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Monday, February 9, 2015

Bankruptcy Protection

You don’t have to be engaged in the real business world to go bankrupt. Ask anyone who has played a few rounds of the board game Monopoly. Simply stated, a player is eliminated from the game if they cannot pay what they owe…whether that is to the bank or to another player. At that point, we say the player is bankrupt!

In a game, it’s easy to start over. In real life, it’s not so easy. Just ask Radio Shack. This past weekend, a final round of sales began at some 1700 of their stores. It is the first wave of liquidation of stores in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the consumer electronics retailer.

I feel their pain. Well, a little. In the 1970s, I was employed for several months in a Radio Shack store in Sacramento, California. It was in the heyday of CB radios and hot-selling stereo equipment. Christmas at Radio Shack was a bonanza of customers. And, of course, there was that free battery-per-month promotion.

My first video game was played with a fellow employee at Radio Shack. On slow nights, we spent time becoming experts in Pong! The company soon had its TRS-80 computer and handheld models to boast about.

But times change. CB radio sales died. Smartphones arrived. Personal computer competition became intense. Home stereos transitioned into more sophisticated options. And no one cared much about a free battery. A sad reality took shape as Radio Shack lost its edge…and then its customers. Bottom line: bankruptcy.

I feel their pain for a second reason. In the 1980s, I had my own dream shattered when I started a video/marketing enterprise in California. I raised capital, generated a lot of enthusiasm for an idea, and was building a small business on high hopes. Undercapitalization was primarily responsible for dealing me out of the world of big dreams. I ran out of cash. Bottom line: bankruptcy of a small business.

It’s painful to see this happen. At least, it should be. Competitors often celebrate the demise of a lesser foe. Because winning — in business — is everything.

I saw a different side of a kind of bankruptcy last week. For a few days, I was in the throes of Guatemalan families who live on virtually nothing. Their “assets” are sometimes their children, sold to be laborers or for more demonic purposes. Men who have no jobs. Women and children living in corrugated metal shacks with no food and scarce water. I was on a mission with the ministry Food for the Poor.

Just a few miles away from these destitute families in Guatemala City, streets were bustling, and people with good paying jobs filled high-rise buildings. As with many places in our world, the “haves” connect little with the “have-nots.” In a sense, there is a bankruptcy of human compassion.

Jesus of Nazareth saw it happening. He was well aware of earthly kingdom builders who were willing to risk it all on the big stage for a losing payoff. Jesus said it this way: “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26, NLT)

Jesus also offered bankruptcy protection. In verses 24-25 of that same passage he said: “…if any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”

When it comes to bankruptcy, forget Chapter 11. Or Chapter 7. For true eternal protection, go back and read Matthew, Chapter 16.

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