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Compliance or Obedience

Management did not emanate from nature.  Management is not a tree; it’s a television set.  Somebody invented it.  It doesn’t mean it’s going to work forever.  Management is great.  Traditional notions of management are great if you want compliance.  But if you want engagement, self-direction works better.

Daniel H. Pink

Corporate Compliance

Many in the business world think compliance gets a bad rap because it is immediately associated with laws, constraints, inspections, audits, and penalties for those who don’t follow the rules.

Most organizations understand the importance of regulatory compliance in preventing unethical conduct and violations of the law.

It’s the necessary evil that is mandatory.

But it also sucks up valuable time, effort, and resources from folks who would much rather be working on projects that innovate, inspire, and motivate.  The word compliance in itself often conjures up thoughts of what organizations must do rather than what they want to do.

And let’s be honest – doing the right thing isn’t always fun.

And compliance, in truth, is about as much fun as going on a diet.  Although eating healthy is essential to a long and vigorous life, sometimes you want to have that one cupcake and stray from the intended plan…even though the long-term consequences of repeated bad behavior can result in an abandoned diet altogether.

The Problem with Compliance

Given the amount of time, money, and energy that is expended on compliance, it is clear that businesses think that being compliant makes a business safer, more profitable, and more attractive.

But like the dieting example demonstrates, being compliant is the ceiling, not the floor.  One donut will not ruin a diet, and one breach of regulated protocols is not an example of an “un-compliant” company.

This is nicely demonstrated by the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, when reacting to the allegations that Apple engages in actions of tax avoidance.  He responded, “I do not see our tax actions as unfair because I do not consider myself an unfair person, nor is our company unfair.” Apple was “un-compliant,” yet Tim Cook twisted this into a fairness analogy challenging the fairness of Apple as a corporation.

It is the “people are basically good, and a few occasionally make mistakes and do bad things” argument.

It is no wonder we have such a massive regulatory machine in all levels of government demanding compliance who are at war with an equal-sized private corporation machine attempting to justify being un-compliant.

The Bible

Of course, we students of Scripture know that mankind is inherently bad.

Even though we are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), we disobeyed and were kicked out of Eden.  Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but they are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.


Obedience is defined as:

 “dutiful or submissive compliance to the commands of one in authority.”

“Dutiful” means it is our obligation to obey God, just as Jesus fulfilled His duty to the Father by dying on the cross for our sins.  “Submissive” indicates that we yield our wills to God’s.  “Commands” speaks of the Scriptures in which God has clearly delineated His instructions.  The “one in authority” is God Himself, whose authority is total and unequivocal.  For the Christian, obedience means complying with everything God has commanded.  It is our duty to do so.

The compliance industry is structured around a mountain of rules that are designed to force corporations to adhere to rules designed or perceived to make our businesses safer, pay their fair share, benefit the public, and structure an even playing field for all the other businesses in each industry.

I’ll admit that many of the rules are one-sided, underhanded, and illogical.

Obedience, especially obedience structured around the Bible, creates a world where we want to be compliant because it is the proper, ethical, and humane action.  We want to take actions that are safe for both our employees and the environment.  We want to be fair.  And we want to pay our share.

I know it is a pipe dream, but we can all do our share of being compliant with fair regulations, and all agree to work toward eliminating compliance issues that are unnecessary and unproductive.  Our goal, however, must be to be obedient to our Lord and Creator, and all compliance issues will fall into place.