by Emily Shurmer
“There’s no I in team, but there are five in individual brilliance.”
“Manipulate, divide and conquer. I would identify my opponents’ weaknesses and pick them off one by one.”
“My absolute worst nightmare is getting to age 40 with a £50,000 salary and a four-year-old Toyota.”
These are just some of the insights from the contestants of this year’s series of The Apprentice – the BBC show in which 20 ambitious business men and women battle it out for the coveted role as Lord Alan Sugar’s business partner. The premise of the show is simple: the groups are divided into two competing teams, set a challenge which requires them to make the highest profit margins possible, and whichever team makes the most profit wins. Each week a contestant from the losing team is unceremoniously fired, and whoever is left standing at the end claims the prize of a prestigious business deal with Lord Sugar.
Whilst the aspiring apprentices are doubtless selected for maximum contentiousness, The Apprentice is nevertheless a worrying insight into what happens when people are pitted against each other for the sake of money. From the outset, it’s clear that such characteristics as ruthlessness, manipulation, aggressive self-promotion and unlimited greed are seen as the vital trappings of corporate success. In the total reversal of virtue and vice, what the Bible would deem godly traits – humility, gentleness, patience – are disregarded as weaknesses, and whoever shouts the loudest gets their way. Contestants willingly trample their teammates if it means rising a little higher in Lord Sugar’s estimations. It makes for an entertaining hour of television, but is this really what business relationships are supposed to look like?
The dog-eat-dog contestants of The Apprentice are just one product of the capitalist system which governs our society. Capitalism makes money-making the ultimate goal for society, and requires relationships to be sacrificed in the pursuit of individual or corporate self-interest. There are countless ways in which this is played out in society, from supermarkets racing to lower their prices at farmers’ expense, to clothing manufacturers exploiting workers in sweatshops, to super-rich property owners monopolising the housing market whilst others can’t afford a home. The themes of greed, individualism, and exploitation which are so prevalent in The Apprentice are all natural consequences of a capitalist system in which personal monetary gain is the prime motivation.
It’s clear that this system isn’t what God intended for his creation. The Bible offers an alternative vision for society in which enterprise is welcome but money is not an idol, where relationships are a central foundation rather than collateral damage, where the rights of the poor and needy are protected, and where business is conducted with integrity. God’s vision turns capitalism on its head, and requires us to put love, rather than money, above all other pursuits. That is the treasure that truly lasts.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 16:19-21