markets. Not only was subprime residential getting worse, credit card and car loan pooled CDOs were in trouble as well. Buyers were pulling back from investing or were out altogether. It did not matter that our pools were performing well, the buyers were getting out of all of the debt market rapidly.
The owner who was an attorney decided to visit and discuss the issue with the assistant. The SCO and I reviewed with him and decided on a course of action. He could sense something else was wrong and asked. We decided not to share any more information with him or the other owners. They had decided to stop listening and take over anyway, which was within their rights to do as owners of the bank. They made their choice, they could live with the results.
Step Three of my eventual termination was the huddling in secret of a few key managers with Judas that I was not supposed to know about, but which was reported to me afterwards.
As we neared the end of the year, Judas began dragging his feet on closing loan pool sales in all programs. The owners and he were obviously losing their battle to lower profitability below budget to justify my termination and the delays would help them lower profit temporarily. The profitability of which was over three times what the traditional bank was making. The owners had ordered me to terminate our CPA/controller a few months before claiming he was a redundancy we no longer needed; that his function could be handled by the traditional bank. He was not surprised, just disappointed. He did not have a good relationship with them because he knew the games Judas was playing with loan sales and disagreed with their decision to sell off the treasury bond portfolio. The owners wanted him out to better hide their plans and knew we were totally in sync as eyes and ears for each other. I encouraged him to work a two week notice to transition the department and if he wanted to let some confidants know what was coming, well, I was good with it. I also told him I gave my time of employment there six months at most.
Step Four of my eventual termination was completed.
The expense reduction plan had been completed by all departments that was to be implemented with staff reductions with severance as well as outright releases of underperforming production officers in the first quarter subject to ownership approval. The moves projected to shave over $2 M in annual expenses in the first phase. The second phase would have slashed even more in 2009 with the implementation of the new credit administration and operations platform.
The plan was submitted prior to a meeting with ownership that included my SCO and NSM in mid January 2008. We arrived at the meeting for more bull in the ring theatrics. The owners and Judas completely disagreed with my assessment that the debt markets were in full retreat and that the country was headed toward a major recession. Whatever, guys, whatever. I stated that the expense reduction plan we submitted as well as expense reduction in the rest of the bank was needed to sustain existing profitability, much less grow it. They also needed to mothball bank expansion and stop making bad conventional commercial loans in one major branch location while cutting expenses where they could. They strongly disagreed and stated they believed any downturn would be short lived, that we needed to focus the division on making even more money. My NSM was floored and stated his disagreement while my SCO sat quietly. Allegiances were revealed as a result. Judas had turned the job scared SCO, the one guy he needed to keep credit administration going since he had no personal knowledge about making loans.
There was no peaceful resolution. The owners never intended for there to be.
Step Five of my eventual termination was completed.
The Last Days
I had already cleared the personal items out of my office beginning six months before. Our senior division attorney and NSM did not trust Judas at all and kept me informed. I told both to be smart and not do anything rash. If it was not going to work well for them going forward to be about finding new opportunities in advance.
I received the call to meet the owners at the airport in a meeting room about three weeks after the last bull in the ring event. We all knew what was going to happen, there was no need to pretend. I thanked them for the “opportunity” and not to bother staging anything, I had figured out what was going on many months before and would not be a problem subject to how they proceeded from there. It surprised them, so they cut to the chase. They offered the deal I could not refuse. A parachute into retirement was on the table. I told them I would review the proposal with my wife and have my attorney handle the details of the agreement if we agreed. We shook hands and headed home. Rock Star agreed completely it was a reasonable deal and was happy to have her husband home with no competition for his time (as was husband).
I simply did not trust them to be able to survive with how they analyzed situations and operated. I countered their ten year non-compete proposal with a five year non-compete on a ten year agreement with 75% of the compensation loaded into the first five years. My attorney went to work and knocked it out as I wanted it in a couple of weeks. I agreed to stay out of the way and let them build relationships with the employees and officers. None of them were on contract, so they would be free to stay or leave at their discretion.
Since there was no yoking during employment the parting was relatively easy. The yoking that occurred with the parachute required nothing of me other than not competing with them in that line of business in return for long term compensation with no other strings attached.
I was done.
There was no sadness, only joyous relief that it had come to an end. Family, friends and church members were a bit shocked. We assured them we could not be happier as a family. Our closest friends celebrated by throwing a party for us. As time passed and the economy began collapsing many of the people around us understood better. I knew it would take at least five years for economic conditions to become feasible to justify the effort it takes to build a similar operation. However, I had no desire or intention to ever do it again as long as the bank could make it five years.
In my heart and mind there were other, more important things to do involving family and kingdom work that I wanted to focus on the rest of my time on earth. Now I would get the real “opportunity” I had long sought that had nothing to do with chasing a dollar and building a career.
I had always viewed my role as one to bring “salt and light” into the workplace as in the scripture passage of Matt. 5:13-16. I had numerous other coworkers who believed their roles were for those reasons as well, which helped us help others. None could legitimately say that I did not try to lead by what The Word says to do even if I messed it up occasionally. However, when you do that you do so by gripping lightly on the reins. When your leadership is no longer desired, you shake the dust from your feet and move on as Jesus instructed in Matt. 10:11-14 and Mark 6:11.
The deniers and haters are left to sink or swim on their own.
With the next chapter I will fill in some areas and give the autopsy of this last small business banking employer. It will be a time of observation of Gods will at work in Goober Gump’s life without him knowing he needed it.