One of the best stories of the New Testament is the parable of the Good Samaritan. Of course, the importance of that parable is to stress how important charity is and with what spirit it should be rendered. But it is also about practical compassion in action. The Good Samaritan didn’t host a fundraiser or throw an elaborate and expensive dinner to raise money for the injured man in the parable. He rendered what aid he could and paid for what he could not. Still, there is an often-overlooked part of this parable with modern applications. The Good Samaritan had the means to do this: he was a successful businessman.
The man in the parable was a merchant who traveled a regular business route (which is why he knew the owners of the inns along the way). He was able to provide money without hesitation when it was needed because he was successful at his trade. When others pick out scriptures to demonstrate that wealth is bad, they’re often cherry picking. (After all, it isn’t money that is the root of all evil, but the love of it above love of other things, like one’s God and family!) It isn’t accumulating wealth that is bad; it is how one lives one’s life with that wealth that makes the difference.
That doesn’t mean we throw our hard earned profits at just any cause. Supervising the process, like the Good Samaritan who said he would be back to check on the expense of the injured man, is just as important as being able to give. Taking an interest in where the money goes is more likely to ensure that the money is spent wisely. In fact, it is likely the case that if a person is a good businessman, he will make a great Good Samaritan as well, since the principles that govern good business decisions also carry over for acts of charity as well.
There are many Biblical examples of managing money, whether it be personal debt or business requirements. For example, there are plenty of stories of profit and ethics, as illustrated by the most famous example of Jesus overturning the moneychangers’ tables. As usual, these spiritual lessons are more valuable than many finance plans one might find in the business world! Here are a couple of the most important lessons for our daily business.
Good management is expected. Matthew 25:29 indicates, “For everyone who has will be given more, (…) Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” Some use this to mean the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. But really it is an important management lesson. Good management means the profits will be invested, the business run in a sound way and “multiplied,” so to speak. Bad management will suck all the profits from the business, as bad strategies become more costly until what a manager has is “taken from him.”
Debt is to be avoided, if possible. On both a personal and professional level, debt is always considered problematic. We have all read the Proverb, “the borrower is slave to the lender,” and while slave is not quite the word we might use today, there are still ramifications for personal and professional debt. In some instances, debt is necessary, such as financing the start of your business or expanding on existing operations, or buying a home for the first time. But staying within our means professionally and personally is the key to steady operations. One shouldn’t work just to support debt.
The average American consumer is pretty far away from these principles. With personal spending at record levels and our government spending itself into oblivion, the nation has come a long way from these principles. But holding to the Biblical views on debt, good management and using your talents wisely provide a real path to wealth.
Trying to find an “edge” in business is the topic of many news articles and blogs. Everyone wants the secret to getting ahead. But students of the Bible know that the ways one becomes blessed with wealth are already written in the lessons of the Bible. One of the important lessons one can learn about managing business comes from the Proverbs passage describing the “Wife of Noble Character.” What are some of the characteristics of this parable? As it turns out, they provide an excellent study in business!
How, exactly? Consider just a few of the values Proverbs ascribes to her.
“She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.” Using our talents and being eager to do a good job are always important qualities in a successful business enterprise. This is similar to generating seed money by doing the work we know we can do. Many great businessmen tell stories that start out with a menial job that didn’t pay very well, but provided important seed money to start an empire.
“She considers a field and buys it out; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.” Using that seed money, she then looked around for the best deal on a more profitable enterprise and getting that deal and then sought to create a new line of wealth. Looking for new opportunities and then making the most of them is what builds real wealth – and it is spiritually rewarded as well.
“She senses her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not got out at night.” Anyone who has begun a business can attest to the amount of work it takes to do it right. Entrepreneurship is hard work, one that can keep you late into the night. If you don’t want to do work that goes beyond the standard 9-5 working hours, that dream will never get off the ground.
Take advantage of the Bible’s plans for building a strong business. You will be both materially and spiritually rewarded.
Doing a good job on the factory floor or in the boardroom takes good resources as well. Whether it is the quality of the raw materials, the skills of our workers or the maintenance on the machine, it takes actual, physical resources to get the job done. The same is true of your spiritual calling. There are resources at play there. But what are they?
Without physical resources and the intellectual capacity to use them, it is very difficult to do God’s work in the world. We are given stewardship over our talents and our treasure, and we’re expected to use them wisely and in the service of our ministry. So how can you put that to good use?
Consider parallel uses of your talents. If you are a great business networker, you will likely be a great leader of a BMFUSA chapter in your home community. Bringing people together is a talent. If you excel at presentations, why not pass that skill on to someone else? When it comes to the ministry, sharing the message is often a matter of being articulate and responding to perceived objections. If you are a great teacher, there is plenty of ways you can help others understand the message they so desperately need to hear.
Resources are another way we can move the message forward. Again, think parallel purposes. If you don’t have much money to spare to support Christian causes, can you offer the use of space in your business for fellowship gatherings or workshops? Could you volunteer your time in the community to demonstrate both faith and works? If you have great budgeting skills, can you help your church of choice with its financial plans?
We all have something to offer. Sometimes our greatest physical resources that lead to a successful business life are also our spiritual gifts to give to others.
For many of us, asking what our purpose was is what brought us into closer contact with God. Asking these questions can also help us deliver a powerful message to others who are searching for just the same thing. Here are a few tips for helping others figure out their purpose.
Remember the way you found your own purpose. Remember that on-fire feeling you had when you first connected to your spiritual side and discovered what it was you were really meant to do? Bring that passion back to the surface. People respond well to the story others have to tell because they can feel the genuine feeling behind the message.
Sometimes a purpose is couched in a lack of something. We go in search of the things we are lacking – fellowship, a fulfilling work life, a spiritual practice – without realizing that sometimes that is God’s way of showing us what our true purpose should be. Sometimes defining that need helps us understand what we’re really called to do.
Have a mission statement. Just like your business has a vision for the future, so should one’s spiritual practice and mission. Paring down your mission to your core beliefs and codifying those beliefs into a statement is powerful work. A statement can be repeated in the morning to infuse your day with the spirit of your work. A statement can be written down and reviewed in times of trouble. Never underestimate the power of a mission statement!
Defining our purpose is an ongoing process that is refined over the years and as our work is accomplished. Helping others discover their purpose is some of the most powerful change you can help affect in someone else’s life. How can you help someone uncover his purpose today? How can you reconnect with your own purpose?
If there was ever any doubt that God wants – expects – us to use our imagination and creativity to grow our business, one need only turn to the Bible and remember the 2 Corinthians 4:18 verse on fixing our eyes “not on what is seen, but is unseen.” There are lots of profitable reasons to infuse your business ideas with your own special creativity; but you will find once you do so that the rewards are not only material blessings, but spiritual ones as well.
Creativity, in many ways, is an expression of faith. Seeing the vision in one’s head and then carrying it through to fulfillment is in some way taking a material leap of faith into the great unknown. Going with what you know in your heart to be right sometimes takes courage, such as launching a new advertising campaign, going after a new demographic or creating a new product line and launching on the market.
Creativity comes in many forms. Even when your business doesn’t specifically focus on creative productions, simply figuring out a way to work your business, hang onto your employees and attract new customers are all examples of creative thinking at work. The fact is, there are many ways to express creativity.
For many, finding a way to use their God-given creativity in their business in some way is also a form of spiritual practice – a sort of living up to one’s real potential. To whom much is given, much is also expected, after all. Living up to our true potential has always been favorably viewed by God, whether that comes as a form of religious expression or we are using the talents with which we’ve been endowed.
So go ahead – take that leap of creativity and see how it rewards you in return!
One of the most difficult “customers” to deal with when it comes to delivering that all-important spiritual message are those who were religious at one point, but for one reason or another have fallen away. We all probably know someone who has had a terrible church experience for some reason and has written that experience onto every other religious interaction they could possibly have. Others are just disconnected from the ministry from years of stagnant teaching or not finding their personal spiritual challenge. Some have suffered a hard knock in life which left them reeling and questioning their faith.
These scenarios are difficult – but not impossible – to deal with.
It can help to realize that many people are, in fact, very lonely inside. The kind of fellowship that real Christians generate is a warm, inviting space that many people don’t have the privilege of experiencing. Healing from a difficult life situation is a long, hard process that isn’t always smooth. Knowing there are others who have experienced similar trials is comforting.
So, too, pain, confusion and shame cause others to stay away from spiritual outreach. Someone healing from a poor church experience often feels a pain they cannot quite explain, but the hurt runs deep. So does the shame of staying away from spiritual contact. A person in this situation often doesn’t know where to turn first and is too embarrassed to seek help. Anger often masks these deep feelings of pain.
Understanding the emotional confusion that can come from separation from one’s spiritual link with God will go a long way to having a kind and loving conversation. While people who are often separated from their spirituality can seem hostile and confrontational, that is often a way to ward off painful conversations about experiences they assume you might know nothing about.
Offering a kind word, a kind hand and an understanding heart is the way to demonstrate compassion and the correct spiritual path to those who may have become disenfranchised with traditional church leadership.
We are used to getting bad news at work. Whether it is the economy, the sales projections or the level of difficulty sustaining our market interest, we get negative messages often. This is especially true if you are a Christian at work. Hearing reports about the decline or our faith can be equally demoralizing and make one feel like a minority voice in a secular world. In those situations, it can be helpful to realize just what a valuable message we have an how it is best employed.
Keep in mind that when many people declare they are not religious, what they really mean by that is the fact that they don’t belong to a particular church. It has little to do with whether they feel spiritual and want that deep, personal relationship with God. The message we spread is one that has many facets people simply aren’t used to hearing.
For example, people aren’t used to hearing that they are welcome and that they will be helped along that journey. Welcoming others involves creating warmth for strangers who may be disillusioned or confused. It isn’t a Sunday-only practice. Showing others your fellowship practices delivers a message they aren’t used to hearing.
People also aren’t used to hearing about a message specifically asking them what God is calling them to do. If you were to be asked, “What is it you think God is calling you to do, specifically?” you would probably have an answer in a few seconds. Think of all those people who have never considered it that way before. Why not ask?
Delivering that question becomes a lot easier when you are prepped to think about how you might be able to help this person on their specific spiritual journey. God’s work is not just confined to church sermons. It is real, tangible, community and business driven. How can we help those whose gifts are yet to be realized?
We can often be made to feel that announcing our faith at the workplace is something that is taboo. With courthouses being forced to remove the Ten Commandments, school children forbidden from bringing Bibles to class or praying at football games, it can be a hostile place to reveal your faith. But there are great reasons to remember why your faith matters at work.
Yes, that’s right – faith matters at work, maybe more so than any other time. Consider how much time people spend at the workplace. Usually most of our waking hours are occupied by our employment. This means that quite often our workmates become like a second family. They are very familiar with our habits, behavior and conversation. Maybe more than any other audience, they need to know why we live as we do.
A positive message in the workplace is critical. Work can sometimes become dehumanizing, even more so when faith is removed from the workplace. Our faith drives our purpose. Without our purpose, we are just another cog in the wheel. Coworkers can look at our attitude toward our work and know we are different. Conveying why we are different takes no time away from what we are paid to do.
Evangelism isn’t always a verbal message. This is a critical point of view that many often miss. We lead by example, not necessarily by words. The concept of “do what I say, not what I do” is alive and well in most businesses. Even as a silent example of our values, others will notice and take witness. A forced conversation never works anyway. Jesus himself never tried to convert the two men who were on the cross beside him – he waited until one approached him!
Our faith is a necessary and vital part of our work. Whether we choose to announce it or lead by example depends on context, the people we work with and where the message is best placed.
You aren’t accessible. When we get into our hard-earned positions of power, we naturally want the respect that position commands. Some business owners, though, remove themselves too much from their customers, contacts and even their employees. If you are never available or think the small person is taking up too much of your time, how will you ever be able to deliver your message?
You don’t practice clean speech. While no one wants their language policed, it is safe to say that if you are telling people to live their lives one way and your words make it clear you don’t think those rules apply to you, then you will turn people away from the ultimate message. If you do not mean what you say, why should others trust you with a message of even greater importance?
You aren’t humble. Even Job, a very righteous man, was laid low. And though God restored him to better condition than when he was first tested, it would certainly not have been right for Job to then go on bragging about his fields, his animals, his sons and daughters and to utterly ruin the lesson God was trying to work through him for the benefit of all mankind!
God is always trying to work a lesson by means of us – whether that is for us to learn or for someone else to learn by, we may never know. But we should live in such a way that we are a shining example of what Christian leadership looks like in a world that has forsaken its Christian values.