Investing in Eternity: thinking 30 million years ahead
In Matthew 13:44 we find a single verse that captures the heart and soul of following Christ: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
Picture an average guy, leading a routine life. One day something happens that changes his life forever. While crossing a field, aimlessly thrusting his staff into the ground, he hears a thud. He gets down on his knees, digs with his hands, and finds treasure. He realizes this is very old – way too old to have been buried by the current landowner, who wouldn’t have any idea it’s even there. He has found unclaimed treasure, waiting for someone to unearth it.
The treasure captures his imagination. It becomes the reference point, the center of gravity of his life. He is single-mindedly bent on obtaining that treasure. He is willing to pay any price. This is a man who experiences the ultimate paradigm shift. He takes on a new perspective and sees life through different eyes.
Of course, Jesus is simply using the treasure in the field as an illustration of heavenly treasure. No matter how great an earthly treasure is, it’s still worthless in the eyes of eternity. In fact, it is exactly this kind of treasure that people waste their lives on. Jesus is appealing to what people do value – temporary earthly treasure – in order to make an analogy to what they should value: eternal heavenly treasure.
Today, Christians desperately need such a radical paradigm shift. God doesn’t just raise up donors; He raises up disciples whose lives are so filled with a vision for eternity that they wouldn’t dream of not investing their money and their time and their lives where they will matter most. Once they see the treasures of eternity and become consumed by them, nobody will be able to keep them from giving.
The only joy I know comparable to leading a person to Christ is giving generously to the kingdom of God. That through my giving, people might be won to Christ, the hungry fed, and the suffering helped in the name of Christ is a joy beyond comprehension.
Let me ask you a question about this man in Matthew 13, the one who found the treasure: are we supposed to feel sorry for him? I mean, we’re told he went and sold all that he had – and in the original Greek “all” means all; that’s why it’s translated that way!
We might think, “It cost him everything. Poor man. Think of his sacrifices!”
No. We are not to pity this man – we are to envy him. The sacrifice paled in comparison to the reward. The payoff was much greater than the cost.
The man who found the treasure would be a fool not to do exactly what he did. He made short-term sacrifices for long-term rewards. “But it cost him everything he had.” Yes, and it gained him everything that mattered.
The key word is “joy.” “In his joy” – not in his misery – he made sacrifices! How can you sacrifice with joy? Because of the relative worth of what is given up versus what is gained.
When you catch a vision for what it means to God, any feeling of sacrifice is overwhelmed with pure joy and excitement. To hear the applause of heaven, to hear pleasure in the voice of God, to hear him say “Well done, my good and faithful servant” – nothing else compares.
In Matthew 6:19-24, we see that Jesus always lived with two Kingdoms in mind: the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of Heaven. He speaks here of the Two Treasuries, Two Perspectives, and Two Masters of these two kingdoms.
Verse 20 tells us to “store up treasures in heaven.” God values treasures, but He defines them differently than we do. We consider things treasures that are nothing but junk in the eyes of eternity. John Wesley said, “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.”
“Store up treasures” demonstrates that God is not against an investment mentality. In fact, He commands us to store up treasures! But He tells us to stop storing them up in the wrong place, and start storing them up in the right place.
God is not against us acting in our own interests. He commands us to act not in our immediate short-term interests, but our eternal long-term interests. That which is to God’s ultimate glory is to our ultimate good. It’s just the pay-off isn’t now; it’s then.
The problem with prosperity theology, also called the health and wealth gospel, and with lots of our Christian radio and television programs, is that they look for material payoffs in the present age. God’s provision of wealth is seen as a call to increase our standard of living – while Scripture presents it as a call to increase our standard of giving.
Ironically, looking for the payoff now is never in our best interests, because it robs us of eternal reward. We’ll be rewarded for giving – but the real and lasting rewards will come in eternity. It all comes down to delayed gratification.
I think Paul was alluding to Christ’s words in Matthew 6 when he wrote 1 Timothy 6:17-19:
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God , who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds , and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life .”
Christ gives us an incredible investment opportunity. He gives us the opportunity to cash in earthly treasure for heavenly treasure. It’s like trading a sack of old rusty bottle caps for ownership of the Coca-Cola company. You’re so excited about what you now own that the last thing you’d do is stand around whining about giving up your bottle caps.
Notice Christ’s reasoning: “Store up treasures in heaven...” Why? Because it’s right? No, because it’s smart. Because it will last. It won’t be consumed by moths and rust or taken by thieves.
You’ll never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul. Why? Because you can’t take it with you.
John D. Rockefeller was one of the wealthiest men who ever lived. After he died his accountant was asked, “How much money did John D. leave?” His reply was classic: “He left... all of it.”
You can’t take it with you. But in Matthew 6 Jesus adds something profound, something life changing. You can’t take it with you, but... you can send it on ahead.
Anything we try to hang onto will be lost. Anything we put in His hands will be ours for eternity. Not just insured up to $100,000. Insured without limit by the FDIC – Father’s Deposit Insurance Corporation.
John Wesley was shown around a vast estate by a proud plantation owner. They rode their horses all day and saw only a fraction of the estate. At the end of the day when they sat down to dinner he said, “Well, Mr. Wesley, what do you think?” Wesley thought about it and said, “I think you’re going to have a hard time leaving all this.”
The way to lay up treasures in Heaven includes giving away our money and possessions but is not limited to it. The Bible teaches that those things which we keep can also serve kingdom purposes. They can be generously shared and invested and used in ways that serve eternal purposes, that further God’s kingdom for His glory rather than just building our own little kingdoms for our own glory.
Think thirty million years ahead
Missionary Jim Elliot was killed by the Auca Indians in the 50’s. His philosophy of life was expressed in those great words, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Does it sound like Jim Elliot didn’t care about gain? No, he cared about the right kind of gain – gain that would last, not just for the short today but for what A. W. Tozer called “the long tomorrow.”
Are you an investor? Great. Invest in what counts the most. You have the desire to succeed? Fine, succeed in servanthood, in giving, in praying, in reaching out to the lost and needy. You have ambitions? Fine. Make them kingdom ambitions. You have dreams? Great. Are you willing to trade in your short-term dreams for the eternal dreams of the risen Christ? In investments they say, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” But in this case, it sounds too good to be true, but it is true, because it is the promise of God.
Financial planners tell us, “When it comes to your money, don’t just think just three days ahead, or three months or three years. Think 30 years.” Christ, the ultimate investment counselor, takes it one step further. He says, “Don’t just ask yourself, how will this investment be paying off in thirty years. Ask, how will this investment be paying off in thirty million years?”
In Mathew 6, verse 22 and 23, Jesus also talks about two perspectives – the good eye and the bad eye. We must train our vision, put on the corrective lens of God’s Word, and learn not to be limited by the horizons of this world. We need to learn to see, think, and act in light of eternity. (This is the theme of my novels Deadline and Dominion, and Edge of Eternity.)
Perspective is what John Wesley had when he said, “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.” It’s what C. T. Studd had when he said, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
For fourteen years I was a pastor. One Sunday morning I stood before my church and said, “I have bad news – I have a terminal disease. I’m going to die.” Then I added, “But the news gets even worse. You have the same disease. You’re going to die too.”
The disease is mortality. We’re all going to die. One day very soon we will each stand before our Lord, the Audience of One. He will sift out our lives – some will burn as what 1 Corinthians 3 calls wood, hay, and stubble. Some will remain, as what he calls gold, silver, and precious stones. How much will burn and how much will remain depends on how we have used our lives and our resources here.
Imagine for a moment that you are alive at the very end of the American Civil War. You are living in the South, but your home is really in the North. While in the South you have accumulated a good amount of Confederate currency. Suppose you also know for a fact that the North is going to win the war, and that the end could come at any time. What will you do with your Confederate money?
If you were smart, there is only one answer to the question. You would cash in your Confederate currency for U.S. currency – the only money that will have value once the war is over. You would keep only enough Confederate currency to meet your basic needs for that short period until the war was over and the money would be worthless.
Likewise, as believers we have inside knowledge of an eventual upheaval in the worldwide social and economic situation. The currency of this world will be worthless at our death or Christ’s return.
This knowledge should radically affect our investment strategy. For us to accumulate vast earthly treasures in the face of the inevitable future is equivalent to stockpiling Confederate money despite our awareness of its eventual worthlessness. It’s not only wrong – it’s just plain stupid!
Kingdom currency, backed by the eternal treasury, is the only medium of exchange recognized by the Son of God, whose government will last forever. The currency of His kingdom is our present faithful service and sacrificial use of our resources for Him.
In the investment world there are experts and advisors known as “Market Timers.” When they read the signs that the stock market is about to take a downward turn, they recommend switching funds immediately into more dependable or consistent investments, such as money markets or T-Bills, or certificates of deposit.
In Matthew 6 Jesus functions as the foremost investment advisor, the ultimate expert in the economies of earth and Heaven. His strategy is simple – He tells us to once and for all switch investment vehicles. He tells us to transfer our funds from earth (which is volatile and ready to take a permanent dive) to Heaven (which is totally dependable, insured by God Himself, and is coming soon to forever replace the economy of earth).
Second Peter 3 gives us a financial forecast, or maybe you could call it an insider tip. It tells us that this world and everything in it is going to burn. There is a coming holocaust of things. Revelation 18 speaks of the economic world system of materialism, called “Babylon the Great.” If that’s the kingdom you’re investing your life in, then go ahead and be depressed. You’ve got a lot to be depressed about. Babylon is going down!
If your treasures are in Heaven, there is good news. Heaven is coming and anything you’ve put in God’s hands is safe. What you’ve used for the glory of God will have counted for eternity. What you’ve given to God on earth will be there in Heaven. What you clung on to for yourself won’t be.
Where’s your heart?
In verse 21 Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He’s saying, “Show me your checkbook, your Visa statement, and your receipts, and I’ll show you where your heart is. Your heart follows your money.”
Want a heart for Microsoft? Put your money in it! Want a heart for General Motors? Buy up shares.
Want a heart for God? Put your treasures where God is at work. Want a heart for missions? Put your treasures in missions. Want a heart for your church’s ministry? Invest your money in your church’s ministry. Develop vested interests in the work of God. Every day, buy up more shares in God’s kingdom!
Years ago, when I was a pastor, we decided our church didn’t have God’s heart for the poor and needy. We asked around to find out who was doing the best job in famine relief, chose World Relief, and decided to invest some treasure in Heaven.
Though our missions budget was only $60,000 at the time, we took a famine relief offering of $25,000 and were informed that made us World Relief’s largest church supporter. In the years since, God has grabbed a hold of our church, and we have gone from being a church with a small heart for missions to a church with a great heart for missions. In 1998, our church’s missions budget was $384,000. Above that we gave $200,000 to various missions projects and a famine relief offering of $253,000 to World Relief, for a total of $830,000. Our expanding giving to missions has resulted in an expanding heart for missions. That’s what giving does – you put your treasure somewhere, and it takes your heart there.
When our missions pastor returned from Sudan one November and told us of the opportunity to rescue Christians taken into slavery, family after family spontaneously decided to forgo Christmas presents and give instead to free slaves. The fourth-grade class at our school came up with projects to raise thousands of dollars. A sixth-grade girl took the $50 she’d saved up to play basketball and gave it to Sudan. One family had several hundred dollars they’d been saving for years to go to Disneyland, and their child asked if they could give the money to help slaves. Before long people had given $60,000 to redeem slaves, and we never even had a special offering. It was contagious. If we increase people’s vision for investing in eternity and help them see opportunities to make a difference, God will take care of raising funds.
Now’s our opportunity
Five minutes after we die, we’ll know exactly how we should have lived, but it will be too late to go back and change anything. God has given us His Word so we don’t have to wait until we die to know how we should have lived. There’s no second chance for the unbeliever – but also no second chance for the believer!
You and I have one life on earth to invest in Heaven. Let’s not miss the opportunity. Here’s a prayer for us: May what will be most important to us five minutes after we die, become most important to us now.
I have one final question: Why are so many Christians today afraid to die? It’s because we have made this world our home. The Bible tells us something else – that we are pilgrims, strangers, aliens, ambassadors. Our citizenship is in Heaven. But we’ve become so attached to this world – our roots are so deep – that we live for the wrong kingdom. We forget our true home, built for us by the Carpenter from Nazareth, waiting for us in a far better place.
Most Christians have laid up their treasures on earth. Consequently, every day that brings them closer to death takes them further from their treasures. They end up backing into eternity, not wanting to let go of the mudpies they’ve accumulated.
Christ calls us to turn it around – to store up our treasures in Heaven so instead of backing away from our treasures, we’re always moving toward our treasures.
He who spends his life moving away from his treasures has reason to despair; he who spends his life moving toward his treasures has reason to rejoice.
Are you moving toward your treasures or away from them?
Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist who made his fortune by inventing dynamite and other powerful explosives, which were bought by governments to produce weapons. When Nobel’s brother died, one newspaper accidentally printed Alfred’s obituary instead. He was described as a man who became rich from enabling people to kill each other in unprecedented quantities. Shaken from this assessment, Nobel resolved to use his fortune to reward accomplishments that benefited humanity, including what we now know as the Nobel Peace Prize.
Nobel had a rare opportunity – to look at the assessment of his life at its end, but to still be alive and have the opportunity to change that assessment. The same is true for us. Right now, we live on earth, the land of second chances.
Let’s put ourselves in Nobel’s place. Let’s read our own obituary, not as written by uninformed or biased men, but as an onlooking angel might write it from Heaven’s point of view. Let’s look at it carefully. Then let’s use the rest of our lives to edit that obituary into what we really want it to be, and to live each day with the knowledge that every moment we get closer to death, we get closer to our treasures rather than further from them.
God, give us an eternal perspective, to change the way we think and the way we give, the degree to which we invest all that we are and have into eternity. Help us to invest our resources in your kingdom purposes, now and forever. Help us not to serve our own agendas, but yours, and to live our lives for your glory and hear you say to us one day, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
A version of this article first appeared on Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspective Ministries website EPM.org. He is the author of more than two dozen books, fiction and non-fiction, many of which we’ve reviewed including: Heaven, Lord Foulgrin's Letters, and The Grace and Truth Paradox. He's also made two past editions of his (especially concise) pro-life books available for free – Does the Birth-Control Pill Cause Abortions? and Why Pro-life? – so be sure to check those out. Strangely, we haven't reviewed the one of this books that might be most akin to this article, The Treasure Principle, even though it's a favorite of both editor Jon Dykstra and Executive Director Mark Penninga.
Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Economics
Christian Economics in One Lesson
by Gary North 2015 / 268 pages Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson is what its title suggests, just one economic lesson explained in the fi...
Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Economics
Economics in One Lesson
by Henry Hazlitt 1946 / 193 pages Universal basic income, a four-day work week, and government-funded daycare are just a few big-ticket proposals ...
An abundance mentality in business
Christian entrepreneurs may be positioned to help the next generation become entrepreneurs too ***** Christian business owners often speak about an “abundance mentality”: the idea that God, in blessing their companies richly, has allowed them to be a blessing to others, providing a stable place of work for their employees while at the same time taking great care of their customers. And God’s generosity enables them to practice generosity to all sorts of good causes too. I recently had the privilege of speaking with a few Reformed Christian business owners, and I was struck by an additional characteristic of this mindset they shared. These men had a desire to see their valued employees become business owners themselves. Ryan VanDelft Ryzer Construction Services Bellingham, WA Ryan VanDelft initially started his company without any business partners. He set up Ryzer Construction Services after moving across the border from British Columbia to Washington State, and they’ve been installing and supplying windows, doors, and other materials to builders of higher-end homes since 2015. After some years of slow but steady growth, Ryan decided it was time to expand what the company offered its clients, and to give more responsibility to the growing team of employees he had developed. And as anyone familiar with Ryan knows (we go to the same church), one of Ryan’s passions is mentoring the young people who work for him – he’s eager to invest in their skill development, and coach them in the soft skills that will enable them to be successful in business, even while he’ll take time to help them outside of work. A walk around the Ryzer warehouse and board room shows a commitment to sharing the company’s statement of purpose, its values and strategies, and its mission statement – they are proudly displayed on banners for all to see. The last line of Ryzer’s statement of purpose reads “Grow profitably, and enjoy the process,” and references Psalm 127:1 – “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Ryan also refers regularly with his team to “the Four E’s” – his shorthand for the mission statement to “Empower people. Embrace Craftsmanship. Enrich Lifestyles. Enjoy work.” VanDelft has taken on a partner, Dave Hommes, a fellow believer whose skills in finance and organization complemented his colleague’s gifts. Ryan’s long-term plan is to bring in additional partners who have shown promise as employees, helping them to share in the risk and reward of business ownership. He talks about “making the pie bigger.” While some might see additional partners as a potential drain on a fixed profits number, Ryan hopes that enlarging the business as opportunities allow, while growing the talent pool of employees and associates, will result in a larger number of satisfied clients, and a larger “pie” to share with his partners. Bruce DeBoer Ontario Metal Products and Ontario Outbuildings Dunnville, ON Bruce DeBoer joined partner Brad Schutten in Ontario Outbuildings, and Ontario Metal Products just a few months before COVID came calling. Their company supplies metal roofing panels, siding, and accessories to local builders, priding itself on good pricing with excellent service. Despite the current challenging supply chain environment, Bruce and Brad have been able to grow their sales volume substantially. The whole team of about twenty associates begins their week with a staff meeting, that includes Bible reading and prayer, before launching into the goals and plans for the work week. DeBoer takes a keen interest in his associates, providing a listening ear in times of stress, and trying to understand what are the most important things in their lives. “We’ve switched to an employee market. Life is different than it was twenty years ago. Most families are double income now, so what they need is different. A husband might have to stay home when a child is sick, where years ago, that would have been the wife’s role.” DeBoer advises that in a low unemployment environment, it is wise to find what benefits and other intangibles might be important for your colleagues, and it’s not always about hourly wages or salary. DeBoer and Schutten have taken an innovative approach in helping employees become business owners. While it might be simpler and more profitable to continue with an owner-employee relationship, the business partners have encouraged those associates who show promise to form companies with DeBoer and Schutten: continuing to do the same work of installing or building, but enjoying a portion of the fruits of their labors as owners. The new companies take advantage of the all the economies of scale of a larger company – sharing bookkeeping systems, quoting software, and administrative expertise together. This makes the process of becoming self-employed less daunting than it might otherwise be for a young entrepreneur. The author of Ecclesiastes recognized the value of teams and partnerships: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow… a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Eccl. 4:9-12) When asked what advice he would give anyone looking to advance their career or become a business owner, DeBoer did not hesitate: “Find a mentor!” That’s good advice, and it doesn’t need to be complicated. Find someone with experience and ask them out for a coffee. Most business veterans are eager to share what they know, and more than willing to help someone avoid the same mistakes they may have made or seen. King Solomon agreed that finding a mentor is a good path: “Listen to advice, and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” (Proverbs 19:20) “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” (Proverbs 18:1) ***** It was wonderful to hear about how the Lord has blessed these business owners in their decisions to help their employees also grow and prosper. Both VanDelft and DeBoer emphasized that their workplace mindset is not all about financial gain, and that part of their joy in their daily work is seeing others achieve more than they would have thought possible. Marty VanDriel is a writer and Assistant Editor for Reformed Perspective, a TV and film critic for WORLD magazine, and a Christian entrepreneur himself as the CEO of TriVan Truck Body....
Book Reviews, Children’s picture books, Economics
Nobody knows how to make a pizza
by Julie Borowski 2019 / 30 pages The picture book's title makes a claim that my daughter just couldn't believe: "Come on Dad, you know how to make a pizza!" But do I really? Sure, I know how to combine a pizza crust with cheese and tomato sauce. I'm even very good at it. But the point this slim volume is trying to make is that there is a lot more to it. That flour I use started as grain that somebody had to grow, and I certainly don't know how to do that. That farmer who does, brings in his crop using a wheat harvester, which he isn't able to make himself. He'll ship off his grain, perhaps via a train, which neither of us could ever manufacture. We also don't know how to turn wheat into flour, and the folks that do, don't know how to make the semi-trucks that ship their flour to grocery stores around the country. Making even the simple pizza crust requires a lot of different people all working together, with not one of them knowing how to get all the needed steps done. That's why the pizza narrator's claim – that "there's not a single person on Earth who knows how to make me" – isn't as outrageous as it first seem, And that doesn't even get into the tomato sauce and cheese! You might be wondering, okay, but so what? The point of this little book (and the 1958 essay, I, Pencil, which inspired it) is to expose the arrogance of any big government's central planners. Whether it's full-blown communists who want to plan everything, or a democracy where the elected leadership "merely" direct large chunks of the economy (gov't spending in Canada accounts for 45% of GDP, and their impact is extended further still via regulations), we have governments of all sorts all around the world that think they know how best to run things from the top down. However, if planning the production of a single cheese pizza is beyond the capabilities of any one man, or even a team of the very smartest people on earth, then why would we think the government could ever know enough to competently make the innumerable management decisions they make, from what minimum wage everyone should be paid, to how children should be educated in K-12 (and what they should learn), which companies should be bailed out or subsidized, or even how much milk should be produced? Of course, if no one knows how to make a pizza, that prompts an obvious question: how is it that countless cheese pizzas are made every day? Instead of someone at the top planning it all out, this miracle occurs without much planning at all. The author of this picture book makes more of a libertarian presentation than a Christian one, so I'm using the term "miracle" here for a wonder she doesn't really attempt to explain. But Christians do have an explanation. Now, we might take for granted what the free market can produce – cheaper computers, innovations like the smartphone, innumerable kinds of bagel – to the point it seems too ordinary to call all of that a miracle. But the free market is a miracle nonetheless, completely beyond anybody's ability to plan and create, making it all the easier to see God's fingerprints. His commandment "Do not steal" creates property rights, which is the basis for one person trading what they own to another for something they want more. If you can't steal from others, then the only way to provide for yourself and your family is by producing something other people will value. You get money from them to meet your needs by making something that meets theirs. So God's law is the basis for free trade and it is unplanned, unorganized free trade that has miraculously proven to be the most effective way of raising people out of poverty. The government still has a role here - to prevent theft, enforce contract laws, and generally ensure that property rights are respected – but not in picking the winners and losers. While that's deeper than this picture book goes, what Julie Borowski does highlight is the result: all sorts of strangers cooperating with one another, each looking out for their own interests, but together creating something that none of them could make on their own – innumerable voluntary exchanges and, eventually, violà a pizza! As noted, this book has a libertarian flavoring to it, and because libertarians can often be libertines on moral issues, their values can be at odds with what God knows is best. However, in this case the libertarian impulse for small government syncs up well with the Christian emphasis on humility and Man's fallibility – we have a hard enough time trying to plan out our own lives, so it's arrogant indeed for bureaucrats and politicians to think they can plan out everyone else's lives for them. Better then, to limit (though certainly not eliminate) the government and what it does, so as to leave people the responsibility and allow them the freedom to manage their own lives. This would be read to best effect with a parent along for the ride. Otherwise I could see kids enjoying it, even as they entirely miss the overall small government argument being made. You can watch the author read her book below. ...
Economics, Human Rights, Satire
On achieving equality...
I was recently confronted with the disturbing statistic that evidences the ultimate case of gender inequality: the life expectancy of males is 6.1 years lower than that of females. This phenomenon must be properly discussed. What is a more valuable commodity than life? Nothing, I would say. And yet females habitually possess over 8 percent more of it than men. It is clear that when it comes to life, there is no level playing field in our society between males and females. I, therefore, call upon the government to take measures to empower men to overcome this glaring inequality. What we need is legislation, programs, and lots of funding. First of all the government should enact human rights legislation which will unequivocally state that males have the right to the same life expectancy as females. This legislation will empower the government to make proactive adjustments in Health, Social, and Education programs. I would like to share with you the following suggestions for such adjustments. An immediate transfer of medical research dollars from female diseases to male diseases. The inclusion of a mandatory life expectancy rights component to be taught in all our schools starting at the kindergarten level. The appointment of kommissars (also call commissioners) for each federal and provincial ministry who are to scrutinize all proposed legislation for life expectancy bias. Mandatory sensitivity training for all our judges to ensure that crimes against women are not more discouraged than crimes against men. Mandatory affirmative low-stress jobs action for all businesses employing more than 10 people to ensure that men will be employed in at least 50 percent of such jobs. The creation of Men's Issues Department at both the federal and provincial levels. Thus far my suggestions. If we do not want to lose the image of Canada as a caring and nurturing society we had better implement these suggestions regardless of costs. Of course, some naive people may suggest that it would help if men changed their lifestyle by smoking, drinking, fighting, and fornicating less, and by being more spiritual and less macho. However, though in the past this might have been a solution, we now know that we can only lead fulfilling lives if we are true to ourselves. Since institutions of education and our public media zealously indoctrinate the populace with this new gospel, it would be futile to appeal to "the man kind" itself to heal the wound of life expectancy; the government is our only hope. This post first appeared way back in the May 1999 issue, but doesn't it seems like it was written for today? As Christians we believe God calls us not to be partial to rich or poor, black or white, young or old – He calls us to equality. But what kind of equality does God call us to? Is it an equality – as is called for in this article – of outcomes? Or is the equality meant to be in how we treat people? The world says the former, but God is calling us to the latter (Leviticus 19:15, James 2:1-9, Acts 10:34)....
The art of the apology
In the middle of a leaders’ coaching session, focusing on how they engaged in difficult conversations with their teams, I began to notice a theme. These leaders were frustrated with the lack of ownership for bad attitudes on the part of some of their team members. I was also not “hearing” much, if any, sense of ownership regarding their own attitudes with these frustrating team members. I asked a couple of questions: Have you ever delivered a “bad” attitude in response to a team members’ “bad” attitude? What did you do when you realized your error (assuming you did)? Most in the group had not done anything regarding their own gap in attitude. Another question was asked: When is the last time you offered an apology to someone with whom you made a mistake? To my very great surprise over half of the group had never apologized – EVER!! Even the boss isn't perfect This was a group of leaders with spouses, kids, involved in the community and entrusted with the leadership of people in the business they were helping to lead. How could this be? This was a group in which almost all claimed faith in Christ and yet most had never owned up to their mistakes at work, home, or in their communities. It became clear that something was really wrong! The lack of character in this group was troubling. The feeling of unease became palpable as they realized the hypocrisy of what was just confessed. I felt for them. The planned agenda was dropped and I proceeded to “teach” this group the “Art of the Apology.” Until they were willing to model the way and “own” an error in judgment or attitude, there was little sense in teaching anything else. Before going further, I admit that in teaching the “Art of the Apology” it is not because I have it all figured out or find it easy to do. To be authentic and consistent has required much inner work on my part – and this work is surely a lifelong journey! Our egos, left to their own devices, crave being right, being in charge, being in control. However, the way of our God & His kingdom is so very different. His way is one of letting go of those human drives and humbling oneself before Him and others. His way is one of fully embracing one’s identity in Him. When we find ourselves in Him our sense of security and significance is bolstered. Our capacity to love, and not operate with fear, is strengthened. Because of Him we can own our mistakes and take the needed steps to apologize, forgive and potentially reconcile. 9 important words On June 15, 1985, my good friend Luch Delmonte spoke at my wedding. In his charge to me and my bride, he included 9 words. He repeated these same 9 words at the weddings of each of our 4 kids. How’s that for a legacy!! Here are the 9 words that can change your life should you choose to live them: “I am sorry, I was wrong, Please forgive me!” These 9 words have provided such a wonderful framework to help ensure relational ease at work and at home. I cannot imagine the impact on me and on others without them. Can you? A Deliberate application When is the last time you apologized for an attitude, words, and/or actions that were “offside”? How did you know they were “offside”? Describe what you were sensing in you and between you, God, and the other person? What does your internal conversation sound like when you work at avoiding an apology? What keeps you from living out Romans 12:18 – from taking responsibility in helping ensure peace between you and others? If you are responsible for any part of a relational disconnect, what is your part? When will you approach the person and offer the 9 words? This is the 7th in a series on “Leadership of People and Culture” that have been appearing on the DeliberateU.com blog, and it is reprinted here with permission. DeliberateU is a Christian business leaders mentorship group. ...
The hidden tax of inflation
Prices are on the rise in many countries around the world. Price increases are measured by a statistic called inflation, which expresses the percent p...
What does a Reformed entrepreneur look like?
What is it about Reformed Christians that has so many wired to be entrepreneurs? Think about all the landscape professionals and nursery operators in ...
The impact of saying, “I’m so busy”
How many times have you asked someone “How are you doing?” and they respond with “Busy!”? In that response, they did not actually answer y...
The $15 minimum wage - good intentions are not enough
In the US, the latest COVID-19 relief package has re-awoken the debate on minimum wage increases, and that policy conversation is spilling over into Canada, Australia, and much of the Western world too. Often policy proposals put Christians in difficult territory. The Bible was not written during a time where every person would be personally accountable for participating in the governing of a nation. There’s very little in the way of advice to voters on specific policies. However, this doesn’t mean Christians can’t form educated opinions about policies like the minimum wage. To do so, believers can evaluate the fruits of the policy. Good intentions One way to evaluate whether the minimum wage increase would be a good thing is to see if the intended fruits of the policy are good and analyze whether the actual fruits will match the good intentions. Supporters of the minimum wage increase are ostensibly trying to help lower the level of poverty. Higher wages for the lowest wage workers could give them a chance at a better life. This intended fruit appears to be good. Lowering poverty seems to be unambiguously good. And a reasonable interpretation of Matthew 22:20-22 could claim it’s within the state’s right to take money from business profits and give it to workers. Combining this logic with verses like Psalm 41:1 could make a powerful case for this proposal. A Christian might be tempted to stop thinking here. Perhaps the increased cost to businesses is worth the poverty alleviation. However, even if someone does accept this trade-off, the biggest problem with increasing the minimum wage lies more in the results than intentions. Bad results Good intentions are not enough to eliminate poverty, as evidenced by the American “war on poverty,” now entering its 58th year. The minimum wage law does not guarantee every person a job at $15/hour. In actuality, what the minimum wage law does is make it illegal to gainfully employ any worker whose skills don’t bring in $15 of hourly revenue. Economists refer to the revenue an additional worker brings in as “marginal revenue product.” For any worker with a marginal revenue product less than the minimum wage, employing them would either mean making a net loss on the hire or breaking the minimum wage law. Businesses must make a profit. If a business fails to do so, it will eventually have no option other than shutting its doors. If businesses fall behind competitors in making a profit, they also run the risk of being driven out of business. As such, hiring decisions in business are based on whether they generate profit. If a salesman, for example, sells $8 worth of products an hour, and he gets an offer for a wage of $7.50, the company finds hiring him to be worthwhile. However, a company that pays a salesman who sells $8 worth of products per hour a wage of $15 is losing $7/hour. Companies that hire this way will be outcompeted by those who don’t. So, what is the result of a minimum wage? Workers who don’t make their companies enough to warrant getting paid the minimum wage are fired. Economic theory suggests this, and a recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research surveys studies on the topic and shows the research overwhelmingly finds that unemployment results from the minimum wage. Not only do some workers not have their poverty alleviated, but the workers with the least opportunity are more impoverished. In fact, evidence suggests this unemployment is imposed on minority groups and women disproportionately. The problems don’t stop there. Unemployment increases, but some workers who previously made a minimum wage will keep their jobs. Aren’t these workers made better off? Not necessarily. If a worker was previously willing to work a job for $8 (as evidenced by the fact that they accepted the job), but now the same worker is being paid $15, this doesn’t mean they are $7 better off. Why? Well, since the employer is mandated to pay a higher wage, they are going to try to get the most work out of the worker possible. Workers might find that these new expectations and pressures make the job less enjoyable than if they were paid an $8 wage. Also, if you’re getting paid more than you would have needed to accept a job, and there are a lot of unemployed replacements waiting, you’re going to be willing to accept a less pleasant job to keep that high-paying job. A higher minimum wage gives workers less bargaining power and, as such, will lead to workers taking on jobs with bosses who don’t need to offer them as much dignity. This is not to say all bosses will take advantage of this position, but it seems unrealistic to assume none will. In sum, if we judge a policy by its fruits, a $15 minimum wage will increase the poverty of those with the lowest opportunity, and it carries the possibility of work becoming less dignified for those lucky enough to keep their jobs. Despite potentially good intentions, the results speak for themselves. Instead of giving more dignity to work and lifting people out of poverty, the minimum wage exacerbates both problems. Bootleggers, Baptists, and bad intentions For argument’s sake, I’ve assumed good intentions on the part of minimum wage policy advocates to this point. However, it’s important to point out that the minimum wage is utilized as a tactic by racists and labor unions to cut out the competition. Stanford economist Thomas Sowell has chronicled how a Canadian minimum wage has racist roots. Sowell argues: “In 1925, a minimum-wage law was passed in the Canadian province of British Columbia, with the intent and effect of pricing Japanese immigrants out of jobs in the lumbering industry.” A largely automated company would love to increase the labor costs for its competitors. The results of the Australian minimum wage were similar. Sowell points out: “A Harvard professor of that era referred approvingly to Australia’s minimum wage law as a means to ‘protect the white Australian’s standard of living from the invidious competition of the colored races, particularly of the Chinese’ who were willing to work for less.” Whenever Christians support policy, they should take care to avoid contributing to the “Bootleggers and Baptists” phenomena. This phrase describes how, when the US passed alcohol prohibition, the two major groups who supported it were Baptists who opposed alcohol and illegal alcohol bootleggers who stood to profit if legal alcohol distributors were closed. In supporting prohibition, Baptists supported the profits of bootleggers with bad intentions. In the cases Sowell cited, the “bootleggers” were racist who wanted to eliminate minority labor competition. Today, bootleggers can come in the form of a business like Amazon, which, as a largely online company, doesn’t rely on laborers who make less than $15 per hour. Since Amazon already pays its warehouse workers $15/hour, an increase in the minimum wage would do little to impact their costs, but it would raise the costs to one of Amazon's biggest competitors – Walmart. Bootleggers could also be skilled labor unions that lobby for the minimum wage to limit the competition from unskilled, but lower cost, labor. In these cases, the special interest groups intend the policy to prevent less fortunate low-skill laborers from having jobs. To make a positive difference in the world, Christians must consider more than their intentions behind policies. Instead, it is part of our responsibility, given the form of government God has allowed us to participate in, to be educated about the results of policy. In the case of raising the minimum wage, the results are in. Christians need to do better if we want to help the suffering of “the least of these.” Peter Jacobsen is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ottawa University and the Gwartney Professor of Economic Education and Research at the Gwartney Institute. He has previously written for both the Foundation for Economic Education and the Institute for Faith, Works, and Economics....
Economics, Movie Reviews, Watch for free
Love Gov: Breaking up with government is hard to do
Here's something new: an economic argument for small government presented as a comedic drama. And Love Gov is a romance too, sort of. Alexis is thinking of quitting college to start her own business, but then she meets the strangely charming Scott Govinsky (known as "Gov" to his friends). To compliment her ideas, ambitions, and drive, Gov is so very caring and supportive. And eager to help. And he never seems to runs out of advice. Perfect material for a boyfriend? Alexis thinks so...at first. The problem is, Gov's advice isn't nearly as helpful as it seems. If you haven't figured it out yet, Alexis' boyfriend Gov is a stand-in for our government, which wants to mind our business because it cares for us so deeply. But as much as the politicians and bureaucrats might mean well, that doesn't mean they are doing well...which is what Love Gov tries to show. CAUTIONS The series' producer, the Independent Institute, is not a Christian organization. So, even as they are for limited government, they might be for less moral restraint too, as evidenced by the little boy at the very beginning (who has only the briefest of roles) wearing a shirt with a transgender rainbow on it. A more notable quibble: because Love Gov is humorous, some of its serious points are made in an over-the-top manner, which could prompt the cynically-inclined to discount those points entirely. So it's important to pitch this to friends properly: introduce it to them as the light-hearted discussion-starter it is, and don't present it as any sort of weighty "final word" on the issues it raises. CONCLUSION The overall argument being pitched is for smaller government. While the group pitching it isn't Christian, there's a lot here for Christians to love, since we should also support limited, and thus smaller, government. Why? Because God has given different responsibilities to different types of "government." The "governments" we're talking about here are not of the municipal, provincial, or federal sort but rather family government, Church government, and yes, State government too. We can throw in self-government as well. These types of government are all appointed by God to take on different roles, and while who should have exactly what role can sometimes be difficult to discern, one type of government can only gain more power and influence at the expense of the others. Which type of government is the most expansionist? The State. Its influence in our family life, the education of our children, regulation of business, management of healthcare, direction of the economy – that reach is already enormous. And just as the State's expansion into education came by shrinking the parental role, so too its expansion into other areas comes at the expense of other levels of "government." That's why Christians should want a limited government; because we know that God didn't intend for us and the other types of government to abandon our roles and responsibilities to the State. Another reason for a limited government? When the State takes on jobs God never intended for it they will tend to mess things up. Good intentions simply aren't enough (Prov. 27:14); a good dose of humility about what the State can do, and shouldn't even try to do, is also vital. Episode 1: An education in debt (6 minutes) Alexis wants to quit school to start up a business and start paying off her student debt. Then she meets Gov, who encourages her to stay in school "because there's nothing more important than your education." What about that student debt? Gov assures her, "You are going to have a lifetime to pay off debt...a lifetime!" The Bible likens debt to slavery (Prov. 22:7) – it limits your ability and freedom to do what you otherwise might want to do. Episode 2: Protection from jobs (5 minutes) After Alexis graduates college she decides to pursue her small business idea. Gov is, once again, happy to help, though this time coming to the "aid" of employee Libby. Regulations are brought in with the intent of protecting workers. But regulations also make it harder and more expensive to hire workers: One estimate concerning Canada's tech industry had a 1% increase in regulations leading to a 5% decrease in business startups. The tradeoffs that come with government "protections" are often overlooked. Episode 3: A remedy for healthcare choices (6 minutes) Alexis is looking for a new healthcare insurance plan, and Gov knows best. Meanwhile, Libby argues that choices and options and free market competition could produce healthcare for less. In his documentary Wait Till It's Free, Reformed filmmaker Colin Gunn makes that same argument. Episode 4: House poor (6 minutes) Alexis goes house-hunting and mortgage-hunting too, only to discover that Gov has been spending her money, putting her tens of thousands in debt. In Canada accumulated provincial and national debts average out to $40,000 CDN per citizen while in the US just the national debt works out to more than double that at $80,000 US per citizen. Episode 5: Keeping a close eye on privacy (5 minutes) While Alexis and Gov aren't together anymore, he's still keeping tabs on her – breaking up with "the Gov" proves very hard to do. This series came out soon after Edward Snowden revealed that the United States' National Security Agency (NSA) had been spying on its own citizens, though generally in aggregate – it viewed all the captured data as a whole, not tying it to specific people. But Snowden also shared that should the government want to look at your specific data it could do that too after getting a judge's approval...which was always given....
Thinking in terms of tradeoffs rather than solutions...
In a June 2 Facebook live discussion with fellow Conservative MP Garnett Genius, Arnold Viersen outlined two very different ways that politicians tend to approach problems. “One of my friends points out that the progressive vote thinks in terms of solutions, and the conservative thinks in terms of tradeoffs. And you can see that even in the COVID response. The progressives: ‘We have got to stop the spread of COVID!’ The conservative will much more think: ‘We have to trade off one health concern for another health concern.’ For example, in Alberta we’ve had, I think, just about 150 deaths from COVID. But in the same time period we’ve had 37 deaths from a lack of heart surgeries. And that’s a tradeoff that we’ve made. It’s not necessarily talked about. But that is the tradeoff.” That’s a fantastic point. And while Viersen framed it as a conservative vs. a progressive way of thinking, it might better be framed as a Christian vs. secular way of thinking. It is the Christian, after all, who knows why we should be acknowledging that our best efforts will always be trade-offs, rather than solutions for all. It comes down to our more accurate understanding of the world and of our own capabilities. For the secularist, G.K. Chesterton noted, “Once abolish God, and the government becomes God.” Refusing to turn upwards, the secularist is forced to look sideways for a savior, landing on the government because there is no more powerful human institution. But fallible, fallen, limited Man isn’t savior material, no matter what level of power he attains. So the secularist can only continue placing their hope in government by disregarding the limited nature of Man’s capabilities and character. Then they look for solutions rather than trade-offs because it has become their habit to overestimate what Man can do. The Christian, on the other hand, has no need to gloss over Man’s limitations. We also understand that time, money, and every other resource, are limited too, such that we need to count the cost before setting out on an endeavor (Luke 14:25-34). And, finally, we know that in this sin-stained world perfection is impossible. That’s why anything we do will always be a tradeoff, with one of the most common being that resources used for one purpose, can’t then be used to some other end. As Viersen pointed out, when most governments first proposed the lockdowns, we didn’t hear about the other health costs that would come along with doing so. Overall the situation was presented as being lives vs. money, and given that sort of tradeoff, then the choice was clear. And even as an economic tradeoff was noted, the government had their “solution” to that too – they were going to hand out money and lots of it, and we didn’t hear of any downside to doing that. However, it wasn’t just lives vs. money. The reality was that it was lives vs. other lives. There was a predictable, but overlooked cost that would come from heart surgeries, and other vital medical treatments, that were cancelled or delayed due to our COVID-19 response. There was also the physical and mental health concerns that come with unemployment on such a massive scale. Those weren’t widely acknowledged tradeoffs. Going forward, one hard-earned lesson we can take from this strange spring is to question whatever “solutions” we are offered (Prov. 18:17). As Christians, we can apply our God-given insights about the nature of Man, and our world, and help those around us by posing the important questions that spring from our better understanding. We can gently yet firmly ask: “What is the trade-off?” and “What are the costs you haven’t yet mentioned?” Because there will be such costs. In this finite, fallen world every proposal will always involve tradeoffs. ...
Economics, Watch for free
It's A Wonderful Loaf: why free enterprise makes bread in abundance
In the illustrated economic poem below, the author shows how the free enterprise system – with supposedly no one in control – can deliver bread in a great variety, and more cheaply than a socialist system. A socialist system would have some "bread czar" making decisions about what sort, and how much, bread would be made, but then he'd also have to decide how much rye or wheat would have to be planted, and also what other crops would have to be curtailed to make room for the wheat crops. To keep everyone happy, from the rye lover to the white bread aficionado, to the gluten intolerant chap, the number of decisions this bread czar would have to make would be beyond the ability of any single human being – or even a government department – to manage competently. The video is fantastic, but it's missing something vital – the author, Russ Roberts, doesn't see the Christian connection. He says that the ability of the free enterprise system to deliver hot, fresh, affordable bread in an abundance of varieties each and every day is something "no one intends" and "no one has to orchestrate it. It’s the product of our actions but no single mind’s designed it." The truth is different. No human mind designed it, but the foundational principles of the free market system – what makes it work – are Christian principles given by God. Do not worship other gods – Whereas the 1st Commandment (Ex. 20:3) teaches us not to turn to other gods, Socialism is dependent on someone at the top being near-omnipotent, knowing all the right moves to make for the betterment of everyone. Don't steal – The 8th Commandment (Ex. 20:15) make clear God's intent for us to be able to own property, while Socialism takes away property rights. Don't covet – Socialism wants to know what everyone makes while the 10th Commandment (Ex. 20:17) forbids us from looking over the fence to see what our neighbor has got. This commandment frees us to develop what God has given us (Matt 25:14-30) instead of minding our neighbor's business. Other biblical texts could be highlighted and explored but the point is, the reason the free market works as well as it does is that, in these commandments and more, it better lines up with what God commands. And when we obey these commands, then His is the "invisible hand" guiding farmers, mills, bakers, and consumers to arrive at this wonderful loaf. (h/t to Albert Van der Linden)...
Two tales of trade: how free trade creates wealth
As Christians we know that man is prone to all sorts of evil, but we often forget that man is also prone to all sorts of stupidity. Much damage is don...
I started my business for the wrong reasons
Why did you start your business? When people ask me that question, I often respond with, “So I could spend more time with my family while providing ...
On Union Membership: voices from the past
On March 9, 2017 the Abbotsford Canadian Reformed Church held a forum on "Christians and Union Membership" and I was tasked with presenting a historic perspective on the topic. Why look to the past? There are at least a couple of reasons to look to the past when figuring out an issue. First, it is a matter of appreciating the wisdom of our elders – honoring our father and mother. In times past union membership was a much-discussed and debated issue, so if we think our parents wise, why wouldn't we want to hear from them? Second, as C.S. Lewis has noted, every generation has its own particular blind spots. Just like a fish doesn't know it's wet, we have biases we aren't aware of because they are such a part of our culture and time. Thus the benefit in studying history is that we'll be able to see through the biases in times past – we can spot their blindspots because we don't share them. And, more importantly, our ancestors may be able to highlight and help us see our blindspots because they don't share them. In doing my digging I came across a half dozen articles, from the years 1975-1993 that made important points. While these articles, by 5 different authors, could all be characterized as "anti-union" it is important to note that no one here is objecting to collective bargaining. If workers want to come together to negotiate with their employers, we all agree that they should be free to do so. What these authors are saying is that there are demands that some unions make of their membership that Christians should object to. UNIONISM by Rev. W. Huizinga (1975) SUMMARY: Rev. Huizinga shares quotes from a number of union constitutions, bylaws, and oaths, noting some unions would require of Christians oaths of allegiance. What sort of oaths are these? Well, as Rev. Huizinga's examples were dated, here is a more current example, from the Laborers' International Union of North America (active in the US and Canada): I do hereby solemnly pledge that, as a member of the Laborers' International Union of North America and of this Local Union, I will be active in its affairs, loyal to its cause and interests, and obedient to my constitutional obligations and responsibilities. In the fulfillment of this commitment I will regularly attend Union meetings and volunteer my time as a VOICE organizer, on picket lines, in get-out-the-vote efforts and in local charities or community activities on the Union's behalf. I will be true to my responsibilities as a citizen of the United States or Canada. So help me God. We are to be loyal to the union and it's "cause and interests"? What about when those interests include supporting political parties I oppose, or charities I disagree with? If we look at unions as contract negotiators, the idea of such a loyalty oath is very strange. After all, any other time we hire a negotiator – say a lawyer, or a realtor– we don't have to make a loyalty pledge to him. When a union requires this sort of oath they are looking for a bigger role than just as a negotiator – they want us to join in their movement. And that brings us to the second objection Rev. Huizinga raises. He also showed there is a Marxist "class struggle" idea – workers versus owners – that seems to underly unionism. In some union constitutions it is even stated explicitly. But whether explicit or not, many unions will pit employees against employers, or seek to pit customers against the company (by asking for a boycott). This adversarial approach is completely foreign to the Bible. Huizinga points to Heidelberg Catechism, Answer 111, where, in explaining the 8th Commandment, it reads: I must promote my neighbor's good wherever I can and may, deal with him as I would like others to deal with me... Or as Jesus puts it, "Love your neighbor as yourself," which most certainly includes our employer (Luke 10:25-37). Pastor Huizinga also sees strikes as a revolt against the 5th Commandment, which tells us to honor our father and mother and by extension, all those God has placed in authority over us. While this seems to be a common view, particularly historically, Rev. W. Pouwelse argues in his article "Labour Relations" (included below) that the 5th Commandment is not all that applicable. A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF LABOR UNIONS by Gary North (1978) SUMMARY: Gary North argues that strikes are based on "the wholly immoral premise that the worker owns his job (can exclude others from the position) even though he refused to work for his employer." What North says here requires a little unpacking. That the worker owns his job is a Marxian notion too. Karl Marx argued that the value of a good was dependent only on the labor that went into it - the more labor, the greater the value of the good. When we view production this way – employees are the only source of value for a good – then owners would seem to bring nothing to the table, and yet they are profiting from other people's efforts. If this were true, we could understand why a worker would think he owns his job. But this is at odds with the truth. When I hire someone to mow my lawn, I as the employer, have created that job - it didn't exist until: 1) I decided the job needs doing. 2) I decided I was going to invest my own time elsewhere. 3) I decided it was worth my money to hire my neighbor's son to do it. So who owns the job? I do because this job is a product of my thought process; it did not exist until I decided it existed. Now imagine my neighbor's son wanted more money, and came to me and made his request. What would we think if, when I didn't agree, he not only refused to mow my lawn, but he told me I wasn't allowed to hire his sister (who's happy to do it for a buck per hour less) because this is his job. Just to complete the illustration, we can imagine that he somehow gets the government to legalize his scheme. It still would not change that he has taken from me what is mine. He has stolen a job that I, as the employer, created. So North is arguing that strikes – those that prevent replacement workers – whether they are legal or not, are a violation of the 8th commandment not to steal. North also argues that while unions may increase the wages for union members, they do so in precisely the same manner that monopolies increase prices – by preventing competition. Unions do this several ways, but one way is by excluding non-union members from competing for certain jobs (ie. in a strike, workers who would be willing to do the job for less aren't able to take the job). LABOUR RELATIONS by Rev. W. Pouwelse (1983) Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 Part 4, Part 5 SUMMARY: This is one longer article broken up into 5 parts, and for our purposes, parts 3, 4 and 5 are the relevant ones. Rev. W. Pouwelse argues (in contrast to Rev. W. Huizinga above) that it isn't the 5th Commandment (at least not primarily) that governs employees' relationship with their employers but the 9th. The 5th commandment, to honor our father and mother, can be extended to those in authority over us, like the government or our church consistory, but doesn't extend in the same way to employers. Why? Because the authority employers hold over us is an "agreed upon authority." We agree to do this, and in exchange they agree to pay us that – it is a contractual arrangement between two parties. The difference can be seen in how we are free to quit our jobs at any time, but we are not free to stop listening to our parents, or our government, or our consistory. That's why, when we leave our job, no one accuses us of violating the 5th Commandment. The 9th Commandment – do not bear false witness – would apply to our contractual relationship with our employer. If we sign a contract we would need to live up to the terms; we do need to do as we have promised. LABOUR MOVEMENTS by Rev. Pouwelse (1984) Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 SUMMARY: This longer article is broken up into three parts, and in part 3 Rev. Pouwelse speaks out against strikes for several practical reasons: 1) In strikes in the past "workers threatened and even violence is used" 2) Also "workers who had nothing to do with unions were prevented from doing their work" These are very good objections – clearly Christians should not join a union that threatens and commits violence, and shuts down non-union workplaces – but these objections seem to have been more of a concern at the time this article was written. Strikes in the 1980s were more often marked by violence than they are today (at least in North America). But Pouwelse also notes that: 3) Strikes "puts a burden on innocent people....this burden has to be carried not only by the workers and their employers, but many other people suffer as well. During a bus strike the general public suffers in the first place." This would seem to be contrary to God's command to show love for our neighbor. 4) Strikes are a "denial of our God-given mandate to labour faithfully" – when we strike, we are, as a part of our negotiation strategy, no longer doing productive work. That might seem a minor thing, but when we realize that God calls us to be productive then a negotiation strategy that prevents productivity is one we have reason to question. Like Huizinga above, Pouwelse also points to the oaths or pledges required by some unions as conflicting with our call not to serve two masters. But not all unions require such oaths or pledges. UNION MEMBERSHIP...AN HISTORICAL STUDY by Rev. J. L. van Popta (1992) SUMMARY: This is a 21-page paper so we can only touch on a few highlights here. In the paper Rev. J.L. van Popta compares and contrasts the way union membership has been viewed, historically, in the Christian Reformed Churches (CRC) with how it has been viewed in the Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC). In the late 1800s in the CRC, while unions were deemed "usually un-Christian," it wasn't until 1904 that they really tackled the issue of union membership in detail. Seven objections were raised, including the matter of oaths: ...many unions would cause their members to live contrary to the first and the fifth commandment by “exact an oath or promise of unconditional obedience to the majority or the board with disregard of one’s duty toward God, the State, the Church, and the family.” In the Synod of 1928 there was a new development. 1928...changed the understanding of corporate responsibility. In 1904 members of unions were guilty of union practices. In 1928 members were absolved of guilt if they protested. In other words, if a union engaged in violence, in 1904 a CRC member would be required to get out of that union. But in 1928 the Synod said they could remain in the union, though they would have to publicly protest the violence. This issue of corporate responsibility – how responsible we are for the actions of a group in which we are a member – is an issue that future synods will continue to debate, with the 1945 Synod then turning back to the clock to adopt a stance very similar to that of 1904. The first CanRC position on unions came about in 1951, and was made by the consistory of New Westminster. They raised two objections to union membership. The first objection was to unions that required "unconditional obedience to laws and bylaws in force or yet to be enacted." The second objection was against “closed-shop” policies of unions. This was judged to be in violation of the 8th and 6th Commandments. Calling on Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Days 42 and 40 the consistory showed that the self serving motive of the “closed-shop” policy was at bottom theft and murder, and members of unions were then guilty of these sins. This precluded any membership at all. Closed shops are companies where the union has so negotiated things that union membership is a condition for being hired. Or, in other words, if someone wasn't willing to join the union then they were barred from working there. In this stance the New Westminster consistory came out against all unions, but as Rev. van Popta notes, their decision came out 1 year before the formation of the Christian Labor Association of Canada (CLAC), and 12 years before it was recognized as a union. So while the consistory was objecting to all the unions at that time, they had not anticipated the birth of a Christian Labor movement, and their decision should not be understood as addressing a group like the CLAC. UNIONS by Rev. G. P. van Popta (1993) SUMMARY: Rev. G.P. Popta notes that "blanket statements that all unions are evil and we may not join any" are not useful since situations can be so different. Van Popta states that the first step in deciding whether or not you can join a specific union would involve reading through the union's constitution, and the collective agreement between the union and employer, to find out what promises or obligations come with membership in that union. And if they demand unconditional obedience, that is a promise we can not make. He also raised the issue of the "adversarial model" in which strikes are a key tool. "The Bible teaches a harmony model." He ends by sharing how, in some cases, it is possible to seek an exemption from union membership, with dues going, instead of to the union, to a charity agreed upon by the union and the person seeking the exemption. This is an option he urges Christians to investigate....
A sad tale of a wealthy millennial’s moral confusion
A few years back my wife heard a young woman share that she had felt guilty for being able to go out to dinner with friends in Chicago. She knew her mother, still living in South Africa, wasn’t able to dine out like this. When she later told her mother about her feelings during a phone call, her mother was having none of it. She told her daughter that gratitude, not guilt was the appropriate response to God’s blessings. The young woman was told that she should thank God for how she’d been able to immigrate to America, and she could also pray and work for a time when South Africans, and others around the world, would enjoy blessings similar to those she was experiencing now in America. Is wealth immoral? I remembered that story the moment I began reading about Adam Roberts, a Millennial who in his Vox article “Is wealth immoral?” expressed his sense of guilt and injustice at having inherited over a million dollars as a child of wealthy parents. “As I got politicized around things like wealth inequality, climate change, war, and the forces connecting them, I didn’t connect it too much with my own family or history,” he wrote. But then he came to understand things differently. He confessed, as if they were sins, that his family had gained wealth through the oil industry, banking, and stock in companies that built things for the military. His parents had given him stock in ExxonMobil, BP, and Chevron – another reason for guilt. As he became active as a “community organizer” in Boston, “no longer surrounded by wealthy peers,” it “felt absurd … to have access to so much when so many others didn’t.” “As a result,” he wrote, “I got real weird about money. I’d barely spend any of it.” He’d walk instead of taking Uber. Spending of $300 a month for prescription drugs for his mother-in-law was okay, but he was conflicted about putting down $30,000 on a house or spending $6.99 for a bag of popcorn at a theater. So he offset those two by contributing $30,000 to a land trust and declining to get a soda refill. But such things, he believes “are imperfect, individual actions.” The whole system that allows people to amass such wealth while others struggle is “immoral.” Everyone, he thinks, should have a modest first home, but nobody should have a “$20M mansion in Newport, RI,” a second home if anyone else is homeless, or a third (or fourth or fifth). Nobody should buy a new $799 sofa when he could buy a used one, and nobody should have a yacht – at all. “Is it moral to hold any excess private wealth under capitalism?” he asks – and later reveals that it’s not. “Does it matter how that wealth was accumulated?” He offers four examples: fossil fuels, medical doctor, useful invention, or stocks. He draws toward his conclusion by writing: “In a system that produces a handful of people with billions of dollars while hundreds of millions of people still lack access to basic human needs like health care and affordable housing … the question isn’t what billionaires should do with ‘their’ money. It’s how to enact policies that prevent any one person from concentrating that much wealth and power in the first place.” He recommends “taxing wealthy families like mine a whole lot more” because it’s “totally happened in the past,” it’s “part of the Green New Deal,” and it’s “widely supported.” At the level of individual choices, he reports that he’s donated roughly a third of what he inherited to charitable causes and intends to donate another third. “For me, it feels like part of becoming more connected and alive on this planet,” he says. Good motives; bad conclusions How should we respond to such thinking? Certainly not by condemning Roberts’s motives. It’s refreshing to see someone born rich who cares about those who weren’t. His charitable giving is to be commended, as is his self-restraint. And, frankly, as I read his article (accompanied by brilliant illustrations that drive home his points), my heart went out to him. Nonetheless, there are serious problems with his thinking. Is “wealth inequality” unjust by definition? Why, then, hasn’t he already divested himself of everything he owns except what would equal the average net worth of people around the world? How can anyone buy a used sofa – or any sofa at all – if nobody buys a new one? What constitutes a modest first home – something typical of Corinth, Mississippi, where median home value is $105,900? Or of Boston, where Roberts lives and the median home value is five-and-a-half times as much, or Manhattan at eleven times as much, or San Francisco (tack on another hundred grand)? Or – let’s get real now, and care about the whole world, not just wealthy America – is $1,000 a square foot, common in Boston, “modest,” or $99 (7,000 rupees) a square foot, common in Bengaluru (Bangalore), India’s “silicon valley”? Or next to nothing for the cardboard shacks in which millions of the poor of Africa, Asia, and Latin America live? And what’s the dividing line between a moral system and an “immoral” one that allows people to amass such wealth while others struggle? Is personal net worth of $10,000 okay, but not $11,000? Or $250,000 but not $300,000? What objective standard justifies where Roberts draws the line? And what is “excess” wealth? Consider millionaires and billionaires – the sort of persons Roberts thinks “the system” should disallow. What do millionaires and billionaires do with their “excess” wealth? Well, they might buy stocks or bonds – providing the capital to pay workers, equip them with expensive tools that enable them to produce the food, clothing, shelter, transportation, medical care, and other benefits still other people need. They might buy a second or third house (or a yacht, or a private jet), construction of which employed workers whose wages provided food, clothing, shelter, transportation, medical care, and other benefits to themselves and their families. Maybe they’ll just stick it in a bank account – from which the bank will make loans to companies that will employ people to make things that benefit others. About the only thing they can do with it that will be of use to nobody is hide it under the mattress. (Let me know if you run into a millionaire who does that. I’m curious to meet such an eccentric.) It’s pretty clear that Roberts thinks there’s something particularly immoral about accumulating wealth from fossil fuels. Yet using those fossil fuels has lifted billions of people out of the poverty that breaks Roberts’s heart by providing not only energy but also plastics that prevent foods from spoiling; fertilizers that allow farmers to grow more food on less land to feed the growing human population while leaving land available for wildlife; pharmaceuticals that heal diseases; and literally thousands of other products derived from them. And when he bemoans fossil fuels’ contribution (however great or small) to climate change, does he weigh that against all those other benefits from them – plus the roughly $3.2 trillion in extra crop yields the CO2 emitted from them added to global crop yields (making food more available for the poor) from 1960 to 2012, with another $9.8 trillion expected by 2050? Medical doctors, whose method of accumulating wealth it seems Roberts favors over fossil fuels, would be severely handicapped without fossil fuel-derived medications (maybe including some his mother-in-law takes), not to mention the electricity that lights their operating rooms and powers their refrigerators to preserve their medications, their MRIs, and every other high-tech invention that enables them to restore people’s health and prolong their lives. How many of the things that raised human life expectancy at birth from about 27 or 28 years before the Industrial Revolution to about 70 today worldwide (and 80 in developed countries) would have been developed if no inventors, innovators, or entrepreneurs could have received any more rewards for their efforts than those who dug ditches (an honorable task but not highly rewarded) or just sat on their haunches? For some, wealth is a problem When a rich ruler asks what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus tells him to obey God’s commandments – something the man says he has done from his youth up. “One thing you still lack,” Jesus says. “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” The man leaves sad, prompting Jesus’ remark, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” – i.e., impossible. But, He explains, “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:18–27). So does that justify Roberts’s feeling guilty about his inherited wealth, and demanding that “the system” be changed to prevent anyone’s amassing “excess wealth” while others struggle? Charity is good, and so is investment No, for in the very next chapter, when Jesus encounters a rich tax collector who says that he will give half his goods to the poor and restore fourfold anyone he has defrauded, Jesus responds, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:1–10). So which is it? Must one give everything away, or half? Or is there a different point entirely – wealth takes the place of God for some people, and must be given away entirely, but not for others. After that encounter, Jesus tells a parable about a nobleman (who represents God) who entrusts money to each of ten servants and instructs them to engage in business until he returns. On his return, the servants report their performance. The first has multiplied the investment ten times, the second five times. He rewards them proportionately. The third servant says, “Lord, here is your mina , which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.” The nobleman, ignoring the obvious lie that he was reaping where had not sown, responds, “I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?” Then he instructs others to take the money from him and give it to the first servant. “Lord,” they protest, “he has ten minas!” And the master responds, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Luke 19:11–27). God condemns injustice, not wealth The Bible has much to say about the need to protect the poor from oppression and to give charitably to help those who cannot help themselves. But nowhere does it condemn wealth. Indeed, some of the most important of God’s people were wealthy – Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Solomon, Joseph of Arimathea, and wealthy women who provided for Jesus and His disciples. The Bible condemns greed, selfishness, and injustice – but it never equates injustice with inequality. Adam Roberts’s confusion is sad, for it means he encourages not only envy and resentment toward many whom God has blessed but also false guilt on the part of many, including himself, who are blessed. By all means, whether you consider yourself rich or middle class or poor, give to the poor, and work to protect the poor from injustice. But don’t condemn all inequality as injustice, and don’t feel guilty for the gifts God has given you. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., Founder and National Spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and a former professor of historical theology and social ethics at Knox Theological Seminary, is author of Social Justice vs. Biblical Justice: How Good Intentions Undermine Justice and Gospel. Questions to consider How does God's "equality" as found in James 2:1-4, and Lev. 19:15 differ with the sort of equality that Adam Roberts wants the government to bring in? How does equal treatment under the law differ from being made equal by the law? (See the comic below). Roberts feels guilty for two different reasons: 1) for being wealthy, and 2) for how that wealth was garnered. As Christians, which of those two could be a legitimate concern, and which is not? Why? Each time money is exchanged for merchandise both parties become "wealthier." When I pay $5 for a book it's because that book is worth more than $5 to me and the merchant gives me the book because the $5 is worth more than the book to him (or else neither of us would make the trade). Amazingly both of us came off the better for the trade. Thus, money gained via legitimate means (piracy and money laundering are both out) represents good that has been done and wealth that has been increased. How should that understanding color our impressions of billionaires and millionaires? How much "good already accomplished" does their wealth represent? The 10th Commandment (Ex. 20:17) says we're not to covet our neighbor's stuff. Is it still coveting if we support a political party that has plans for our uber-rich neighbor's wealth? Explain. Lord Acton's most memorable quote "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" is based on a biblical understanding of Man's fallen nature. Is this adage a good reason to want to diminish the wealth – and thus the power – of the very wealthy? Or does the 10th Commandment apply even to their power? In Luke 12:48 we read, "...from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Is this passage a good justification for higher taxes on the rich? Is this God speaking to government about what the wealthy need to do, or God speaking to the wealthy about what the wealthy need to do? ...
A multi-level warning about multi-level marketing
Multi-level marketing’s end is nowhere in sight. Years ago, my personal ministry was. Yours truly accepted the invitation of another minister to jump into the multi-level pool. I stayed just long enough to nearly drown. During that time (and the drying off period which followed), I’ve done much thinking about the nature of multi-level marketing (“MLM”), with particular concern as to whether it is compatible with a lifestyle of devout obedience to the Christ of the Scriptures. My conclusion? There is a way that MLM is commonly done that conflicts at many points with Biblical values. So in what follows I submit several cautions – several lessons I’ve learned – for you to consider if you are involved in or thinking about joining one of these organizations. These points could be summed up as how we don’t want to do multi-level marketing. 1. Competing with the Church The first and deepest caution concerns multi-level marketing’s competition with the Church. From this one grand problem flow many others. This competition is undeclared but it is quite real. Consider, for example, how MLM literature is often liturgical in form. It contains praises for the company and/or its leaders, thanksgiving for its products, testimonies to the greatness of both, confessions of doubts, and even songs of adoration (no kidding). “Church” can meet in small groups (devotionals?) or large auditoriums. In the latter, the atmosphere is truly reminiscent of tent revivals in both program and intensity. Of course, you are urged to bring anyone you can. Every day is “Friend Day” in MLM. Furthermore, their agenda includes fantastic goals which, if truly representative of the organizations’ objectives, are frightening. They are out to “change the world.” Having made a “covenant with life” they are seeking to “infuse…lives with some measure of grace and beauty and purpose and joy.” MLMers are told that they are the “comfort and hope, promise and dream” of the world. Despite attacks or setbacks, these organizations will “survive and prevail(!)” Their enthusiasm is positively postmillennial in intensity. MLMers will often call each other “family.” They are urged to make a 100% commitment to the organization (something God alone can demand). They are encouraged to believe that the more they devote themselves to the plan, the closer they will be to tapping into “a life force of unlimited power.” People claim to have been “born-again,” either through the use of the company’s products or through participation in the multi-level program. They have been “set-free,” made “brand new,” delivered from fears, and are no longer able to hide their joy. Small wonder they can’t resist “sharing the good news”! The list could go on, but this tiny sampling of MLM rhetoric is sufficient to show the Messianic self-consciousness of many of these organizations. They are out to save the world. The problem, though, is that in their view salvation is primarily economic. People are unfulfilled or repressed or depressed because they haven’t got enough money. And this MLM organization will show you how to get it! Their method is (allegedly) guaranteed…but if you don’t get saved, it’s your fault. The impression is certainly given that the method is faultless. When I confronted one MLMer with the fact that he seemed to be saying that his organization was perfect, he quickly retorted, “Oh, no.” But in hours of talking, he yielded no ground. He could not (would not?) see any drawback or downside to his company. The Church should only fare as well when scrutinized by even her most loving critics! To review our first point, Christians need to be wary of MLM organizations that set themselves in competition with the Church by claiming the same mission (they are out to change the world – cf. Mark 16:15), by borrowing heavily from Biblical evangelical terminology (grace, born again, set free, covenant, joy, hope, comfort, sharing the good news, etc.), by pushing an economically-based soteriology (another gospel, my friends – Galatians 1:9), and by presumptuously arrogating to themselves invincibility (“we will prevail” – cf. Matthew 16:18) and possession of the keys to omnipotence (“a life force of unlimited power” – cf. Ephesians 1:18-23). It might be said that the organizations don’t really mean these things, that this is just the kind of hyperbole required to be competitive. But if they don’t mean these things, they should not say them (and they say them over and over and over again). If they do mean what they say, it necessarily makes it exceedingly difficult for Christians involved with the organizations to distinguish between things that differ. Sharing so much vocabulary necessarily cheapens the meaning of the words. When we remember that it is by means of some of these words that we are saved and sanctified, the precarious position of the Christian in such an MLM group becomes clearer. 2. Using friends and family A second concern for Christians involves how MLM can impact the way we view our social relationships. There would be little or no problem with the simple retailing of the products offered by these companies. They are usually as good, or better (though more expensive) than comparable items available in ordinary retail outlets. But, as you’re quick to find out, retail ain’t where the money is. No, the pyramid is climbed primarily through recruiting. You see, in MLM you get a cut of the sales of those recruited by you, and potentially of those recruited by them, and so on, ad pyramidium. Needless to say, you are at least as concerned to bring in the salesmen, as you are to bring in the sales. One Christian MLMer told me it was “just like making disciples” (there we go again). So the danger, then, is, that we start viewing everyone as potential timber with which we can build our little empire. Family members and close friends become the prime targets for you to “bring in under you.” Friends you have not called for 10 years, and casual acquaintances, who have to be reminded how they know you, come next. In MLM, propinquity = profit. But, by grace, the Christian MLMer will know he is in real trouble when, upon making new acquaintances, he doesn’t know which gospel he should seek to share first. If the company’s “support system” has indoctrinated him properly, he will consistently choose to first tell them about his new life in MLM. He hopes that it might lead to an opportunity to share God’s good news sometime in the future. The rationalizations one offers one’s self for this infidelity to God are myriad: “I feel led to share MLM first” / “If this person is among the elect he’ll be saved anyway” / “I’m going to use the money I make for God’s glory” (that was my favorite) / “If we share a business interest I’ll have more opportunities to witness,” etc. A prostitute can be very creative when comforting her conscience (see Proverbs 30:20). To review: MLM is bad news when: 1) it seeks to usurp the role of the Church 2) relationships become exploitation-ships. 3. The god of Mammon Greed can be a temptation in any business venture, but in MLM the amount of money you could make is mentioned again and again. That means covetousness is a real danger (see Proverbs 21:6, 16:8, Mark 4:19, Luke 12:15, 1 John 2:15). It is rather remarkable how few MLMers will be frank about this (though some are). The money can be significant, though – even astronomical, (for a few) – and it is possible to build a profitable business rather quickly. This is because MLM, when the people “under you” make money, you make money. The more they make, the more you make. Everyone is constantly “encouraging” everyone else to go for it. Of course, the difference between greed and simple financial success is not in the amount of dollars amassed, but in what one has exchanged for those dollars. One MLM convention or large rally would reveal what some poor souls have lost to gain what they now, temporarily, have. Superstars in MLM are often unabashedly ostentatious self-aggrandizers. Many of them, sorrowfully, have given up, or reprioritized (which is, after all, the same thing – Ex. 20:3) their first love for baubles, trinkets and the way of death. It is very sad. 4. Competing with the communion of saints A fourth concern is that MLM devotees are drawn into an independent subculture. For Christians, MLM involvement is, in some respects, akin to membership in a lodge. MLM is intrinsically and increasingly esoteric. The fellowship of the saints is usually seen as inadequate. A new club is formed and the password is not the blood of Jesus but the name of your MLM organization. Man is ever finding new ways to put asunder that which God has joined together. Conclusion There is a solemn warning in 1 Timothy that tore at my conscience the whole time I was involved in MLM. I actually avoided looking at this passage because it got too close, penetrating my soul, judging the thoughts and attitudes of my heart. Rather than submit to this passage, I was considering leaving the ministry! Oh brothers, listen to the Word of God. Don’t give heed to the siren song, no matter how sweet, if its lyrics contain an invitation to disobey the tiniest commandment of God. The devil is seeking to devour us, but God has given us His Word for our good and for our protection. Obedience to God’s Word is life! “If we have food and clothing we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:8-11). Beware of giving heed to the voice of seducing spirits. God has called us to peace, which is found in the pursuit of Himself – not gold. By all means, work hard. By all means, bless Jehovah for the increase He grants the labor of your hands. But never make money your chief pursuit, or you’re dead. Abraham Kuyper was certainly correct when he said, “If you are truly subject to God, money will be subject to you and will not harm you.” But Kuyper demonstrated his balance and wisdom when he added, “If, on the other hand, you undertake to defend yourself against the fatal influence of…money and its seductive power, you are lost before you know it, and deeming that you are your own master, you have found your master in the money-power.” If you or someone you know is considering entering the world of MLM, wait. Before committing yourself to such a lifestyle (for that is what it is), take your time and pray. Consider the points made in this article. If they were made too strongly, modify them, but be sober and judge with right judgment. Look beyond surface claims; look for truth in the inwards parts. MLM organizations usually offer excellent products and most operate with a great degree of internal integrity. But product and corporate reliability, while important, are not the only factors which a child of the Living God should consider before biting at a ten-tiered carrot. If you’re not very careful, you may bite off more than you can chew. A version of this article first appeared in “Messiah’s Mandate: UPDATE, Volume 2, Number 2,” and is reprinted here with permission of the author. Rev. Steve M. Schlissel is the pastor of Messiah’s Covenant Community Church (Messiah.NYC) in Brooklyn, New York. Questions to consider 1. This article presumes Christians want to talk about God with whomever we meet. But is that accurate – are we eager to talk about God? What stops us from talking about God? 2. How are the article’s four cautions applicable to other business ventures? 3. Pastor Schlissel says we should be wary of messianic, save-the-world language because it competes with the real Messiah, and the real Savior. So how should we respond when we hear it elsewhere? Like presidential debates? Or discussions about plastic straw usage? Where else do we hear this kind of language? 4. How would a Christian involved in MLM do it differently than non-Christians? What would that look like? 5. In a report posted to the US Federal Trade Commission website, Jon M. Taylor detailed how, in the 350 leading MLMs he’d looked at, 99% of sales consultants lost money. Taylor suggests that before you join any particular MLM you ask them for: “the average amount of money paid by the company in commissions and bonuses to participants at the various levels in the compensation plan.” If the organization won’t provide this information he suggests, “you should consider that a red flag.” While this isn’t a question, it is worth considering....
Sales as a noble calling
We might not think of sales as a good job for Christians...but we should ***** Many years ago, when I first arrived in Australia, I was working for a dry cleaner who soon realized that I would never make it as a professional dry cleaner. One morning he asked me what I really wanted to do. When I told him that my ambition was to sell, and preferably clothing, he spoke to a fellow businessman and arranged for me to start working for him. That was my start in the menswear trade. Take a genuine interest The man I started with was a very hard taskmaster, but knew his trade inside out. The lessons he taught me have stood me in good stead. One of the first things I learned from him was to take a real interest in the customer. Customers soon know whether you are interested in them or only in the money they will leave behind. Taking a real interest means listening - taking the time to hear their concerns so you can best meet their needs. For a teenage apprentice that was sometimes a little difficult, especially on a Saturday afternoon when the beach beckoned and you really wanted to shut the shop but the customer had much to share. If I got distracted, or started giving the customer only half my attention, my boss would soon notice and let me know his displeasure immediately after the customer left. So my first lesson was to take a real interest in the customer. Sell only what meets their needs The next lesson: make sure that you sell what suits the customer. Far too often people try to sell what they want to get rid of, or what they have overstocked. Or, they take the attitude anything will do as long as I make a sale. Well, the best way of losing customers is to sell a product for the wrong reason. If you are not a salesperson, you might think this is self-evident. But when the opportunity presents itself to make a big sale it can be rather tempting to sell the product regardless of whether it suits the customer. And lets face it, some customers are far too gullible for their own good, and will buy whatever the charming salesman shows them. So this can be a real temptation. But not only is it wrong, it is shortsighted. You might be able to sell anything to them, but when the customer gets home that night his wife, or his friends will be sure to tell him he got snookered. Once he learns he has misplaced his trust in you, he will no longer be your customer. To meet your customer's needs you need not only to take a genuine interest, but you need to really know your product. That means studying, reading, and listening to others to learn more about what you are selling. I learned the necessity of that especially during the time I was in the insurance business. The client may trust you, but then you better make sure that that trust is warranted. The only way to do that is to really know your product. And it makes no difference what trade or profession one is in. The customer is turning to you for your knowledge, and your experience. The latter comes only with time, but the first can be increased with good effort. Service, service, service My boss also taught me about service. Many people have no idea what service is. It means giving of yourself, and making the other feel valued. This can be worked out in big ways and small. Many in sales, when they answer the phone fail to sound friendly, or they do not announce the name of the firm they represent nor give their own name. Small things maybe, but important ones. It is even important to smile when answering the phone. You don't believe me? Try it with someone. I did. We had a fellow working for us who always answered the phone in the most serious manner. When I tackled him on this he replied that it should not matter as the other person couldn't see his face. We decided to do a test. I picked up my phone in my office and rang him. I spoke to him in various ways and asked him later if he had noticed the difference. He had. He could tell when I smiled or when I was serious. Many people forget that the phone is often the first contact one has with a firm. So yes, service starts even in answering the phone. In a shop or showroom it is important to welcome people in a friendly and sincere manner. Let the customer know that you are there to help them. Even when you are busy serving someone it is often takes but a little effort to recognize another person and let him/her know that you will be with them soon. Go the extra mile. If you don't have the item the customer needs, offer to get it. Sure this sometimes can cause extra costs, but if you put yourself out the customer will generally appreciate it and become a customer for life. You might not be the cheapest in town but if your service is better than that of others, customers will even accept that as the price to pay for top class attention. A real estate agent will tell you that there are only three things that matter when buying property: location, location, location. Well, there are only three things that matter in sales: service, service, service. If you don't want to give service – friendly, well meant, genuine service – don't become a salesperson. How do Christians do sales differently? So far I have only dealt with matters that everybody can agree on. But is that all there is to it? What about the fact that you and I are Christians? Won't that affect the way we do things? That is a good question. The man I learned my trade from was not a Christian. The reason he did things the way he did was because he believed that it was the best way to build a business. So whether you are Christian or not, it is easy to see the benefits of having an honest, up front approach to serving the customer. Many salesmen do not use this approach, but the best will. What then is different about the way Christians might do sales? The difference comes down to why we do things. Our whole life should be lived in a Christian manner, to the honor of God and to the benefit of our neighbor. That means that we need to examine ourselves to see if we are doing our work out of a real desire to serve God and our neighbor. We need to remember it is not possible to wear one hat on Sunday and a different one during the rest of the week. You cannot be a pious godly Christian on Sunday and a hard, sharp businessman the rest of the week. Being a godly salesman means that even if no one will find out about a little untruth – some little subterfuge which can help to increase the bottom line, some little exaggeration, or some not quite honest spin – that can never be part of our thinking. People should know you claim to be a Christian, and they will watch you to see if you are true to your profession. Therefore it is imperative that a Christian businessman lives very close to the Lord and asks Him daily to direct his life, so that in selling, too, we may give glory to Him. A version of this article was first published in the January 2000 issue under the title "Salesmanship." Rene Vermeulen published more than 150 articles in the pages of Reformed Perspective from 1984-2010....