Employees Behaving Badly: Five Decision Points for Business Owners

The recent events in the NFL regarding Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson have reminded me about the times I’ve had employees behave badly outside of work. What should be our response as Christian Business owners? Here are five decision-points to consider.

Differentiate between Unwanted and Illegal

There’s lots of behavior that is legal that is still unwanted. When an employee behaves badly, but within legal boundaries, how you handle that situation will change. Bad behavior, even if legal behavior, can indicate a character flaw that you may or may not want to deal with on your staff. Sometimes, we’re called by God to help an employee improve and grow. Other times, it’s best to just end the professional relationship and backfill that employee’s position with someone new. Only you, the business owner, can make that call at any given time. If the behavior is illegal, do not try to stand in the way of the justice system working their processes, unless you feel strongly that you should intervene. But in either vein – whether unwanted or illegal – be aware that there are legal limits on how much you can import your employee’s behavior into your promotion, salary raises and other human resource decisions. Be sure to check with a competent labor attorney before you make any decisions.

Investigate if the Employee’s Behavior is Hurting Your Business

Every Christian Business owner recognizes that his/her business is an entrustment from God to be stewarded for Kingdom purposes. Part of stewardship is protection, so don’t shy away from protecting your business when necessary. If the employee’s behavior is bleeding into your business culture and perhaps is infecting other employees, you need to act swiftly to ensure that their behavior is nixed swiftly. Examples include bad attitudes, defiance or apathy. Move swiftly to remove the infection from your business.

Remind Yourself when You have Committed the Same Sin

Take time before the Lord to investigate your own life to see if the same sin is within you as a business owner and as a person. For example, let’s say your employee was convicted of shoplifting. Use this as an opportunity to ask the Lord if you’re currently stealing from anyone and then be sure to make restitution if you are. Did you employee hire a hooker and get caught? Then ask the Lord to remind you of any sin in your life regarding lust, impurity or adultery. Remember, lust is equivalent to adultery, so don’t mince words with the Lord.

The Higher the Profile, the Larger the Damage

Most people who commit child abuse are not in danger of losing their jobs. But when you play in the NFL, the role-model aspect of your job is nearly as important as how well you perform on the field. The higher someone is within an organization, the more influence and visibility they have inside and outside that organization, so their standards grow increasingly more stringent for good behavior because their bad behavior is imputed by many onto the reputation of your business. In your key positions, it’s best to include verbiage in their job description and employment contract about bad behavior reflecting poorly on the company and how they’re held to a higher standard as a result.

The temptation will be to look the other way because of the good they bring to your organization. Don’t give into this temptation. No one is irreplaceable – including you. Hold those with high visibility and influence to a stricter standard. It’s best for you and your business if you do so.

Don’t Gossip

As a business owner, you may find yourself in possession of key information that most don’t know about. Keep it to yourself and don’t spread it around. You may have to fight the urge to do so when the employee has hurt you and yet it appears as if your actions regarding the employee’s behavior are seen by other employees as out-of-balance or somehow unfair. There are times when in your leadership role you need to live with being misunderstood. It’s just part of the gig. Your urge to “set the record straight” might be especially strong if you see them leave your business and land a great job with a competitor or start their own business. You need to keep it to yourself anyway and entrust the future of your business and your reputation to the Lord.

Bill English

Success isn’t Measured by Size

Most people – including Christians – don’t question the assumption that the larger a business is, the more successful it is. Larger profits, in terms of raw dollars, is thought to be equated with greater success. And if one were to consider only profits as the sole measure of any business, then the logical conclusion would be simple: more profits equals more success.

I’m not sure where our drive to be successful comes from. It seems to be driven by instinct – at least for some. Perhaps it’s part of our basic need of self-preservation, yet it seems clear to me that some are far more driven to succeed than others.

It also seems to me that the Bible emphasizes faithfulness, not success. Indeed, in Matthew 25 (and Luke 19), in the parable of the talents, the reward for “success” – multiplying that which God has given to you – was based on their faithfulness to multiply, not specifically on how much they multiplied. When God praised Job, He called out Job’s faithfulness, not his wealth (Job 1.8). And in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ’s struggle was not about success, but about being faithful to the call that God had placed on His life to offer himself as a sacrifice for our sin.

On this site, we postulate that God created business with four distinct purposes in mind: Products, Passions, Profits and Philanthropy. Success is measured, then, by faithfulness in fulfilling these purposes, regardless of whether your business is $500K/year or $500M/year. It’s not the size of your business that matters to God as much as your faithfulness to Him during times of plenty and prosperity. Christian Business Owners will focus on walking closely with God so they can fulfill these purposes and God’s call on their lives. They will focus on giving God an ROI that is in line with that of Matthew 25 and Luke 19. And they will refrain from comparing themselves with others who own larger or smaller businesses. Doing so latter leads only to arrogance, jealousy, grumbling and other sin. The Apostle John called is correctly: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Comparing ourselves to other Christian Business Owners will do little to encourage us in our call to be faithful to God.

Success isn’t measured by the size of your business. Keep this in mind the next time you’re tempted to assume that the larger the business, the more successful it is.

Bill English
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group

Leadership Lessons Part XV: Building Your Team While Taking Greater Risks

David begins to build his team right after his disgraceful journey through Philistine territory and having to act insane in order to evade capture and death. Our text comes from 1 Samuel 22.1-5:

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him. 3 From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, “Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?” 4 So he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold. 5 But the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.

Now that David is following God and not relying on himself to make critical leadership decisions, we see him taking care of several core problems. And he begins the process of building his team.

Who joins David? We’re told his family, those who are distressed, in debt or generally discontented (bitter) with life are joining him. Not exactly the cream of society was joining David, yet in them, David found the team that God wanted him to have. There were roughly 400 men, so assume their families were with them. From a Christian Business Owner’s perspective, we can learn that God can find “top talent” from any source. I’m confident that how God and American business defines “top talent” are two different things. God looks at who you can become whereas business usually looks at what you can do for them today. When God is the Human Resource Director, you can be confident that He’ll bring you people for work in your business that, at first, may not appear to be what you need. Yet, if you rely on God to help you build your team, you’ll find that He’ll bring you the right people at the right time.

Movement

David crosses the area of Jerusalem several times. He first goes to another country – Moab – who are more friendly to him than the Philistines. He’s now listening to God. Note the phrase “…until I learn what God will do for me?” He first takes care of his immediate family and then begins to focus on solving other problems.

God sends Gad

God sends messengers to leaders. In this story, God sent Gad to David to deliver His messages. Today, we have the Holy Spirit and, I believe, we can hear the voice of God directly for making better decisions. As usual, one of God’s first directives is to put us into a place of greater dependence on Him. Don’t less this transition here lose focus for you: the first thing God told David to do was to leave the stronghold. Get away from the structures that you have built to fortify yourself. Get away from the man-made elements that provide you a sense of security. Let them go. Do not stay in the stronghold. As Christian Business owners, we’re often risking in order to grow our businesses. I’m fond of saying that I’m usually only three to five decisions away from bankruptcy. Growing a business requires taking risk. God will ask us to take risks as well. If we’re serious about fulfilling the four purposes of business (Products, Passions, Profits and Philanthropy), then God will ask us to leave our strongholds and move to a place of much greater dependence on Him. This will be a test He will give you to pass.

“Do not stay in the stronghold” is only part of the message. The rest of is this: “Go live in Judea” – the place where there are forests and caves but also a place that is closer to danger. In Judea, Saul is closer to David. The man and King who wants to kill David will be in closer proximity to David. Yet God calls David to Judea. There will be times when, in order to fulfill the four purposes of business, God will ask you to risk more and move closer to the danger. Bear in mind that no significant ministry is ever accomplished without taking significant risk. And when you are led by God, He shoulders the risk with you and is responsible for the outcomes.

Summary

In this story, we see the less-than-desirable of society gravitating to David. Believe it or not, it is this group that will form the core of his team and eventually, his government. But we also see God moving David into a position of greater personal risk. Most would say the combination of these two elements is a terrible way to start a movement, yet David follows God. The larger lesson is this: when God speaks, you follow Him, unwaveringly so. And count on God’s ways to be different than what you’d expect – but follow Him anyways. If He is calling you to significant ministry, He will also call you to significant risk. Count on it. Plan on it. But only take on that risk when you’re directed to by God Himself.

The Value of Reflection

Owning a business is as much an emotional roll-a-coaster as anything else. When things are going well, you’re riding high and feeling great! When things are going poorly, you’re emotions head south and sometimes, you end up feeling down or even depressed.

I’ve been in both situations. When you’re feeling good, you tend to see things rather differently than when you’re feeling down. Your decision-making and interactions with others are all affected by your emotions. And yes, your business decisions can be negatively affected as well. To this latter point, when you’re feeling good, you might have a tendency to make overly-optimistic decisions and when you’re feeling down, you might shy away from making decisions that could grow your business.

Taking time before God to reflect on your current situation is crucial to helping you a better business owner. You learn that He throttles you when you’re feeling great and encourages you when you’re feeling down. And with regard to the latter, He also helps you redefine what success is, moving you from an American standard of “more money = more success” to a definition that centers on faithfulness, trust, confidence and holiness. Success is defined by the intangibles of life, such as marriage, family and contentment.

Taking time to reflect on what God has done for you, who God is and who you are in relation to who He is takes time, energy and a learned quietness. But it yields greater rewards than any profit generated by any business. The things that matter most in life are not purchased with money because money can’t buy them.

If you want real riches in life, take time to reflect and think about whatever is true, noble, right, lovely pure, excellent or praise-worthy. Focus on who God is and find in Him your measure of success. Allow Him to regenerate you regardless of where you are in your business. Learn to hear His voice and commune with Him daily. You’ll be glad you did.

Bill English

Leadership Lessons Part XIV: Living Under a Government that is Opposed to Your Faith

Christians in America find themselves living under a Government that is increasingly opposed to our faith. It’s not as strong here as it is in the United Kingdom or Canada or Australia, but it is a growing element that we must factor into the running of our businesses as Christians.

We don’t have it nearly as bad as David did when he was on the run from Saul. In his case, his life was in danger every day for nearly 15 years (as best I can discern). In our story, Saul personifies a godless government, one that is characterized by the following:

  • There is no higher law that itself
  • Trust more in weapons than God’s protection and provision
  • Demand absolute loyalty to laws
  • Unaccountable to the people
  • Self-preserve at all costs
  • Onerous taxes and enrichment of themselves

Yet, what do we find in David’s view of Saul’s position as King? Throughout his 15+ year run for his life, he twice had the opportunity to personally kill Saul and yet, both times, he chose to not lift his hand against “God’s anointed”. Even though Saul was an evil king, David showed him respect, honor and deference until the time when God took Saul in His own time and way.

Here is one passage that illustrates this (1 Samuel 24):

1 After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” 2 So Saul took three thousand able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.

3 He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. 4 The men said, “This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’ ” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

5 Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” 7 With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

8 Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the LORD’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.

14 “Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? 15 May the LORD be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

16 When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. 18 You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the LORD delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 Now swear to me by the LORD that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.”

22 So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.

May we treat those whom God has placed in authority over us with the same respect, honor and deference with which David treated Saul.

Bill English
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group

Wisdom, Faith, Suffering and Treasure

For the Christian Business owner, there are four different topics that, when integrated, informs and foundationalizes how business is to be conducted. In a sense, these four theologies are part of a larger topic area on Stewardship, but they are more than just a theoretical discussion. Indeed, when lived out to their full, they represent a life that will be filled with the greatest of joys and the most difficult of trials.

It’s Just Money

I have a saying – “it’s just money” – as a way of expressing the relative value of money to wisdom and faith. I never say “it’s just faith” because for the Christian, faith and wisdom are worth more than the most precious earthly possessions. Consider these two passages, the first on Wisdom (Proverbs 8.1-11) and the second on Faith (1 Peter 1.3-9) [emphasis added]:

1 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? 2 At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; 3 beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud: 4 “To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. 5 You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, set your hearts on it. 6 Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. 7 My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. 8 All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. 9 To the discerning all of them are right; they are upright to those who have found knowledge. 10 Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, 11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Clearly, the Bible teaches us that our wisdom from God and faith in God is worth more than anything. It’s just profits – it’s just money. Let’s not lose sight of that which is truly valuable: wisdom from God and faith in God. These are to be desired more than anything else on this earth, including a big business or a great reputation.

This is why a Christian Business owner does not pursue profits simply to be more profitable or to maximize shareholder value. The Christian Business owner pursues profits so that the other three purposes for business can be fulfilled: Products, Passions and Philanthropy. We recognize that when we hear the voice of God and/or are brought into greater discernment concerning the Scriptures in decision-making, that we are receiving something that is worth more than precious rubies or refined gold. We are receiving something that money cannot buy. We are receiving that which is from the very throne of God.

Suffering is Part of the Christian Experience

Most Christians – including business owners – don’t have a good theology of suffering. Consider this passage from Hebrews 5.7-10 [emphasis added]:

7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

While there are a couple of thorny theological issues in this passage that I won’t deal with in this post, one point that is abundantly clear is this: Christ was made perfect (or complete) through suffering. If our Lord was caused to suffering, then why should we think that God will also not use suffering to complete us?

One of the most damaging aspects of the Prosperity Gospel – a theology that twists the Scriptures into a world view that assumes God always wants you to be happy and rich – is that people honestly believe that suffering is a result of sin. That is a lie proffered by many who purport to be ministers of the Gospel. I believe they do it to enrich themselves. But it is a lie: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him” Paul wrote in Philippians 1.29. Inherent within the sanctification process is the process of suffering – which produces a refined faith and trust in God as well as a more tuned ear to hear His voice.

Treasure

Suffering also produces a treasure for us in heaven. Consider 2 Corinthians 4.7 – 5.1 [emphasis added]:

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” h Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

And when coupled with the command to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6.20-21) [emphasis added], we learn that for the Christian, our hearts are not set on accumulating material wealth and possessions precisely because it’s not what we value. We don’t really care if we’re rich. “Give me neither poverty nor riches” (Proverbs 30.8) is an overriding theme of the Christian’s life. These theme helps explain why many Christian Business owners live well below the standard of living that they could live at: God has called them to create wealth for the express purpose of not loving that wealth and instead, to give it away.

Summary

For the Christian Business owner, wisdom and faith are worth more than the stewardship of his or her business. Profits are seen as a means to an end – the fulfillment of the other three purposes for business. We recognize that at times, God will use our business to bring suffering into our lives, but the suffering is not about the business per se, it is about the refinement and development of our faith, trust and intimacy with God Himself. We recognize that our faith in God and the Wisdom of God are worth more than money, more than success (as defined by American business) and worth much more than our own reputations. And we understand that our suffering and faithfulness to Christ is bringing us treasures in heaven – which cannot be taken away and which we are commanded to pursue.

The Christian Business owner is a unique breed. We are counter cultural but not weird. We simply have different measures of success and assign different values to profits and money. We have a greater purpose in running a business than creating profits: we serve God through fulfilling His purposes of Products, Passions and Philanthropy.

Bill English
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group

Service Level Indicators

In conjunction with an SLA, Service Level Indicators (SLI) are quantitative measurements along simple dimensions that are discrete, simple to understand, quantitative and visual. SLI’s drive operational goals for the service provider and serve as a quantitative measurement that the means for meeting the SLA exist.

The visual part is a reporting aspect to help you understand if the SLI is being met. For example:

  • Green: SLI is being met
  • Yellow: 75% of SLI
  • Red: 50% of SLI

Collection and reporting of SLIs should be automated and reported. Be sure to regularly review your SLIs so that you know how your service level provider is performing. Also, be sure the SLIs are relevant as the SLA is being fulfilled. There are times when the SLIs will change during the time frame of an SLA being fulfilled. As process management matures, so will your SLIs.

SLIs are internal and yet adjacent to an SLA, so be sure, when writing your SLA, that you include appropriate SLIs so that your service provider can meet his or her performance goals.

Service Level Agreements

Service Level Agreements (SLA) is an agreement between you and the vendor that outlines exactly what is going to be done and who is going to be doing it. The SLA defines roles and responsibilities for both parties in the agreement as well as accountability for both parties if services are not performed to specifications.

The SLA key components are as follows:

  1. Definition of what is to be performed and by whom
  2. Effective Dates
  3. Roles and responsibilities of both parties
  4. Accountability
  5. Performance levels defined
  6. Pricing per transaction or unit
  7. Payment procedures
  8. Dispute resolution procedures
  9. Escalation procedures
  10. Signatures of both parties

Be sure to check your SLAs for these components. If they are missing, go back and see if you can negotiate them into the agreement. There are plenty of SLA samples on the internet, so be sure to look at those as you write your own. Better, engage a lawyer for more complex SLAs so that you’re adequately protected under law.

Leadership Lessons Part XIII: Ignoring Your Intuition

After David has lied to Ahimelek and Saul kills him for not reporting where David was (see the balance of 1 Samuel 22), David was informed that Ahimelek had been killed and his response was recorded for us in the last part of 1 Samuel 22:

“But one son of Ahimelek son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled to join David. 21 He told David that Saul had killed the priests of the LORD. 22 Then David said to Abiathar, “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family. 23 Stay with me; don’t be afraid. The man who wants to kill you is trying to kill me too. You will be safe with me.”

Through the death of another, David learned that his influence was far greater than his position. He knew better than to speak in front of Doeg and yet he ignored his intuition. He spoke anyways. His emotions got the best of him and instead of paying attention to his intuition, he spoke. Yes, Saul was responsible for Ahimelek’s death, but so was David.

As Christian Business Owners, our carelessness can cost others dearly in ways that we can never repay. Our words and actions matter. And when we ignore our intuition, we do so at our peril and usually to the peril of others. God gives us intuition for our own good. When we walk with the Holy Spirit, He informs and directs our intuition to better lead us.

In situations similar to what David faced, hold your tongue and pay attention to your intuition. You’ll be better off in the long run.

Leadership Lessons Part XII: Going without God

In 1 Samuel 21, we find that David is going to let his anger drive his decisions and move forward without consulting and following God’s leading. David makes some crucial mistakes that are both understandable and damaging to him. Here is the text:

David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest. Ahimelek trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?” 2 David answered Ahimelek the priest, “The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. 3 Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.”

4 But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have kept themselves from women.” 5 David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s bodies are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” 6 So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the LORD and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.

7 Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the LORD; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief shepherd. 8 David asked Ahimelek, “Don’t you have a spear or a sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s mission was urgent.” 9 The priest replied, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.” David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”

Let’s recall the background we’re working with here. Saul, the King of Israel who is also David’s Father-in-Law, is after David’s life. So David first flees from Saul with Jonathan’s support and goes to Samuel at Ramah. Recall that Samuel is the country’s high priest and is probably just as powerful as the King. They both go to Naioth where a school for prophets is being run by Samuel (the school would be analogous to a present-day seminary for pastors). Saul finds out where David is and sends men to kill him. God protects David and even though Saul’s men reach David, they don’t kill him.

Still, David is no fool. So he goes to Nob and is clearly “on the run”. His interaction with Ahimelech is recorded for us in the first nine verses of chapter 21. What we can see in this interaction are three true elements:

  • He didn’t seek God’s guidance
  • He lied to Ahimelech
  • He puts Ahimelech “on the spot” – cf. Matt 12.1-80

I think we see David in an emerging state in which he’s both trying to survive and is also having to lead an increasing number of disgruntled-with-Saul warriors. I think he wants to protect Ahimelech in case Saul’s men come to him and ask him why he didn’t kill David on behalf of the King. David’s attempt at protecting Ahimelech is clumsy and betrays just how much David has to learn about negotiations and leadership.

When we “go it alone”, we don’t seek God’s guidance. We’re more apt to lie or deceive others and are more apt to break the rules. We vary things just a bit and in the end, it comes back to bite us.

What should David have done? First, he should have been truthful with Ahimelech and asked Ahimelech for guidance from God. Secondly, he should have trusted God like he did on the day when he killed Goliath with the stone. I find it ironic that he now asks for the sword of the one whom he killed with a stone. Lastly, while he should have stayed as far away from Saul as possible, he also should have stayed in Israel. He had a growing band of men around him that he was leading. Placing his faith and trust in God’s expressed anointing on his life to be King, he should have trusted God more fully.

Another aspect of going it alone is that you end up losing a portion of your testimony. We’re told that David flees to Achish, King of Gath, a Philistine city. They recognize him there, so he ends up acting like a mad man so that they don’t kill him. Talk about jumping out of the fire and into the frying pan. He loses his dignity in the process. Achish ends up laughing at David and lets him go. While it is a shrewd way to escape, let’s not lose sight of the notion that David lost the respect of Achish as well. This has profound lessons for us as we interact with the unsaved in business.

David is put on the run and starts what appears to be well over a decade of running by not consulting with God or turning to Him for guidance and continued protection. Let’s not repeat David’s mistakes here. When we’re under significant stress, that is the time to turn to the Lord and see His face, direction and protection. God will provide all that we need to accomplish the purposes he has for us. Let’s not lie to others and let’s not degrade ourselves the point where we those who don’t know the Lord end up laughing at us because of our eccentric behavior.

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