Genesis 14 relates the story of Abram rescuing Lot. While there is much that can be learned from this story, I want to focus on two parts in this post: the 318 trained men that Abram had in his “house” and his refusal to accept any spoils from his victory. First, let’s discuss the trained men in his house.
What does it take to train 318 men? It takes a plan for the training, an end-point that measures success or failure, training materials, someone who can do the training, focus, concentration, commitment, goals for the education and evaluations along the way. It also takes motivation for the trainers and those being trained. Training is an all-encompassing and potentially consuming process. It has a beginning, a middle and an end.
As an educator myself, I find it interesting that Abram took the time and incurred the expense to get the men in his house trained and ready for battle. But like much of life, Abram planned ahead. He trained them before he needed them – before there was an identified threat. Special Operations Forces (SOF) for the United States has five truths that bear on this discussion:
- Humans are more important than hardware.
Hardware is only a tool. Humans actually conceive of, initiate, accomplish action. Success or failure depends on the human element.
- Quality is better than quantity.
A few well trained specialists are always more efficient and effective than any number of clueless bumblers.
- Special Operations Forces cannot be mass produced.
Each operator requires time, individual attention, and focused effort to produce.
- Competent Special Operations Forces cannot be created after emergencies occur.
Emergencies require immediate action by a team already prepared in anticipation of the emergency. There is neither enough time nor funding to recruit and train specialists after the need arises.
- Most special operations require non-SOF assistance.
Other people will always be necessary, in enabling and supporting roles, to help the specialists accomplish their mission.
Notice that in this story, Abram fulfills all five of these truths. He trained his men – presumably the best in his house – for battle. One can assume that based on the outcome (defeating five kings), that his men were of high quality. Either that, or the five kings had (at best) average armies that defeated (perhaps) the worst of armies (read the first part of this story). It might be somewhat comical that a .500 team beat a .200 team, only to have the .200 team’s brother come and defeat them. At any rate, 318 men defeating the combined armies of 5 kings is still noteworthy. I do bear in mind that the five kings were more like mayors of small towns – it’s not as if Abram went up against the United States or the UK armies.
The fact that SOF can’t be mass produced is a part of the quality equation: it takes time – a lot of time and effort – to develop top-notch skill sets in any army or business.
Also, as I’ve stated, they were trained before they were needed. You don’t learn how to bounce a basketball in the 4th quarter of the championship game and you don’t train your men for battle after the battle has started. Smart managers and smart leaders know that they must trainer their crew for what is coming up, not the minimum for what is needed now.
When it comes to running a business, Christian business owners and entrepreneurs need to be like Abram: we need to train our people for what is coming as well as what they need to do today. I’ve seen this countless times – a business grows and those who work in the business don’t grow with it and consequently, their skill sets don’t match the larger, more complex business like those skills did earlier in their employment. The problem with this scenario is that employees won’t admit that the position and its’ demands have outgrown their skill set and you, as an owner, will be stuck with an employee whom you like, perhaps admire, and are committed to, as well as having to recognize that this employee wouldn’t be hired for the same job if they were to interview today for it.
Making sure that you’re investing in your employees as your business grows is essential to your success. And don’t forget: YOU, as the business owner, must grow too. You might be good at starting a business and growing it to a certain point, but if you don’t grow with it, you’ll soon become an obstacle to the growth of your own business – something that a good steward doesn’t do.
Investing in your employees is expensive and there is a strong tendency to put off the expenses for (perceived) more important expenditures. Don’t let yourself get caught in that trap. Invest in your employees and it will pay off handsomely for you down the road.
So, what about Abram’s refusal to accept any of the spoils? Well, it boils down to keeping one’s self clear of damaging entanglements. For Abram, this meant not personally accepting any of the material spoils that would have naturally come to him. By way of illustration, I’ll invite you to read G. Campbell Morgan’s sermon on a companion topic out of Corintians (no link to this sermon on the internet) where his three points are as follows:
- Is it Best?
- Does it Build?
- Does it Bind?
He takes the three times that Paul discusses freedom vs. responsibility. Paul says, three times, that “all things are lawful for me”, but then goes on to make the point that while lawful things might be lawful, it doesn’t mean they are best, they may not always build the body of Christ and they might lead to entanglements which can prove to be difficult to manage down the road. A steward of that an entrustment from Jesus Christ doesn’t live by the law (is it legal or not?), instead, a steward of Jesus Christ takes into consideration Paul’s admonitions about the consequences of their decisions: Is it best? Does it build? Does it bind? Abram took a similar, long-term view of his decisions and you can see him saying as much at the end of Genesis 14.
Training your employees is something every business owner should do. There are times – perhaps long stretches of time – when you simply won’t have the funds to invest in your employees. But still, you should have a view to doing this as supporting their professional development. When you do so, you’re business will be ready for what is coming, your employees will be able to grow with your business and you will likely find that your business is more successful than it would have been without such investment in your employees.
Bill English, CEO