asa1logo.jpg (5657 bytes)   Studies on Ethics


Does Being Honest Pay? An Empirical Study

Brian E. Porter and Steve Vander Veen

From Christian Scholar's Review, XXVIII:3 (Spring 1999):452 - 465. (Used by permission)

... [Most folks are so darn crooked themselves that they expect a fellow to do a little lying, so if I was fool enough to never whoop the ante I'd get the credit for lying anyway!1


Alison Bass of The Boston Globe2 recently reported on empirical studies examining who lies and why. She writes that psychologists now argue that all lies "are not equal" and that "every society has a complicated set of rules that govern which lies are permissible and which are not." Many years ago, Albert Carr3 argued that business bluffing (i.e., deliberate false statements intended to deceive others) is not unethical. Carr proposed that business is not unlike the game of poker, and as such, there is a complicated set of rules which is different than the set of rules for one's private, at home, morality. We propose that business bluffing may not be ethical for a Christian and that 100% adherence to Christian principles (e. g. honesty) is sometimes detrimental for a business. Conversely, the perception of being Christian may lead to business success. Empirical research is used to support the suppositions.

A Philosophical Discussion

Underlying this paper are different philosophical orientations in integrating Christianity and business. On the one hand, there is the majority view, which we will call the Positive View. If one attempts to examine the collective mind of the Christian College Coalition, an association of more than seventy-five colleges affiliated with approximately thirty denominations, one might think that it pays to be honest. In the coalition's book Business Through the Eyes of Faith4, one of the premier books staining to integrating Christianity and business, a central issue is not whether it is feasible to be a Christian in business, but rather how to do it. In other words, pieces of the puzzle are there, sin has merely rearranged them.

Therefore, to be a Christian in business, one merely needs to strategically how to get the pieces back into their created order: "Planning is important Christians ... Justice does not happen automatically. It cannot exist apart from careful planning."5 Epistemologically, the philosophy rests on the position that faith is fact-based: "Biblical faith is grounded in substantive, evidential facts."6 Given that faith is fact-based, being a Christian in business means getting the facts straight and Christian managers are capable of accomplishing this task. Granted, the position taken by Business Through the Eyes of Faith does not represent all associated with the Christian College Coalition, but it probably represents the majority.

In addition, if one refers to On Moral Business7 maybe the most extensive literature review pertaining to faith and business, one must ask whether even the title may need further clarification: can morality and business be united? If so, ,what are the consequences of uniting business and morality? Is morality absolute relative? That is, is business morality different than the morality we apply to other aspects of life?

In the anthology On Moral Business, readers are led from the Gospels through Ancient philosophers, the Catholic traditions, the Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Wesley), the Enlightenment theories, and the modern theories of socialism and capitalism to contemporary writers. The sequence of the book seems to indicate that there is a natural progression of thinking from the Gospels to the present and that ,Christ's teachings, as recorded in the Gospels, support the idea that Christianity and business are easily, and naturally, integrated (if one interprets the facts correctly).

The basic premise of the Positive View, Christlike behavior (e.g., honesty) @gets business success is sometimes implicitly or explicitly implied in Christian writings.

It is true that business success cannot be equated with righteousness, nor business failure with righteousness. But it is also true that when people live by scriptural principles, whether they are Christians or not, there is a greater probability they will prosper materially. Hard work will gain more than laziness. Honesty will build trust, which has a positive business side effect.8

This same sentiment is also echoed in non-Christian writings. Hosmer argues in Business Ethics Quarterly that "acting in ways that can be considered to be 'right' and 'just' and 'fair' is absolutely essential to the long-term competitive success of the firm."9 Hosmer contends that there is a natural progression: (1) moral behavior generates trust among stakeholders, (2) trust leads to stakeholder commitment, (3) commitment leads to increased stakeholder effort, and (4) increased stakeholder effort leads to corporate success.

The Positive View emphasizes the notion that goodness and honesty are welcomed and rewarded in the world. Analogous to grace, the positive view tends to embrace Common Grace (the general good in culture) rather than Special Grace (the general sin in culture and the saving Grace of Christ).10

An alternate position, which emphasizes Special Grace, is the Negative View. This view contends that biblical morality and business are sometimes difficult to unite and that there is only one morality which must act upon all aspects of our life. Yet, in this one morality we fail. Here the idea is that the pieces of the puzzle may be so badly warped by sin that the puzzle will not go back together in its created order. This type of thinking, we believe, is consistent with the mind of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian martyred during the second World War, the mind of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher in the mid-nineteenth century, and the Calvinistic notion of Special Grace. This view does not see a progression of wisdom, but a circle of thought: we are no wiser than we ever were (though we may know more). Instead of focusing on the methods of strategic planning to unite Christianity and business, this view focuses more on the idea that there may be no right or clearly defined answer but a series of choices nonetheless.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will we will live and do this or that."11

Instead of focusing on how to be a Christian in business, this view focuses on how God acts upon and uses humans until He decides to replace the world. 12 Here business managers must not only plan, but they must also be prepared to wait and often do the seemingly irrational (like sacrifice the business, if necessary). 13 Because this view believes that Christianity and business are sometimes difficult to unite and that Christians may not be able to remake creation as God intended, it is, in effect, more process-oriented than goal-oriented. Rather than focusing on the facts in evidence, this view focuses on interpretations of phenomena in faith, since there exists no "grand or meta-narrative that explains the world from some objective, disinterested standpoint," but "narratives based on particular perspectives and viewpoints."14

The Negative View purports that it is difficult for Christians to accomplish God's work on earth (except by some miracle) because Christlike traits are sometimes incompatible with business principles. One Christlike trait examined more fully in this paper is honesty. We contend that it is nearly impossible to be totally honestest in business. For purposes of this paper, honest is defined as "free from fraud and deception."15 The Bible reports that both Jesusl6 and Paull17 included deceit with other evils such as theft, murder, and adultery. Only that which is free of deception is considered honest. Granted, what specifically constitutes deceit or honesty is highly debatable. Possibly a company that uses slight puffery to sell its product (e.g., if you purchase our soft drink, tennis shoe, automobile, etc., you will be popular, happy, admired, etc.) may be less than completely honest, but more profitable.

George Babbitt, in Sinclair Lewis's novel Babbitt, communicates the idea that successful business people are not unreasonably honest. Mr. Lewis also suggests at it does not pay to be Christian, but to give the perception of being Christian; at is, it pays to join the right church, wear the right clothing, and associate with the right people. But Scripture also addresses this situation; for example, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for desiring religious attentions18 and He tells His followers do good works in secret.19 Yet what market value do good works have unless the market hears about them? This is but one example of the paradox of being a Christian in business implied by the Negative View.

The idea that success is more probable when one is comparatively good (i.e., partially honest and perceived as being Christian) than when one is absolutely good (i.e., totally honest and inconspicuously Christian) or absolutely bad, we have dubbed "the Babbitt Curve." We propose that someone who operates below the ethical standards of society may have difficulty succeeding in business, as will one who operates above the ethical standards of society (i.e., according to the biblical ethic of love).

But can either the Positive View or the Negative View be confirmed empirically? More concretely, can it be confirmed that deception may sometimes be more profitable than honesty, or whether it pays to be perceived as Christian? Though the Positive View appears to be largely accepted, there has been little, if any, empirical evidence supporting its suppositions (e.g., honesty equates to business success) Bhide and Stevenson write:

Honesty is, in fact, primarily a moral choice. Business people do tell themselves that, in the long run, they will do well by doing good. But there is little factual or logical basis for this convictions.20

Further, a recent literature review of Business Ethics Quarterly, possibly the leading journal in its field,21 found that "there has been little to empirically validate either theories or concepts ... fewer than 10% of the articles consider any aspect ol empirical verification."22

Even if the Negative View can be empirically supported, we realize that one such test cannot, and should not, overthrow an entire philosophy, since one can only attempt to answer such significant questions with uncertainty. Rather, it is our goal to merely be gadflies who, like Kierkegaard, try to "raise difficulties' for the ajority.23

Problem Description and Hypotheses

Since this study is seminal in understanding the consequences of actual versus perceived Christian traits (e.g., love, honesty, sacrifice) through empirical research, it is important that it be grounded in reality Honesty versus lack of honesty in stockbrokers does have empirical support, as is evidenced by a Dow Jones News Service report published on October 23, 1995, stating that only 52% of stockbrokers surveyed felt that honesty was an important factor in their success. The March 13, 1995 issue of U.S. News & World Report, which focuses heavily on "Christian Capitalists" who declare a Christian commitment, gives empirical credence that there are business people who wish to be perceived as Christians. Though impossible to test all traits of Christianity (e.g., love, hope, sacrifice, stewardship) or the multitude of means in which one markets her association with Christianity, we will look at one scenario and hope that it will offer insight, or at least serve as a point of discussion.

The questions addressed include the consequences of a person visiting a stockbroker that has (versus does not have) Christian symbols in her office and is 100% honest (versus less honest). That is, would the buyer have the perception that the seller is a Christian and, if so, would this perception influence the quantity of stock purchased or at least influence the desire for additional information concerning the product? Would the same be true in a situation where the stockbroker is less honest?

We propose that the stockbroker with the Christian symbols will be viewed as being more Christian since people misunderstand or are incapable of assessing who truly is a follower of Christ. Consumers tend to make judgements based on outward appearances rather than characteristics, traits, and practiced values.

Further, we think, that a more honest stockbroker will be perceived as less trustworthy for two reasons. First, many consumers expect some dishonesty because they believe deceit is simply a rule of the business game. Second, cognitive inertia24-a tendency to search for data that confirms wishful thinking and to avoid facts that might refute them-is applicable. People want to believe, and refuse contrary evidence, that there exists a stock, an automobile, a college, a tennis shoe, etc., that will make their dreams come true. Consequently, people seek those that affirm their desires, not those that speak the truth. When confronted with the rarity of an honest businessperson, people are skeptical.

Based on the above suppositions, we take the position that consumers are not as capable as the Positive View presumes. Consequently, it may be difficult to exist in business and be completely honest. From this we can derive our hypotheses.

First, consistent with the Babbitt Curve, we expect that stockbrokers who outline more equally the risks and the rewards of investing in a stock mutual fund will be less persuasive in terms of number of dollars invested and will decrease the consumers' desire for more information. Second, we expect that stockbrokers who appear Christian (i.e., through salient Christian symbols) will be more persuasive than stockbrokers who are more inconspicuous, and as such, will sell more stock and create a desire in consumers for more information. This is because someone perceived as a Christian will also be perceived as trustworthy We also expect that stockbrokers who are more honest will be perceived as less trustworthy because, as Sinclair Lewis writes, consumers expect salespeople to "whoop the ante" and because consumers prefer visions of grandeur to the truth (i.e., they exhibit cognitive inertia). Therefore,

(Hl) stockbrokers who are less (versus more) honest will sell more (versus less) in terms of dollars invested and will influence consumers to desire more information, and;

(H2) stockbrokers who exhibit Christian symbols (versus those who do not) will sell more (versus less) in terms of dollars invested and will influence consumers to desire more information.

There should also be an interaction between level of honesty and exhibition of Christian symbols. Stockbrokers who are not fully honest and exhibit Christian symbols should be more persuasive than stockbrokers who are fully honest and do not exhibit Christian symbols. In other words, if a stockbroker wishes to sell more, S/he would want to appear honest (show Christian symbols) but at the same time not be entirely honest. Again, this is cognitive inertia-consumers want to believe the less honest broker (e.g., the stock has great potential and no risk) and the Christian symbols give the perception that the broker is being fully honest. Similarly, we anticipate that desiring more information will vary directly with dollars invested. Therefore,

(H3) stockbrokers who exhibit Christian symbols and are less (versus more) honest will sell more (versus less) in terms of dollars invested and will influence consumers to desire more information;

Finally, consistent with cognitive processing theory, level of involvement (e.g.,level of motivation to do the experiment) will moderate the influence of the stimuli, in effect neutralizing the influence of the less (versus more) honest stockbroker and the stockbroker exhibiting Christian symbols. In other words, it is expected that consumers who are more involved (more motivated) will be less influenced by such cues as less honest and conspicuously Christian stockbrokers: they will be allocating enough resources to the situation to know that Christian symbols do not matter and that there is much more to the truth than what the less honest stockbroker is saying. Thus, an involvement measure should help us guard against a potential bias in the study due to consumers being too motivated when it comes to investments. But the stimuli could also influence involvement level: many times we have noticed how rapidly students are "turned off" by discussions relating to Christianity. The latter might explain why consumers presented with Christian symbols could be influenced to buy more yet desire no more information: the "cue" helped them make a decision but did nothing to motivate them. Therefore,

(H4) stockbrokers who exhibit Christian symbols will reduce (versus increase) students' motivation to complete the experiment; and,

(H5) involvement level will moderate the influence of stockbrokers who are less (versus more) honest and ho exhibit Christian symbols.

Methodology and Experimental Design

The methodology chosen comes from the area of Consumer Behavior, which borrows liberally from Cognitive Psychology. This methodology is one commonly used by researchers in the area of marketing communications where the principle measures are those of attitude and intent. It frequently employs student populations, not only because they are convenient, but also because students are consumers who, like all humans, can be manipulated by particular stimuli.25

One hundred twenty-nine undergraduates of a Midwestern Christian college were given a booklet. On the first page was a role-playing story where students we to assume they were seeking advice from a stockbroker as to where to invest $50,000. Though all stories were similar, there were four versions of the story, as described in Exhibit 1. The four versions were derived from two factors, each with levels:

Factor 1: The stockbroker has Christian symbols in her office (Yes/No) ,

Factor 2: The stockbroker is fully honest, explaining both the positive and negative aspects of the investment (Yes/No)

A full-factorial design was then performed, yielding four stories:

Story 1: Christian Symbols; Fully Honest (CH)

Story 2: Christian Symbols; Not Fully Honest (CD)

Story 3: No Christian Symbols; Fully Honest (NH)

Story 4: No Christian Symbols; Not Fully Honest (ND)

Each student read only one story version and was not aware that other students may be reading a different story. Subsequent to reading the story students asked to indicate how much of the $50,000 they would place in the investment. The students were then given a series of statements and asked to respond. statement solicited whether they desired more information ("I desire more information concerning the fund.,,) and two statements measured manipulation effects ('I think the broker mentioned in the situation above was trustworthy" 'I think the broker mentioned in the story is a Christian.") Students were also ed to respond to a statement meant to measure their involvement level ("I was motivated to do this experiment."). The questions given to each student were identical and all questions (except the first) were scored on a 10-point Likert scale (1 = strongly agree; 10 = strongly disagree).

                                                                        Exhibit 1


Assume you have just inherited $50,000. You have decided to invest the money, t are still unsure where. After some investigation, you are interested in possibly --ting some, or all, of the $50,000, in the Baird Blue-Chip Mutual Fund. To receive professional advice, you visit a local brokerage firm that has been recommended you and that sells the Baird Blue-Chip Mutual Fund. The stockbroker you are meeting appears professional, straight-forward, and competent. As you enter her office you notice that she is wearing a necklace with a small cross on her desk is

ioto of her family, and hanging on her wall is the Bible verse, "Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life," Proverbs 22:4.

The following is an excerpt of her advice to you:

The Baird Blue-Chip Mutual Fund invests in stocks, and stocks have historIIY outperformed most other investments. The Baird Blue-Chip Mutual Fund an exceptional year in 1995 with a return of 38%. Virtually all stocks did well in but this type of return is not expected to continue - around 8% is more realistic. In fact it is possible that the Baird Blue-Chip Fund could decrease in value.

Rather than "placing all its eggs in one basket," and buying only one cornpany's stock, the Baird Blue-Chip Mutual Fund invests in a variety of stocks. This is a good investment strategy known as diversification. Of course, all mutual funds offer diversification and many of these funds have had similar returns as the Baird Blue-Chip Fund.

Baird is a very reputable company. It has been in existence for 75 years. Anytime you wish to remove your money from the Baird Blue-Chip Mutual Fund, give me a call and I will send you a check within two business days. If the ftind has decreased in value, however, you may not receive back your entire investment.

Note: The bold, underline, and italics print were not included in the Role-Playing scenarios. These prints were simply used in this exhibit to facilitate describing the four different role-playing scenarios that were used.

Story 1: No statements were removed (CH)

Story 2: The statements in italics were removed (CD)

Story 3: The statements in bold were removed (NH)

Story 4: Both the statements in bold and the statements in italics were removed (ND)


A numerical summary of the mean and standard deviation for selected questions is given in Exhibits 2 and 3. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was used as a statistical technique to help identify significant differences between response groups. A summary of the ANOVA results is given in Exhibit 4.

Manipulation checks confirmed that at least the intended main effects of the stimuli were present. As was expected, the perception of trustworthy is synonymous with the perception of being more Christian. That is, the stockbrokers who exhibited Christian symbols were perceived to be more Christian (p < 0.001) and more trustworthy (p = 0.025). Further, participants were far less motivated to perform the experiment (p = 0.001) when Christian symbols were present but motivation was not significantly impacted by the broker's honesty (p = 0.916). Disturbingly, the stockbrokers who were less honest were perceived to be more trustworthy (p = 0.004) and stockbrokers who were both less honest and exhibited Christian symbols were perceived as the most trustworthy (p = 0.098). There are at least two possible reasons for these findings: (1) cognitive inertia-we trust people who tell us what we want to hear, and (2) we are so unaccustomed to honesty in business that we refuse to trust it when it is presented to us. Another slight interaction indicates that stockbrokers who were both honest and exhibited no Christian symbols were perceived as least Christian while the stockbrokers who were both honest and exhibited Christian symbols were perceived as the most Christian (p = 0.061).

Hypothesis one (HI) was partially supported. It was found that stockbrokers were less (versus more) honest sold more stock (p = 0.003). At the same time, desire for additional information was increased by the stockbroker being less honest, but not significantly (p = 0.208).

Hypothesis two (H2) was only slightly supported. Though the presence of Christian symbols did persuade the participants to purchase more, it was not highly, significant (p = 0.203). Contrary to H2, the presence of Christian symbols significantly decreased the participants' desire for additional information (p = 0.31).

Hypothesis three (H3), which examines the interaction of the two factors, was supported. Though Exhibit 3 indicates that, on average, the broker that sold the greatest dollar amount was less honest and had Christian symbols, the ANOVA t find a significant interaction (p = 0.663). Similarly, there was no significant interaction for desiring more information (p = 0.565).

However, hypothesis four (H4) was supported. Stockbrokers who exhibited Christian symbols caused participants to be less motivated to do the study (i.e., participants were "turned off ") (p = 0.001). Given that the more honest stockbrokers were perceived to be less trustworthy and that stockbrokers who exhibited Christian symbols were less motivating, other findings are understandable. For instance, the use of Christian symbols reduced the students' involvement level and therefore their desire for more information. Because it reduced their involvement level, it also reduced the effect of perceiving the stockbroker with Christian symbols as more trustworthy At the same time, more honest stockbrokers were perceived s less trustworthy and this reduced the amount of stock purchased.

Yet, when an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was performed using involve-nt level as a covariate, involvement level did not prove to have a significant influice on the main effects found. Therefore, hypothesis five (H5) was not confirmed. It seems that those more involved were still not involved enough to overcome the effects of their cognitive inertia on the main effect of perceiving less honest stockbrokers as more trustworthy Apparently, students wanted to believe the less honest stockbrokers and were not willing to allocate the resources to investigate the situation more thoroughly.


Before discussing the implications of this research, we must admit that, as in all research, there are caveats. First, the participants in this study were college students attending a Christian College. Therefore, using such a sample may have biased the results of the study in that different students (i.e., different consumers) may have reacted differently. However, we still believe that given the students' involvement level, they reacted comparably to most non-sophisticated investors.

Second, it is one thing to talk about displaying Christian symbols in print; it is quite another thing to actually see them in an office. In other words, the second caveat is that the stimulus used in this study was quite artificial and this, too, may have biased the results.


Version of Story and Corresponding Mean and standard Deviation Response Value1

                                   Christian       No Christian                               Less
                                     Symbols2        Symbols3          Honest4            Honest5

Questions Posed to
Participants Subsequent        
Mean   SD      Mean   SD     Mean   SD       Mean   SD         
To Reading Story

What Dollar Amount         25,143 11,577   22,385 12,370  20,761 11,098    27,150 12,078
Would You Invest?

Do You Desire More             3.14  1.37         2.61  1.46           3.04  1.62             2.75  1.18

Do You Think The Broker       3.64  1.59         5.56  1.43           4.46 1.89               4.56 1.71
Is A Christian?

Were You Motivated To        6.43  2.16         5.13   2.18          5.83   2.17             5.84  2.36
Do This Experiment?

Do You Trust The Broker?       4.47  1.27         5.07   1.66          5.09  1.44             4.38   1.45

1all values based on 10 point scale (I = Strongly Agree; 10 = Strongly Disagree) except Dollar Amount which is actual dollar value

2Broker has Christian symbols (includes both honest and less honest stockbrokers)

3Broker has no Christian symbols (includes both honest and less honest stockbrokers)

4Broker tells both positive and negative aspects of product (includes both Christian symbols and no Christian symbols)

5Broker tells only positive aspects of product (includes both Christian symbols and no Christian symbols)


This one is harder to defend, though we maintain that many consumers misunderstand what it means to be Christian or are incapable of making such a judgment.

Even with the above caveats, there were several disturbing findings. First, exhibiting Christian symbols by themselves is a "turnoff " in terms of getting consumers motivated to process information. Second, stockbrokers who were honest were perceived as less trustworthy, presumably because consumers prefer to trust a less honest salesperson that scratches their itching ears.26 rather than an honest but realistic salesperson. Third, stockbrokers who exhibited Christian symbols (i.e., their Christianity was more conspicuous) were perceived as more Christian while brokers that were honest (versus less honest) were not perceived as significantly more Christian. Clearly there may be confusion in the world over what it means to be a follower of Christ. Do symbols or actions exemplify one's adherence to Christ's teachings? Fourth, those stockbrokers who are less honest (i.e., who do not outline more equally the risks and rewards of investing) sell more.

These findings may imply that material success could be enhanced by giving the perception that one is a Christian. For example, having a cross on one's wall,


Version of Story and Corresponding Mean and Standard Deviation Response Value1

                                                Chrisitan      Chrisitan      No Chrisitan    No Christian   
                                                Symbols &    Symbols &     Symbols &      Symbols &
                                                 Honest2       Less Honest3      Honest4      Less Honest5

Questions Posed to
Participants Subsequent                    
Mean SD        Mean SD          Mean SD         Mean SD   
To Reading Story

What Dollar Amount                      21,571 10,625  28,714 11,526   19,845 11,717   25,196 12,671
Would You Invest?

Do You Desire More                     3.23  1.56           3.06  1.17         2.83   1.70        2.37   1.11

Do You Think The Broker             3.31  1.35           3.96   1.77        5.76   1.57        5.39   1.26
Is A Christian?

Were You Motivated To                 6.31   2.14          6.54    2.20       5.27    2.11        4.96   2.29
Do This Experiment?

Do You Trust The Broker?            4.63   1.19          4.31    1.35       5.61    1.54        4.46   1.60

IAll values based on 10 point scale (1 = Strongly Agree; 10 = Strongly Disagree) except
Dollar Amount which is actual dollar value

2Broker has Christian symbols and tells both positive and negative aspects of product (CH)

3Broker has Christian symbols and tells only positive aspects of product (CD)

4Broker has no Christian symbols and tells both positive and negative aspects of product (ND)

5Broker has no Christian symbols and tells only positive aspects of product (ND)

placing the phrase In God we trust or Promise Keepers in one's advertisement, or sprinkling one's speech with "God Bless America" may increase one's ability to succeed materially. This inference, however, is precarious, given that virtually all participants of the study would classify themselves as Christians and that our findings, though confirmed in direction, were not statistically significant. At the very least, we contend that displaying Christian symbols is probably not detrimental to a business.

The findings of this research also indicate that material success may be more obtainable by those who do not practice Christian traits (e.g., honesty). For those that truly practice Christian traits, worldly success is obtainable but possibly more difficult. The fact that participants of this research study would classify themselves as Christians strengthens this finding. If Christians fail to recognize, appreciate, and reward honesty, we can not expect that others would be more astute. An interesting extension of this research would be to see if there are differences among participants who consider themselves Christian and participants who do not.

The findings of this study tend to contradict Positive View philosophies (in both Christian and non-Christian literature) presupposing that, in business, practicing the traits of Christianity will increase the likelihood of material success.27


Dependent Variable             Source            Sum Of           D                            Sig
                                                                      Squares            F       F-Ratio       Level

Quantity of Money Invested              Symbol            219,807,000        1          1.635        0.203
by Respondant                                      
1,247,680,000      1           9.278        0.003
                                                 Symbol x Honest             
25,655,500        1           0.191        0.663

Respondent's Desire For                   Symbol                      9.474            1          4.769        0.031
More Information                                 
3.176             1         1.599         0.208
                                                 Symbol x Honest                    
0.661             1          0.333        0.565

Respondent's Perception Of             
120.293            1         52.975       0.000
Broker Being A Christian                 
0.616              1            0.271      0.603
                                                  Symbol x Honest                   
8.122              1            3.577      0.061

Respondent's Motivation                     Symbol                    54.809             1          11.512     0.001
To Perform Experiment                       
0.053              1            0.011     0.916
                                                  Symbol x Honest                   
2.318               1            0.487     0.487

Respondent's Trust                               Symbol                   10.284             1            5.141      0.025
Of The Broker                                        
17.105             1            8.551     0.004
                                                    Symbol x Honest                   
5.564              1            2.782     0.098

 Instead, support was found for both the Negative View and the Babbitt Curve which suggest that living the teachings of Christ may decrease the likelihood of success. Materially speaking, to have the greatest probability of success, one should be in the middle of the Babbitt Curve (i.e., not fully deceitful, but not fully honest).

Unfortunately, the Babbitt Curve is likely not confined to stockbrokers, but is transferable to many business practices, occupations, and every day situations. Politicians, clergy, realtors, and even professors may be more successful if they are perceived to possess Christian traits (e.g., honesty), but in reality the traits are not fully practiced. Those who do practice Christian traits (e.g., honesty) may even be punished or persecuted. This was Jesus' fate, Jesus promised this fate to those who follow Him, 28 and it has proved true for John the Baptist,29 Stephen,30 Paul,31 Peter, and many others.


Admittedly, this research is seminal. Honesty is certainly not a litmus test of one's Christian commitment; there are many other traits (e.g., love, sacrifice, longsuffering, patience, stewardship, etc.) that have not been investigated. The dilemma is that it is impossible, due to a lack of sophistication, sensitivity and wisdom, to measure and test such traits with precision. Further, we are painfully aware, as was Paul,32 that our sinful nature prevents all of us from fully implementing the traits of Christ, including honesty, in our lives, businesses, and professions. Because of these, and other limitations particular to this type of research, any conclusions can only be considered possibilities rather than certainties that are irrefutable.

It does appear, however, that we may have seen 2000 years of knowledge since Christ walked on this earth and we are no wiser. It is feasible that Christ was not welcomed by culture, but was crucified by it.33 Consequently, it may be more difficult, though not impossible, for followers of Christ to be successful by the world's standards.

The paradox may be that an appropriate perspective of the integration of Christianity and business is one that unites both the Positive and Negative Views. In such an integration, business is both process and goal-oriented. But how this integration is accomplished remains unclear in light of the empirical study indicating that being honest does not necessarily pay.34

A popular belief is that if one lives by Christian principles one is likely to be successful materially. In this article, Brian Porter and Steve Vander Veen discuss an alternate postulate: honesty may not necessarily be more conducive to material success. Empirical research is employed that indicates that an honest stockbroker, compared with a less honest stockbroker, will sell less stock and be perceived as less trustworthy. Both Mr. Porter and Mr. Vander Veen  are associate professors of economics and business at Calvin College.


1Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1922), 41.

2As reported in Grand Rapids Press on Tuesday, July 30, 1996, p. 1.

3Albert Z. Carr, "Is Business Bluffing Ethical?," Harvard Business Review 46 (January / February 1968):143-153.

4Richard C. Chewning, John W. Eby, and Shirley J. Roels, Business Through the Eyes of Faith, Francisco: Harper and Row, 1990), 13.

5Ibid, 119.

6Ibid, 7ff .

7Max L. Stackhouse, Dennis P. McCann, and Shirley J. Roels with Preston N. Williams, eds., On oral Business: Classical and Contemporary Resources for Ethics in Economic Life (Grand Rapids, : Eerdmans, 1995).

8Richard C. Chewning, et. al., 13.

9La Rue Tone Hosmer, "Why Be Moral? A Different Rationale for Managers," Business Ethics Quarterly 4 (April 1994): 191-204.

10For an excellent history and discussion of Common and Special Grace, see James D. Bratt's Dutch Calvinism in Modern America (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1984), 43-54.

11James 4:14-15.

12Revelation 21:1.

13James 4:13-17.

14For a further discussion of the interface between postmodernism and Calvinism, see Roland ,Hoksbergen's "Is here a Christian Economics?: Some Thoughts in Light of the Rise of Postmodemism," Christian Scholar's Review 24 (December 1994), 127-128.

15Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary

16Mark 7:21-23.

17Romans 1:29-32.

18Matthew 23:6-7, Mark 12:38-40, Luke 11:43.

19Matthew 6:1-4.

20Amar Bhide and Howard H. Stevenson, "Why Be Honest if Honesty Doesn't Pay,"Harvard Business Review 68 (SeptemberOctober 1990), 121-122.

21 LaRue Tone Hosmer, '5 Years, 20 Issues, 141 Articles, and What?," Business Ethics Quarterly 6 (Issue 3), 325.

221bid, 332.

23William Barrett, Irrational Man: A Study of Existential Philosophy (New York: Doubleday, 1958), 157.

24Amar Bhide and Howard H. Stevenson, 124.

25For a discussion of persuasion and the Elaboration-likelihood Model, see Richard E. Petty,

John T. Cacioppo, and David Schumann, "Central and Peripheral Routes to Advertising Effeciveness: The Moderating Role of Involvement," Journal of Consumer Research, 19 (September, 1983): 135-145.

26 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

27Richard C. Chewning et. al, 13 (see footnote 1); LaRue Tone Hosmer, "Why Be Moral?," 191-204.

28John 15:20.

29Matthew 14:9-10.

30Acts 7:59.

31 2 Corinthians 11:23-25.

32Romans 7:14-24.

33We, however, are still called to transform all areas of God's creation. Romans 12:1-2.

34The authors would like to thank the editor and two anonymous referees for their invaluable comments which assisted in making this a much stronger paper.