Ben nervously approached his boss Mark and said, “Steve is making product in direct violation of his non-compete agreement. What are we going to do?”
“Are you sure?” Mark asked, having just purchased the company from Steve some three months earlier.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Ben said.
Mark told Ben to ask Steve to come in and talk, so that they could deal with the issue directly.
Three days later, Steve verified he was indeed producing product.
“Steve that’s a violation of our purchase contract,” Mark told him. “I paid you not only for the company but also not to compete with us for three years. Don’t you see this as a biblical violation of ‘Letting your yes be yes’?”
Steve countered, “Yes, I see that, but what else am I supposed to do? This is all I know how to do.”
Steve and Mark were at an impasse. Since both men were believers, Mark suggested Christian arbitration. Steve was from a rural Southern county, so Mark suggested they use Deacons at Steve’s church as arbiters, thinking this would put Steve at ease, position mature biblical leaders as judges, and provide for a biblically objective decision.
Steve agreed, and the two said they would abide by the arbiters’ decision.
At the hearing, both men presented their cases. Steve didn’t deny that he violated the contract, and Mark presented the purchase and the non-compete agreements, showing the obvious violations Steve confessed to. Mark thought the case was a “no brainer” in his favor.
After a 10-minute deliberation, the Deacons returned with their decision. “We’ve heard the evidence,” said their spokesman. “There is clearly a technical violation, but Steve’s our guy, and we find in his favor. Mark, pay Steve the remaining amount on his contract, and he may continue to produce product.”
Mark was stunned. He’d committed to abide by the arbitration, no matter what the outcome. So what could he do?
When he returned to his office, Mark instructed his accountant to pay off the agreement in full. He called Ben and explained, “I believe their judgment was unfair, and invalid, but I committed to abide by it, and I must. We’ll have to endure this unfair competition and leave our fate in the hands of God.”
Ben didn’t like Mark’s response any more than Mark liked giving it. But the check was mailed and the matter was put behind them.
Mark never heard another word from Steve. But six months later Mark’s accountant came to him and said, “I have something strange to report. The check we sent Steve was never cashed.” Three years later it still hadn’t been cashed.
What can we make of this? God was testing both Mark and Steve, and they both passed. Mark was tested to see if he’d keep his word even if the outcome of the arbitration wasn’t what he hoped. Steve was tested to see if he’d allow himself to benefit from an unjust verdict. He couldn’t. Both men grew up a little. God has interesting ways of maturing us, if we will let Him.