Trust in Proverbs

Trust is a curious thing. At its core, it is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something else. It is predictive in nature – you can know the future because you trust the outcome from that person, process or event. Trust takes years to develop and a few seconds to destroy. Trust reveals the quality of the relationship between you and the other person or event.

Proverbs has significant teaching on trust – to whom we give it and how it can harm or benefit us. Like the other articles in this series, we’ll look at each verse where the word “trust” occurs and see what we can learn. Along the way, we’ll apply it to business ownership and leadership.

Proverbs 3.5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs starts its teaching about trust by pointing us to God: We can fully trust in the Lord because His understanding is higher and better than ours. Moreover, when we submit to Him, He has the power and authority to make our paths straight. Trust is relational too: “with all your heart” – there is visceral part of our being that is involved. We have developed a deep relationship with God and can trust Him to act in accordance with His character and personality. We have taken the plunge – we have no plan B – there’s just trust in God. Yes there is danger, but with the very core of our being, we trust God – not ourselves, not our money, not our status, not our insurance, not our businesses – we trust God.

This is where planning and trust must be balanced. Proverbs teaches us to plan and while we can have confidence in our plans, our trust needs to be in God and when He sees that we trust Him viscerally, He then makes our paths straight. Our own understanding – our own knowledge, by itself, will lead us astray. This is because all of life always has a spiritual, unseen component that, if not taken into consideration, will cause us to make decisions without the right matrix of information.

Most business leaders I have met place more trust in their own selves and their plans than they do in God. Many Christian Business Owners will make decisions about spending, expansion, compensation, partnerships and so forth without sitting down and asking God directly. They’ll ask for wisdom, guidance and direction, but they don’t ask directly “what decision should I make?” I personally feel this is due to them not knowing how to hear the voice of God. Once they learn how to do this, they are able to more fully live out Proverbs 3.5-6.

Proverbs 11.28

Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf

In this verse, we are told not to trust in our riches or money because, if we do, we will fall. The reason we fail is because our trust has been misplaced and therefore, God cannot make our path straight. Trusting and/or loving money is one of the best ways to fall away from the Lord. Money comes and goes like a wisp in the wind. It is not a worthy object of trust – it is not reliable, it lacks stability and strength.

Today, there is much cash on the balance sheets of many businesses. They view their cash as their strength – perhaps along with their employees. People, cash, processes, intellectual property – these are the “strengths” of a business, or so the conventional wisdom says. The Bible says something different – our cash is not a strength. Now, it is a tool that can be used, but it is not a “strength”. It is something fools trust in and when it fails them, they fall.

Proverbs 16.20

Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord

In this verse we learn that when we trust in the Lord, we are blessed. So, now we know that not only are our paths made straight when we trust in God, but His strait paths provide ongoing blessings to us.

In business, no matter how talented or successful we are, we need to heed instruction that comes our way. I would suggest we need to seek out wisdom and instruction (other part of Proverbs says as much). We can always learn and grow, both personally and professionally. In the long run, when someone stops growing – when they start coasting – that’s when they become irrelevant and outdated. And you can’t coast unless you trust in yourself.

Proverbs 21.22

One who is wise can go up against the city of the mighty and pull down the stronghold in which they trust

It seems to me that the phrase “city of the mighty” is a bit tongue-in-cheek in that their “strongholds” in which they trust can be pulled down simply by being wise. This implies that these folks are fools and are trusting in that which is not trustworthy. On the surface, it will appear that they are might and strong, but if they are confronted with Biblical wisdom, that in which they trust will crumble – it will be “pulled down”.

In business, the strength of a company or a balance sheet can be talked about in terms of “this company has a lot of muscle” or “they have the resources to fight”. These types of phrases imply that they are strong and mighty. A Christian Business Owner should look at what they trust in: is it their cash balances? Their legal resources? Their experience? What does the Bible have to say about trusting these things? Wisdom is stronger, this verse tells us, than the strongholds of a mighty city.

Proverbs 23.4-5

Do not wear yourself out to get rich;

do not trust your own cleverness.

Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,

for they will surely sprout wings

and fly off to the sky like an eagle

This is one of the clearest instructions on avoiding work-a-holism. It is sin to wear ourselves out to get rich – to chase money. Why? Because money vanishes faster than a wisp of air. It can fly off and leave you when you least expect it. We are told not to trust in our own cleverness (בִּינָה, literally someone who understands – this is the same Hebrew word used in Proverbs 3.5). We think we understand, but we really don’t. We think we’ve “got it”, but we really don’t. This verse teaches that if we think we can get rich simply by hard work over a sustained period of time, that we may achieve those riches – but then they will be gone – they will fly away and we’ll have to start over.

Two weeks ago, we learned about avoiding get-rich-quick schemes. Today we learn that if our main goal and motivation in working hard is to get rich, that we might very well make some money, but it won’t last, so don’t wear yourself out to get rich.

When you’re a business leader or own, the applications for this are obvious.

Proverbs 27.6

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,

but an enemy multiplies kisses

Wounds from a friend can be trusted because they are coming from your friend, who presumably is a wise and Godly person. When it comes to leading a business, you need to develop friends around you who can speak truth into your life as an owner and sometimes wound you in an effort to help you grow personally and professionally.

Proverbs 28.25

The greedy stir up conflict,

but those who trust in the Lord will prosper.

Those who chase money and wealth often create conflict. I worked with a guy who was in sales and he told me that the way he landed new customers was to watch and wait for his competition to sign new contracts with new customers, then he would go in a create swirl and conflict to the point where he’d walk out with a new contract. He enjoyed creating problems for his competition. He owns his own business now and continues to be greedy – chasing wealth as the ultimate goal in life. By contrast, the righteous who trust in the Lord prosper because A) they don’t stir up conflict, so their business relationships are better and B) God can bless them because they trust in him.

The word prosper (דשׁן) means to be fat, to grow fat, to be fertile, to have abundance. Hence, the writer is saying that when we trust in the Lord, we will be fertile and have abundance. We’ll be able to reproduce and the “soil” in which we work will result in abundance. This applies to our businesses. When we seek to fulfill God’s purposes for business instead of making profits out first goal, we will necessarily place our trust in the Lord and we will prosper as a result.

Proverbs 28.26

Those who trust in themselves are fools,

but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe

We considered this verse in our study of Fools in Proverbs. We learned that when we trust ourselves, we are fools (כְּסִיל, literally insolent; stupid, a person who lacks good judgment). We now can learn that not only is it unwise to place your trust in your wealth, but you’re a fool if you trust yourself as opposed to trusting in God. In business, be sure to place your trust in the Lord, even if you have top talent and a large bucket of cash on your balance sheet. You’ll be tempted to trust the latter, but you’re a fool if you do.

So, to summarize:

  1. We trust God because He is trustworthy
  2. The wisdom of God is stronger than the “strengths” of business
  3. Christian Business Owners and Leaders pay attention to instruction – they are coachable and teachable
  4. Christian Business Owners and Leaders take less profit and success in exchange for a healthy work/life balance
  5. Christian Business Owners and Leaders find their greatest success when they start their activities by trusting in God vs. chasing American success

Planning in Proverbs

Planning is an essential part of leading a business. There are two basic concepts of planning in Proverbs: Plotting (תַּחֲרֹ֣שׁ, literally to plan secretly, usually something wicked) and Planning (מַחְשְׁב֣וֹת, literally the content of what a person is thinking about). The first word focuses more on how the evil plan their future. The second word is more instructive for us as Disciples of Jesus Christ. Proverbs has much to say about planning, so let’s get started.

Proverbs 3.29

Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
who lives trustfully near you

This is one of four verses that gives four prohibitions against malevolent behavior. Verses 27-28 command the reader not to fail to do good whereas 29-30 prohibit malicious activity. Hence, in these four verses (27-30) we find four commands:

  1. Do not withhold good from those whom it is due when it is in your power to act
  2. Do not withhold giving to your neighbor
  3. Do not plan to do harm against your neighbor
  4. Do not falsely accuse your neighbor

For our discussion here, 3.29 is best illustrated by Jezebel’s conspiracy against Naboth and Haman’s designs on Mordecai in Esther.

Note also that the concept of deceit is assumed – the contrast between plotting harm against your neighbors who trust you indicates that deceit will be employed as part of your plan to harm your neighbor. The element of surprise via deceit is in view here.

Proverbs 6.12-15

12 A troublemaker and a villain,
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,
13 who winks maliciously with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers,
14 who plots evil with deceit in his heart—
he always stirs up conflict.
15 Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;
he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy

In this section, a troublemaker and a villain is described by a cluster of character traits:

  • Corrupt (עִקְּשׁוּת, literally the act of perverting something by turning it to a wrong use) talk
  • Sinister non-verbal’s (winking, shuffling feet, motions with fingers – remember the movie The Sting?)
  • Plots evil with deceit
  • Stirs up conflict

Consider this cluster or matrix of character traits – if you see two or more of the six, be on guard for the others and stay far away from a person like this.

Proverbs 12.5

The plans of the righteous are just,
but the advice of the wicked is deceitful

Here, the plans of a just (righteous) person is compared with that of a wicked person whose plans deceive others. Note also that the concept of a “plan” and “advice” are compared, instructing us that when we create plans, we’re advising those who charged with implementing the plan. A righteous plan does not deceive – it does not mislead or contain deceptions.

Proverbs 12.20

Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil,
but those who promote peace have joy

This is the third time we’re seeing the connection between evil plans and deceit. We’re also seeing that evil plans create strife and conflict because the contrast is with those who promote peace. The opposite of evil plans with deceit is the promotion of peace that results in joy. The follower of God will be aware of this command to avoid deceit and evil and will take intentional actions to ensure that is not part of his/her business.

In business, we must be careful to ensure our marketing, sales and contracts do not deceive or mislead others. We should be intentional about not overstating the quality of our products and services or the positive effects our customers will experience after engaging us. When you hear marketing that sounds too good to be true, your guard should be very high.

Proverbs 14.22

Do not those who plot evil go astray?
But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness

One’s moral behavior is usually the result of planning. When we plan evil, we go astray. But when we plan that which is good, we find love and faithfulness. Both love and faithfulness are characteristics of God and help us understand that planning “good” will also point us to God and demonstrates these two aspects of His character to a lost and broken world.

Proverbs 15.22

Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed

Plans that are created without proper input from those with the right experience and expertise will likely fail, but if you include the right advisors, your plans will succeed. This instructs the business owner and leader to have a team of advisors around them who are allowed to speak into the owner’s plans and business. This is often a serious short coming of most business owners: they are often too proud and too independent to seek out help and collaboration with a team of trusted advisors.

Proverbs 16.1

To humans belong the plans of the heart,
but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue

Biblical righteousness is fundamentally an attitude of trusting in God. We will “feel” that a certain plan is the right way to go – our intuition may point us in a specific direction. But from God comes the answer of logic and speech. God doesn’t intuit His way through time or our lives.

Proverbs 16.3

Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans

Similar to Proverbs 16.1, we find that when we commit all of our work to God, that He will “establish” our plans. The word for establish (יִכֹּ֗נוּ, literally, to stand up, to sit erect, to set up) gives a flavor of God making one’s plans firm and strong: when God establishes our plans, the storms of life will not sway them.

Proverbs 16.9

In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the LORD establishes their steps

Again, we make our plans, but God’s sovereignty determines our steps. This verse wraps up both major lines of theology into one verse: free will and God’s sovereignty. The Doctrine of Concurrency is so helpful at this point – the notion that both are true. We make our plans, but God determines our steps. Both are true.

Proverbs 16.27

A scoundrel plots evil,
and on their lips it is like a scorching fire

Slander is in view in this verse. Scoundrels (בְּ֭לִיַּעַל אִישׁ, literally a man of no worth, especially in regards to righteous behavior – “the term describes deep depravity and wickedness” (EBC)) plot evil and they have no problem slandering others. Slander is described like a “scorching fire” which speaks of the devastating effect of his words. This person digs for scandal and then propagates it with words which are on fire. Investigative reporting borders on this activity. Finding out dirt about a competitor and then spreading it around exemplifies the actions condemned in this verse.

Proverbs 19.21

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails

Plans represent purposes. Plans try to accomplish that which is purposeful. Let’s remember that no matter what our purposes are, God’s purposes will prevail. Ultimately, this verse teaches the same core truth as that of 16.9: we make our plans, but God’s sovereignty will win every time. When it matters, God does not lose out to man’s efforts.

Proverbs 20.18

Plans are established by seeking advice;
so if you wage war, obtain guidance

True plans incorporate the wisdom of trusted advisors. Business leaders who draw up their own plans without input of advisors do so at their own peril. This need for advice is heightened when waging war. Business is sometimes war. If you’re going to compete head-to-head, be sure to seek the advice of other leaders and owners – you’ll need it to be successful.

Proverbs 21.5

The plans of the diligent lead to profit
as surely as haste leads to poverty

Plans, by themselves, are worthless. While they represent purposes and advice, in order to bear fruit, plans must be executed. This is where so many businesses fail – they spent time and money on building great plans – but then they don’t execute well. Poorly executed plans lead to poverty. Executing a plan is an intentional activity. Just like being intentional to spend time with God, tell your spouse you love him/her or saving for retirement, executing a business plan requires intentionality.

Proverbs 21.30

There is no wisdom, no insight,
no plan that can succeed against the LORD

There no nuance in this verse: God’s plans will win every time when in conflict with man’s plans.

Summary

  1. God’s purposes will prevail when our plans are in conflict with His
  2. We should seek advice from others in order to ensure our plans will succeed
  3. We must execute our plans well
  4. We must never plan evil or allow for evil in our plans
  5. We must be intentional in planning and execution of our plans

The Unvarnished Truth

One of my undeniable truths of business ownership is #69: The moment you hire your first employee is the moment at which you stop knowing about everything in your business.

Most owners really like to know what’s going on in their business and all owners need to know what’s going on in their business, but most do not know – and they don’t know how to get to the full truth from their employees. From my own personal experience, I’ve had employees lie directly to my face about important facts which, had I known them would have altered decisions I made.

When an owner makes a decision based on information given to him/her by employees who are lying to save face, then the owner has multiple problems to content with:

  1. Lying employee
  2. Making a decision based on false information
  3. You don’t know what you don’t know
  4. You find out it was the wrong decision long after the damage has been done

Proverbs 16.13 says this: “Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth”.

If you’re not getting the full, unvarnished truth from your staff, you need to ask yourself “why?” Why do they not tell you the full truth? Let me offer several suggestions for your consideration.

First, the problem might be you. Most entrepreneurs are highly talented people who are highly competent at something. Often, they wrongly assume that their competence in their given area extends to all areas of the business, including people management, marketing, sales and so forth. I’ve met more than a few owners who beat up their staff verbally, discount new or conflicting ideas and essentially killing collaboration and teamwork in their business. Perhaps you become angry or irritated with new ideas, thinking that since you’re the owner, all new ideas should come from you. Obviously, these owners are totally unaware of the negative effects of their arrogance, but if check yourself on this: if people rarely or never give you ideas on how to improve operations, sales, marketing and so forth, then ask yourself “why?”. You might find that you are your largest obstacle to getting the full truth.

Second, the problem is they don’t think to tell you because you don’t ask. There’s a phrase “what gets measured is what gets done.” If you’re not measuring it (whatever “it” is) or if you’re not asking about it, then they might think you’re not interested, so they can let it slide.

Thirdly, the problem is you don’t have system in place to surface dysfunction in your business. I see this more often than I care to talk about: business owners whose world is only what they can see and touch. While they are highly interested in their product or service, they lack curiosity about the business aspects of their business. Besides, most of them are too cheap (not frugal – there is a difference) to spend adequate money on infrastructure systems. As long as they can live the lifestyle they want, they really don’t care all that much about the health of their business.

Fourthly, the problem is they confuse accounting reports with an accounting system. I can’t tell you how many businesses simply send their bank statements and receipts to an accountant who magically transforms their data into a monthly income statement with a balance sheet. I can’t begin to tell you how short-sighted this is (sorry to all you CPAs out there) because A) the owner really doesn’t read the statements and B) taillights information only goes so far. Without an accounting system, an owner can’t go in to look at the current numbers. The owner can’t slice and dice the numbers to see where they are really at. And in these scenarios, you can forget cash management. As long as they have money in the checking account, they’re fine.

Lastly, the problem is they trust their employees too much. I see this often as well: owners who don’t check in with their employees because they don’t want to micromanage, so they rarely, if ever, hold the employee accountable for anything. They employee creates his or her own little kingdom within the company and doesn’t share information as s/he should, so the flow of critical information becomes constipated.

Nearly all of this can be mitigated by a few simple, but profound actions on the part of the owner:

  1. The owner should become curious about his or her business and stay in touch with the critical systems of the business
  2. The owner should have systems in place to surface health or dysfunction across the core processes and accounting practices
  3. The owner should have clear, outcome-based expectations for his senior leadership team and hold them to achieving those outcomes on a regular basis
  4. The owner should have a balance between trusting his employees and verifying their work product

Owners who don’t get the unvarnished truth are often the reason for it. Most employees are not nefarious. They simply meld into the culture and processes of the organization. They next time you don’t have all the information you need to make a good decision, ask yourself the question “why?” and then see if you need to change your behavior first before trying to change the behavior of others in your company.

Bill English, Founder
Bible and Business

Friday Five December 1 2017

In this edition of the Friday Five, we focus on stories about sexual harassment, lobbying and other topics of interest.

In this surging wave of sexual harassment reveals, Nevada Democrat Ruben Kihuen is accused of repeatedly propositioning and touching a former campaign aide in 2016. Pelosi wants him to resign. The number of men accused of sexual harassment is growing (here, here and here too). It appears the accusation itself is enough to bring down any man. The New York Times is wondering if there are limits to the “Believe all Women” movement that is sweeping this nation: “In a climate in which sexual mores are transforming so rapidly, many men are asking: If I were wrongly accused, who would believe me?” Power has definitely shifted to the accuser. This is a good thing for the thousands of women who have been assaulted. But it does put the regular guy in an awkward position. Best practices moving forward: No touching, no hugging, no looking, no joking, no comments about appearance at all for any reason at any time. These are good rules to have in the workplace anyways, so perhaps we’re getting to a point of sanity.

Lobbying on Capital Hill is a big business. The top 50 lobbying firms spent over $700M in their lobbying efforts, which is just part of the roughly $3B of all monies spent on lobbying in Washington. Opinions abound as to the need, efficacy and appropriateness of all this lobbying.

Our national debt is at 20,590,391,942,312.26. Hypocrisy abounds on this issue as the Democrats rail about a $1T increase in the deficit because of the impending tax reform Republicans are pushing through. We didn’t hear them cry once when Obama added $10T to our debt. It’s also disheartening to see the Republicans ignore the debt when they were so vocal about it when Obama was president. Regardless, this debt *IS* a national problem and will likely weaken us over time to the point where we can’t fight a war or respond to a crisis. I wonder how long it will take the markets and foreign governments to realize that they will never be paid back and thus, stop lending to the Federal Government.

Judge Roy Moore is an embarrassment to common sense and the Republican party. His claim that sexual harassment is the work of lesbians, gays and others is not only downright stupid, it is not accurate. The race is tied up – it will be a close election.

In case you missed it, Yosemite National Park expanded by 400 acres. The park now has over 750,000 acres.

Biblical Eroticism

Love and sexuality can be a source of great joy or deep grief and pain. As children become adults and discover their sexuality, and as couples move into marriage and seek to understand each other, it is imperative that they have guidance in this area of life that is so crucial to psychological adjustment. The Bible itself would be incomplete if it only spoke of sexuality in terms of prohibitions and did not give positive instruction to enable the reader to discover the joy of healthy love. (Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Vol. 14, pp. 367–368). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

One of the core, foundational truths of running a business that God has entrusted to us is that our personal sanctification has a direct impact the financial success of our business and our ability to fulfill God’s purposes for business (Products, Passions, Profit and Philanthropy). I’ve discussed 2 Chronicles 7.14 on this site, which is the context in which I write this post. When we live with private sin, God is unable to bless us in our business. Whatever success we might have is muted compared to what God could have done had we been living righteously before Him.

The consumption of pornography by Christians is well-documented (other examples are here, here, here and here) . None of us, including myself, are immune from pornographic temptations and failings. Nearly all men and a growing number of women consume pornography on a consistent basis. Along with a lack of tithing, over-eating (gluttony), materialism and a near addiction to comfort and convenience, American Christians are weaker and less available for powerful ministry because of our consumption of pornography.

Hence, I’m going to discuss the Bible’s view of eroticism by contrasting the deceptions of pornography and the truths of Biblical eroticism presented in the Song of Songs. It is my belief that Scripture can cleanse our minds, which is one way we are transformed (Romans 12.1-2). If we can cleanse our minds and hearts through the transforming power of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, then we can live righteously before God and God can start blessing us again and bring us out from beneath the curses we bring on ourselves.

We need Christian Business Owners to be living in righteousness if we’re ever going to see revival in the United States.

So, we’re going to look at how love, sensuality (pursuit of sexual pleasure), eroticism (arousing sexual desire) and sex are portrayed in the Song of Solomon and contrast that with how those elements are portrayed in pornography. This will not be an exhaustive study, but one limited to several prominent themes in The Song of Solomon.

The Deceptions of Pornography

I will assert that most Christians us pornographic constructs to discuss sex and sensuality. I say this because I would suspect that most Christians equate the words “sensuality” and/or “eroticism” with the word “sin”. But the Bible has a positive view of sensuality and eroticism when certain conditions are met. But first, let’s look at the common and pervasive decisions of pornography.

By the way, pornography degrades women (here too). Behind all of these deceptions is a trail of human female debris that is undeniable. Happily, Christ can redeem us all from any sin (here, here, here and here as examples). In pornography, women are objectified and valued only for their body parts. They are dehumanized and are treated as animals. They are not equal to men in any way and should not be viewed as equals. Some will disagree, but I don’t see how women are elevated and esteemed in pornography. I really don’t.

Deception #1: Your Deepest Fulfillment in Life is to Experience Hot Sex with Intense Orgasms

Pornography teaches that the orgasm experience is the highest thrill a person can have. It teaches that the best sex is entirely physical and focused on achieving an orgasm. This is best experienced when you’re performing with another person who passionately pursues sex and orgasms. While some experiences are thought to be better than an orgasm, pornography teaches that the end goal and the ultimate sexual experience is an orgasm. There is hardly a pornographic video that doesn’t end with the orgasm. The meta-message is clear: one you orgasm, you’ve experienced it all and it’s time to quit (or try again, see below).

Deception #2: Marriage Ties You Down: One Person Can’t meet all Your Needs

If your spouse doesn’t have a high level of need for sex, then consider augmenting your marriage with other partners. Swingers (here too) are those who are (usually) married but have agreements where both spouses can “hook up” for sex with one or more partners to make sure all of their needs are satisfied. They usually have detailed agreements and rules that must be followed, but the outcome is this: getting your “needs” met through multiple partners. The assumption is that the full enjoyment of sex cannot possibly happen with only one person for an entire lifetime. Swingers are usually cautious people and often become friends first. Open marriages are thought to be successful only when they are strong marriages to begin with (here and here). But over time, swinging can kill relations too.

The Bible teaches the opposite, as we’ll see in a moment.

Deception #3: Marriage will Kill Hot Sex

In many instances, pornography will teach that if you want hot sex, then don’t get married. There are few, if any, pornographic videos or images that are shot within the context of marriage unless the wife is being shared with other men. It’s the violation of traditional marriage vows that makes it titillating and arousing.

You see, in a normal marriage, women are not always ready for sex and they usually don’t want to share their husbands – ever. But in pornography, they are always ready. In the real world, women want more than sex – they want love and commitment. But pornography teaches men to only want sex. Don’t get entangled with emotions and relationships – that will only tie you down.

This deception – that marriage is a constraint of great sex and romance – is causing some to rethink why love and marriage are even connected. Esther Perel (pictured), noted speaker on erotic intelligence (seriously?) and author of Mating in Captivity, proffers that monogamy and love don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other—and that it’s not always unhappily married people who cheat. Happy people cheat, too, she finds. Monogamy used to mean one person for life. Today, we define monogamy as one person at a time (citation) [emphasis added]. As Hugh Hefner
said in 2007, “One of the great ironies in our society is that we celebrate freedom and then limit the parts of life where we should be most free.”

We’ll learn in a moment that the Bible teaches that the best sex is found within the context of marriage – a concept that is totally foreign to those in the pornographic industry and laughable to many in America today.

Deception #4: Happiness is found with Multiple Partners

Pornography preaches a philosophy of no commitment: there is no commitment in pornographic thinking. In some ways, it’s really a distancing technique: you can have my body but not my real self. The core of who I am doesn’t get shared with anyone and so those living with porn tend to be emotionally isolated and disconnected. It concerns itself only with the body. Emotional, mental or spiritual intimacy isn’t even considered in pornographic philosophies:

“What is most surprising about the debates that surround pornography is how much the various sides agree upon. Pornography is banal, predictable, convoluted, and fundamentally impoverished intellectually. Rarely would a sex-positive academic or practitioner of pornography dispute this.” (The Philosophy of Pornography: Contemporary Perspectives (p. 199). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

No relationship commitments mean that you can have sex with as many partners as you wish – the more, the better is what we’re taught. The king of pornography, Hugh Hefner is thought to have had sex with over 3000 women – probably not as many as Solomon did – but still, a number that boggles the mind. Holly Madison is quoted in Cosmopolitan:

Q: Can you quantify how many girls went through that revolving door?
A: Oh my god, while I was there, no, I couldn’t even. I’d have to sit down and count how many went out and make an average, there were so many.

Was Hefner really happy? It seems he probably was empty on the inside. His addiction to pot and alcohol, his controlling behavior and his addiction to pot and alcohol point to a guy who was not happy, not fulfilled but rather in bondage to these things (here). Time Magazine wrote:

Hefner did terrible things, and got rich off of them. But it’s still hard not to feel a little bit sorry for a man so clearly uncomfortable with himself that he built an empire on a commodified and empty casing of male sexual desire, a man who threw legendary parties to bond with other men over bikini-clad women, and who paid beautiful women to live in his house and have sex with him so he wouldn’t have to be alone. He was a man who didn’t even believe his “girlfriends” would come home at the end of the day if he didn’t make a rule. If Hugh Hefner wasn’t Hef, the founder of Playboy — if he was just Hugh Hefner, the man – all of the things he confused with love would have never come to him. Not the sex, not the girls, not even the men he considered friends.

He built an empire on male desire, but never seems to have been truly desired himself. He sold a new kind of masculine aspiration, of which he was the paradigm. It was the women he claimed to love who bore most of the cost, but now it’s easy to see the price he paid, too, the things a callow and shallow little man will trade for some time in the spotlight next to a blonde with a great rack. How fitting that, in death, Hef doesn’t evoke hope or ambition, but that simplest and most patronizing of emotions: Pity.

Deception #5: Sex is Natural, so it can’t be a Moral Issue

Sex is all “natural”, the porn industry will say. It is only concerned with titillation and physical resolution. And since it is a natural, amoral act, after there is an orgasm, the only thing left to do is to do it all over again. Rinse and repeat.

Porn leaves us with not only with no connection between our physical bodies and the rest of our being, but a difficulty in integration of our bodies and souls after pornography is consumed. Dan Gray (LCSW, CSAT) writes:

“Pornography compulsion or obsession has a huge negative impact on relationships. As humans, we are wired to have relationships and build connections with others. We need the social interaction and sense of community, not the fake intimacy that pornography provides. The more people become hooked to pornography, the more they start missing out on building those connections.”

Porn leaves you wanting more and more to the point of total dissatisfaction. Some question if you can become addicted, but the scores of testimonies to porn addictions and their difficulties in overcoming their addiction cannot be ignored.

To sum up, the deceptions of pornography include:

  • Your deepest fulfillment in life is found in an orgasm
  • One person cannot possibly meet all of your sexual needs
  • Marriage will kill great sex
  • Happiness is found in multiple partners
  • Sex is natural, so it can’t be a moral issue

Truths of Biblical Eroticism Presented in the Song of Solomon

The Bible gives us truth that we can count on. Take it to the bank. The Biblical eroticism presented in the Song of Songs is exactly the opposite of the deceptions offered by pornography. Let’s learn what the Song of Solomon teaches.

Truth #1: Only Deep Intimacy is Expressed Physically

Biblical eroticism involves the whole of the person – mental, emotional, spiritual and physical. While you can experience the physical response of orgasm in a passing relationship, you cannot enjoy fully the other person or give yourself fully without the full commitment of marriage. When sex is combined with deep commitment and the safety of full acceptance by the other party, then the experience is satisfying beyond measure. It is the sharing and acceptance of the entire person within marriage that turbo-charges the physical sensualities. Pornography kills all of this.

Great sex is found within the context of marriage. Interestingly enough, one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject of sexual frequency was released in 2010 by the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University. Their study compiled statistics on sexual attitudes and habits of 5,865 people between ages 14 and 94. An average of 61 percent of singles reported that they hadn’t had sex within the past year, compared with 18 percent of married people. Looking specifically at those between the ages of 25 and 59, 25 percent of married people reported that they were still having sex two to three times per week versus less than five percent of singles. The University of Indiana found what the Bible has taught for centuries: get married if you want to enjoy great sex.

Throughout the Song of Solomon, we find one young man with one young woman entering into marriage and consummating their emotional and mental intimacy with physical intimacy. We don’t find the Daughters of Jerusalem entering into their most private moment or his friends coming to join the couple on their wedding night.

Truth #2: Man and Woman are Equals

The Song of Songs (1.2-4) opens with these verses:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—

for your love is more delightful than wine.

Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;

your name is like perfume poured out.

No wonder the young women love you!

Take me away with you—let us hurry!

Let the king bring me into his chambers

What we immediately notice is that the woman speaks first and sees herself as an equal to her man. In that time period, that was unusual. She’s not primarily focused on how she’s going to service her future husband or how he will service her, but instead on enjoying him physically. The Song of Songs is filled with innuendo and indirect references; using analogies to reference the physical delights is common in this book. But make no mistake – throughout this book, the woman and the man are equals in every aspect – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Truth #3: Self-Control and Delayed Gratification are Essential to Enjoying the Act of Marriage

Three times in the Song of Songs we see this phrase: “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (2.7, 3.5 and 8.4):

2.7: Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you

by the gazelles and by the does of the field:

Do not arouse or awaken love

until it so desires

3.5: Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you

by the gazelles and by the does of the field:

Do not arouse or awaken love

until it so desires

8.4: Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you:

Do not arouse or awaken love

until it so desires

The meaning is clear when read within context: The charge is that our sensualities and sexuality should not be aroused until the proper time and person arrives. The natural joy of sexual awakening is ruined by premature experimentation. Delayed gratification leads to deep gratification.

David Elkind wrote a book All Grown Up and No Place to Go. In it, he argues that for many young people, by the time they reach the age of 18, they have already experienced all that life has to offer – including sexual relations. The resulting problems range from common alienation to self-destructive behavior. When life’s most important experiences are experienced at the wrong time and/or with the wrong people, they become experiences that can destroy rather than build or encourage. Sex and sensuality is no exception.

Pornography screams instant gratification. It assumes little self-control. Unfortunately, there is a niche in pornography that glorifies the taking of a girl’s virginity and other “first time” acts. Immediate gratification coupled with the loss of purity is celebrated. Sex while your husband is at work or sex with a virgin is celebrated as an experience all men should have. Just like the movie Taken where Kim Mills, the daughter of Bryan Mills (played by Liam Neeson), is sold to an Arab sheik at a high price because she is a virgin, pornographic producers love to find young virgins and then film them live while their virginity is taken from them, often by men who couldn’t give one rats’ behind about these girls. There is no shame, no sense of appropriate timing and no sense of treating that which is sacred as anything other than purely sensual. No delayed gratification. There is no concern for the long-term effects on the virgin.

Truth #4: Love Persists Even to Death

In Song of Songs 8.6 we read:

Place me like a seal over your heart,

like a seal on your arm;

for love is as strong as death

The love expressed here symbolizes both possession and unbreakable devotion: “Love is as strong as death in the sense that its power cannot be resisted. It never releases those whom it has once seized”. (Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Vol. 14, p. 426). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.) The wish expressed here is that the joy of love go on forever. And because their deep love is abiding and strong, their physical attraction and sensualities will persist for the balance of their life together.

Truth #5: We Give All to One Person, not Some to Many

Pornography teaches us that sex without love can be fulfilling, exciting and “hot”. But it is ultimately unfulfilling:

“The thing I noticed the most about having sex with someone I loved for the first time was that there was real humor and happiness involved. Like, we joked and smiled the whole way through. The sex was super satisfying of course but I remember afterward saying ‘that was fun’ and actually feeling joy [emphasis added] instead of worrying about how I’d performed, etc. That was a real shock for me.”

The Song of Songs teaches us that love leads to deep, fulfilling sex and that both can persist for a lifetime. Biblical eroticism is far different from the sensualities we find in modern day pornography. This point is driven home later in Chapter 8.11-12:

Solomon had a vineyard in Baal Hamon;

he let out his vineyard to tenants.

Each was to bring for its fruit

a thousand shekels h of silver.

12 But my own vineyard is mine to give; [emphasis added]

the thousand shekels are for you, Solomon,

and two hundred are for those who tend its fruit


Commentators often note that the thousand shekels Solomon received from his vineyard may be a cryptic reference to his three hundred concubines and seven hundred wives. The larger point is this: the love between a man and a woman is better than the sexual extravagance of Solomon. Biblical eroticism is not found in the plethora of partners, but in the deep love between one man and one woman. And such love cannot be taken, it must be given voluntarily.

This affirmation of exclusivity is expressed earlier on the Song of Songs in 6.2-3:

My beloved has gone down to his garden,

to the beds of spices,

to browse in the gardens

and to gather lilies.

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine;

he browses among the lilies

The browsing in the gardens and the gathering of lilies is metaphorical for the Act of Marriage. It is lovemaking expressed in tender, lovely and pastoral ways. She is affirming that she and her lover belong to each other. She is asserting the exclusiveness of their relationship. It is within this context that she is able to fully give of herself and express it in such beautiful tones. She had earlier invited him “in” (4.16):

Awake, north wind,

and come, south wind!

Blow on my garden,

that its fragrance may spread everywhere.

Let my beloved come into his garden

and taste its choice fruits

In short, this is her invitation to her new husband to consummate their marriage. Again, the use of tender, beautiful word pictures conveys the deep purity and desire they have for each other. Pornography has none of this, no matter how much they gloss it over with words like “love” and “beautiful”. It’s not even close to the same thing.

In summary, Biblical eroticism teaches that

  1. Only deep love and intimacy should be expressed physically
  2. Men and women are equals
  3. Self-control and delayed gratification are essential to fully expressing love in marriage
  4. Love and sensuality persist to death
  5. We give all to one, not some to many

Final Thought

As a final thought, let’s remember that Christians should celebrate the physical enjoyment that marriage provides. While it’s a small part of being married, it is an important part. If you’re caught in the addiction of pornography, consider working with the XXX Church or Covenant Eyes. Getting free of porn and finding wholeness in Christ will free you up to be all that God is calling you to be.

Speech in Proverbs

How we talk – what we say – is a reflection of what is in our hearts and displays our self-control. Luke 6.45 says:

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Another translation says “…for out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” If you want to know what’s in another person’s heart, just listen to what they say.

Another aspect of our character – self-control – is on full display when we talk (James 3.2)

“We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.”

If you can tame your speech, you’ll be able to keep your whole body in check. But since few of us, if any, keep our whole body in check, it stands to reason that we are sometimes at fault in what we say.

Hence, two core aspects of our personas are on full display when we talk: the quality of our hearts and our self-control. With this in mind, let’s learn about what Proverbs has much to say about our speech. I will apply this to the world of business ownership and Christian Business Owners.

Proverbs 1.20-21

Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,
she raises her voice in the public square;
on top of the wall she cries out,
at the city gate she makes her speech

Wisdom is communicated through speech. We’ll learn that folly is connected with a person who speaks before he thinks. In this verse, we learn that wisdom (which we can have simply by asking God for it in faith – see James 1.5-7) is communicated through speech and that she (the Hebrew word for wisdom (חָכְמוֹת) is a feminine word) is calling out (רנן, lit. to emit a tremulous and stridulous sound) in the public square. In other words, she’ll talk with anyone who will talk with her. In business terms, she’ll work with anyone who will work with her. She is not ashamed of her ideas, insights, observations or conclusions. She knows she is right and yet is not arrogant. She wants to share her wisdom and so she stands in the public square and calls out.

So, the application of this for Christian Business Owners is a question, not a conclusion: Are you listening?

Proverbs 4.24

Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips

In this verse, the Hebrew word for perversity (עִקְּשׁוּת) means the wrong use of something or someone. You’ve taken something intended for a legitimate use and used it for an unintended purpose. The Hebrew word for corrupt (לָזוּת) means a quality of being deceitful and underhanded. Deceit is when you lead someone to believe something is true when it is not. Certainly, not all deceit is sin. For example, most sports include the expectation that the offense will try to deceive the defense in an effort to score. But within the context of sports, deceit (based on the rules of the game) is both expected and applauded when successful. But in life, generally speaking, deceit is sin.

Hence, in our speech, when we take words and use them to lead others to believe something other than what is true, we have both perverted and corrupted our speech.

Now, the fact that our speech might be *legal* (“…it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is…) doesn’t mean we can engage in perverse or corrupted talk.

The words we choose to use in marketing and sales need to be run through this filter: is our marketing speech perverse and/or corrupted? I think the latter is difficult to maintain in sales and marketing. “We’re number 1” or superlative phrases such as “the best” or superlative words such as “unparalleled” or “unmatched” need to be fully vetted and thought through. The Christian Business Owner should be circumspect in his or her sales and marketing claims. It’s best to be as accurate as possible and lose some sales or market share than to sin.

Finally, note that God hates perverse speech (Proverbs 8.13):

To fear the LORD is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech

Let’s keep perverse and corrupt talk far from us.

Proverbs 5.3 and 6.4

5.3: For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,

and her speech is smoother than oil

6:4 keeping you from your neighbor’s wife,
from the smooth talk of a wayward woman

Speech can be seductive an alluring. Nearly all temptation involves either speech or site. In both instances, one gets the impression that simply by the way the woman talks, the man becomes spellbound and loses his moorings to his principles as he is seduced and destroyed by the adulterous woman. A Christian Business Owner needs to be on alert for speech like this.

But it’s not just the adulterous woman again whom we need to be on guard. We need to be aware that most marketing materials are filled with words and phrases designed to get you and I to want their product and buy it (here). So, as a consumer, be aware that “smoother than oil” words are around us all the time and that our emotional responses to sales and marketing pitches need to be submitted to the Lord as we let him evaluate our desires.

It’s my observation that those times when I’ve walked closest with the Lord are the same seasons in which I’ve not wanted to purchase very many things – I was happy and content with what I already had. As I drift from the Lord, I can become more discontent. One of the ways to know if a purchase is wise is to compare it to the characteristics of Godly wisdom in James 3.17-18:

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness

Note that this wisdom is:

  • Pure
  • Peace-loving
  • Considerate
  • Submissive
  • Full of mercy
  • Full of good fruit
  • Impartial
  • Sincere

The alluring speech of the adulterous woman (and most marketing copy today) is anything but these qualities. A Christian Business Owner will walk closely with God and discern between alluring, seductive speech and speech filled with wisdom.

Proverbs 12.6 and 12.13

12.6: The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
but the speech of the upright rescues them

12.13: Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk,
and so the innocent escape trouble

The 12.6 proverb comes as part of a series of proverbs that compares the righteous and the wicked:

“The unity of this collection is indicated in the Hebrew structure. These three proverbs follow a logical progression: the righteous make plans that are just, but the wicked scheme with deceitful counsel (v. 5); the wicked attempt to ambush the righteous with their lies, but the righteous are delivered by their integrity (v. 6); the wicked are totally destroyed, but the righteous stand secure.” (Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Vol. 14, p. 130). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

The integrity of the righteous saves them from being devoured by the wicked.

We have learned that the Christian Business Owner who is walking with God can spot seductive speech and avoid being injured by the wicked person (adulterous women) who is speaking. We have learned that we can avoid sin by making sure our speech is pure and holy, not perverse and corrupt. But we can’t achieve this from the outsideà in, we need to have our hearts and minds transformed so that our speech reflects what is in our hearts (insideàout). It is the transformed pre-disposition to purity and holiness and the supernatural anointing of the Holy Spirit that will help us see the ambush and avoid it, not because we are smart or clever, but because our pre-disposition to purity and integrity will lead us away from the ambush.

The meaning of 12.13 is a bit more clouded, so Garrett helps us here:

“This collection employs two metaphors of gathering food: hunting with snares (symbolizing the wicked) and laboring to raise crops (symbolizing the righteous). The wicked are always looking for ways to defraud people (v. 12a) but are trapped by their own machinations (v. 13a). The righteous, however, allow their prosperity to grow gradually from deep, strong roots (v. 12b), escape the traps set for them (v. 13b), and see their way of life (“fruit of his lips”) yield a bountiful harvest (v. 14).”

Note that the core idea of the righteous being delivered from the ways of the wicked because they escape the traps set for them by wicked people is repeated. The Christian Business Owner and Business Leader sees potential danger and avoids it.

Proverbs 14.23

All hard work brings a profit,
but mere talk leads only to poverty

The principle that wealth is a reward for diligence is clearly taught here. Elsewhere in Proverbs we’re taught to moderate our hard work (23.4), but here a clear connection is made between wealth creation and hard work. Conversely, if you just sit around and talk about an idea, you won’t create wealth. You must put your talk into action.

Proverbs 20.19

A gossip betrays a confidence;

so avoid anyone who talks too much

The company we keep should reflect who we are in Christ as Christian Business Owners. Those who talk too much end up betraying confidences, so let’s limit our company to those who have self-control and know how to keep confidences.

Proverbs 24.1-2 and 26.23-26

24.1-2: Do not envy the wicked,

do not desire their company;

for their hearts plot violence,

and their lips talk about making trouble

26.23-26: Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware

are fervent lips with an evil heart.

24 Enemies disguise themselves with their lips,

but in their hearts they harbor deceit.

25 Though their speech is charming, do not believe them,

for seven abominations fill their hearts.

26 Their malice may be concealed by deception,

but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly

The wicked will often have money. Elements of their lives may be attractive to us, such as their power, influence, possessions and so forth. If you listen closely to their speech, they may sometimes talk about making trouble for the other guy. Pay attention to this and then control your desires so that you don’t desire to be with them. The implication here is that spending time with them may likely corrupt your desires as you learn to desire what they desire. Stay away from them. You don’t want to put into your heart what is in their heart.

Notice in the 26.23-26 passage that they disguise (נכר, lit. to be foreign, to estrange, to be strange) themselves with their lips (think about how smooth the adulterous woman’s speech is to seduce and entice a Godly man into her bed) to hide the deceit their harbor in their hearts. Their speech is charming (חנן, lit. to be inclined towards or to show favor to someone), but we are instructed not to believe them.

It will require discernment to not believe them. This passage gives us a hint of what we will see: fervent (דלק, lit. to set on fire, to burn, to hotly pursue) lips. Combined with vs 25, we can learn that they will be “over the top” in their effusive praise and favor toward us. They will compliment us to the point where we feel uncomfortable with their praise and favor. This is your indication that their hearts are likely filled with evil and deceit and that you should stay away from them.

Gossiping

Turning to a topic in Proverbs called gossiping (הלך lit., to go around), Proverbs consistently condemns this type of speech. Here are the verses regarding gossip in Proverbs:

11.13: A gossip betrays a confidence,

but a trustworthy person keeps a secret

16.28: A perverse person stirs up conflict,

and a gossip separates close friends

18.8: The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;

they go down to the inmost parts

20.19: A gossip betrays a confidence;

so avoid anyone who talks too much

26.20: Without wood a fire goes out;

without a gossip a quarrel dies down

26.22: The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;

they go down to the inmost parts

Those who engage in gossip:

  • betray confidences
  • create conflict
  • injure people to the core of who they are
  • separate close friends

All of us have engaged in gossip at one time or another. Gossip should not be characteristic of the Christian Business Owner or a Christian Business Leader.

Summary

In this post, we have learned from Proverbs several points and principles to bear in mind as Christian Business Owners:

  1. What we say and how we say it is a reflection of what is in our hearts
  2. Wisdom is communicated through speech and is available to anyone who wants it. The question is: Are we listening?
  3. We need to keep perverse and corrupt talk far from us
  4. We need to walk with God so that we can discern smooth speech that has deceit and evil behind it
  5. If we just talk and take no action, we’ll not be prosperous
  6. We should avoid associating with a gossip and we should not engage in gossip
  7. Unnecessary flattery means there is an evil intent in the heart of the other person

Bill English
Founder, Bible and Business

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