Take a few minutes to stop and look around at the world we live in today. In doing this, you will see that there is no shortage of images that define success for us. Regardless of the category you choose, the world peppers you with its own definition of success. The problem is that Christians should be seeking a different kind of “success” altogether. So what IS it we should seek? How is Biblical success defined for us?
I was recently approached with a need and opportunity to carry out a significant upgrade to our business facility. While the long term results are positive, the significant upgrade comes with a significant price tag. Assuming the need was real and the funds available, what would you expect my answer to be?
In my last three posts, I focused on a five-question decision making process. At the very outset of the decision making series, I explained my belief that any decision made from anything but an eternal perspective fails to honor God. One reader, Bernice, commented that she agreed with this, but that I should also point out that there is a cost associated with this line of thinking!
Have you ever stopped to consider what is the main purpose of Christian business? As business leaders, the very purpose of our businesses should be very clear to us. Otherwise, we will likely make decisions and take actions on occasion that oppose this purpose, right? If we are not clear on this purpose, how can we achieve it?
With politics, the stock market, and the economy seeming to be so unpredictable to most of us these days, it is very difficult to know where we should invest for the best long term gain. If you talk to a handful of financial advisors, you will likely get a handful of opinions on the subject. Unfortunately, this is not a game that allows us to sit on the sidelines…we must participate. How then do we invest for the best long term gain?
As you might guess, I have a little different perspective for you to consider on this topic.
I love movies. One of my favorites is the movie Heat, with Robert Deniro and Al Pacino. Likely my favorite scene in that movie is the coffee shop scene. During this scene, Deniro, a bank robber, is talking face to face with Pacino, a cop. During this conversation, Deniro shares advice he once received about being willing to walk away from anything.
Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.
While Deniro is referring to “heat” in the sense of law enforcement catching up to him and his crime-filled lifestyle, I think we can apply this same advice to our own lives and even our businesses.
Have you ever been to the beach on vacation? One popular activity with children is to build sand castles down near the water. You will sometimes find the parents helping them, but more often the parents are sitting back watching or reading a book. I believe it is a subconscious dislike of meaningless work that causes this. Have you considered that?
Building Sand Castles
What usually happens is that the kids get started in the smooth, hard-packed sand when the tide is out. I guess this offers a better foundation and is easier to build upon.
They have their buckets and shovels and make frequent trips back and forth to the water. As they form walls and parapets and moats, they seem like they are in another world. In fact, the kids can stay like this for hours if allowed. Sometimes they will even try to miss a meal to keep going!
The problem comes later when the tide starts coming in. Initially, the water starts attacking the base of the castle, eroding the walls. Eventually, the waves overrun the walls and fill the moats with such force that the whole castle is destroyed. Within hours, there is no sign a castle ever existed there.
Not As Exciting For Parents?
My question – why is this not as exciting for parents as it is for the kids? Sure, there is an element of excitement for a parent as they see their kids having fun. But why don’t parents do this without their kids? Why aren’t the kids begging to go back to the room while the parents continue to work on the sand castle?
I am convinced that parents understand how meaningless it is to work hard to create something that will certainly be destroyed within hours. I believe, whether they consciously consider it or not, they know it is meaningless because they will have nothing to show for their work the next day.
Does this make sense? Do you think this same idea may also apply to our work in the marketplace? Have you ever stopped to think about it?
Work Is Meaningless
The author of Ecclesiastes (likely Solomon) certainly thought about this. In fact, he sought all there was in life – all pleasures, wealth, work, etc., and found that all of it was meaningless.
“Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Everything is futile.”
Many of us have found the same to be true about our work at first. For some, revelation that there was more to it came at an early age. For others, this revelation came later. For many, they cannot see it.
The truth is that (according to Scripture) your work, in and of itself, is meaningless. All that you work for and achieve in this world will burn one day and there will be no reward for it in eternity. Whether you like it or not, this is what the Bible says. Check out 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 to see the basis for this.
There Is Hope!
Fortunately, there is another verse in Ecclesiastes that gives us hope. If this is true, then we can hope to bring more people to the realization that all work is not meaningless.
He has also set eternity in the human heart;
God put eternity in our hearts. The way I understand this, there is an eternal hole or void in our hearts. We have it from birth and nothing can fill it but Him. No work, wealth, pleasure or achievement can fill that void, no matter how hard we try.
However, once we fill that void through a salvation experience with Jesus, all sorts of opportunities open up to us. Suddenly, our work CAN matter! It is no longer meaningless if we approach it from an eternal perspective!
We first need to realize that our work, to the extent that it points others to God and a relationship with His Son, can have eternal meaning AND create eternal reward! Once we realize this, we can begin working through our jobs and businesses to have impact on people for eternity.
Share With Others!
Then, as we get more clear on how this works, we need to begin sharing this realization with others. Can you imagine what it could look like if all the Christians you know in the business world began doing their jobs and running their businesses with an eternal purpose?
I can tell you that this very idea is what drives me to keep writing this blog. It is the hope that others can come to the realization that their work does not have to be meaningless. It can have dramatic eternal impact if they will simply turn it over to God and follow His lead!
Have you come to this realization regarding meaningless work?
If so, who have you shared it with?
If not, I encourage you to pray about it! Will you?
Original date of post – November 7, 2013
What is the purpose of business? If you ask a dozen people this question, you will likely get some common answers. Some will say it is to make money. Others might say it is to provide products and/or services at a profit. Those most educated in business theory may come back with something like this – to create a return, or added value, for the stakeholders.
Let’s run with this last answer for today. I think it is likely closest to the answer we understand. Stakeholders are those who have an interest or concern in an organization. In our businesses, stakeholders include employees, owners, vendors, etc. – anyone with an interest in our business.
For the sake of today’s post, I want to focus on the owners of the business. Hopefully, you have already come to the understanding that you are not actually an owner of your business (or job). You are simply a steward of that business or job for a season.
God Is Owner
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it (Psalm 24:1). Therefore, He is the rightful owner of the business. He has entrusted it to you for a time (Matthew 25:14-30). He expects you to manage it well, bringing a return for the stakeholders – all of them.
This means your employees must get a return for working there (compensation, fulfillment, education, etc.). The vendors must get a return (fair pricing, timely payment for products or services). You are to get a return for the work and effort you put in as steward (compensation, fulfillment, share of profits, etc.).
Finally, there is God. He is actually the owner, right? Therefore, He should get a return as well. What exactly should His return be? He already owns everything. He has no real need for money because it is all His!
I have spent a lot of time thinking through this question and have come to a conclusion. As with anything else on this site, you have the right to disagree with me. However, before you do, I encourage you to pray through this. I think you might see I am onto something.
I have racked my brain to figure out what God wants, but does not yet have. What is his ultimate goal for us and how does that play into my operating of a business for Him?
Well, the only answer I could come up with is that He desperately wants everyone to come to Him in faith, repent, and have a relationship with Him (2 Peter 3:9). He sent His only Son for this very purpose (John 3:16). I think we all agree with this, right?
Point Them To Him
So in that light, if I can operate His business in such a way as to point other people to Him, then I am bringing Him a return that is pleasing to Him. I am bringing Him something He does not yet have, but desperately wants.
Now, there is no way for me to bring everyone to repentance that comes into contact with His business. I cannot “save” them. That is absolutely His job. My job is to point them to Him in such a way that they are drawn to Him.
However, I CAN operate the business in such a way that everyone who comes into contact with it is positively impacted and directed toward a relationship with Him. Read through that again, slowly.
Not Just “Nice”
I am not saying we are to make it our focus to verbally witness to every employee, customer, and vendor so we can lead them in the sinner’s prayer. I am not saying that we should hire everyone that comes to us needing a job just so we have the opportunity to influence them at some point.
Nor am I saying that we are to give away our product or services until we go broke, just so we can impact customers in need. None of these practices are biblical business practices. They may sound “nice”, but they will only serve to bring your stewardship of His business to a premature end.
Purpose Is Different
It is my belief that we are to run businesses that focus on integrity and excellence. These businesses should make significant profit and seek healthy growth and expansion. Our customer satisfaction should be at the top of our industry and other similar businesses should imitate us.
If this sounds like a normal business, then so be it. The difference is that the overriding purpose of our business should be to bring God glory. I believe we will be held accountable as stewards of His business. I believe we will be accountable for the “return” of lives being pointed to Him because of the way we operated the business.
If we do this well, these people will eventually spend eternity with Him. In some cases, we will get to see their transformation. In other cases, we will only find out in eternity what we did to influence them. Again, it is not our job to “close” the deal…that is God’s job. We are only to point them toward the closing table!
What return has been your focus?
Do you think your focus needs to shift?
Are you prepared to make decisions that lead to this return?