Category Archives: Reference Architecture

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

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

Wealth in Proverbs

Business owners have unique opportunities to leverage the work and talent of others to create value for their customers and wealth for themselves. How a Christian Business Owner manages the wealth that God gives him or her (Deuteronomy 8) is a core stewardship issue about which God will evaluate the owner. So, given that the Bible gives us everything we need to know from the mind of God in order to live righteously before Him, it behooves us business owners to understand and follow what God has told us about wealth.

Why look to the book of Proverbs? Because “the purpose of a proverb is to help one choose the best course of action among those available—the foolish way is to be avoided and the wise way followed.” (Ross, A. P. (1991). Proverbs. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Vol. 5, p. 904). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.)

This post look at the concept of wealth in the book of Proverbs. What does Proverbs have to say about wealth and how does this teaching guide a Christian Business Owner? Let’s take a look.

The Concept of Wealth in Proverbs

The following references to wealth exist in Proverbs:

Proverbs 3.9-10

Honor the Lord with your wealth,

with the first fruits of all your crops;

10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,

and your vats will brim over with new wine

Principle: the first part of our wealth that God gives to us should be given back to Him in recognition that God gave it to us in the first place. In exchange, we are promised abundance and fullness.

Proverbs 5.10

Now then, my sons, listen to me;

do not turn aside from what I say.

Keep to a path far from her,

do not go near the door of her house,

lest you lose your honor to others

and your dignity to one who is cruel,

10 lest strangers feast on your wealth

and your toil enrich the house of another.

Principle: when we spend our money on sin, we enrich the house of another and we lose our honor and dignity (see Proverbs 29.3 for a similar teaching).

Proverbs 8.12-19

I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;

I possess knowledge and discretion.

13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil;

I hate pride and arrogance,

evil behavior and perverse speech.

14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine;

I have insight, I have power.

15 By me kings reign

and rulers issue decrees that are just;

16 by me princes govern,

and nobles—all who rule on earth.

17 I love those who love me,

and those who seek me find me.

18 With me are riches and honor,

enduring wealth and prosperity.

19 My fruit is better than fine gold;

what I yield surpasses choice silver

Principle: gaining wealth is the result of pursuing and possessing wisdom, knowledge and discretion. In Proverbs, “wisdom, right behavior, and devotion to God are inseparably bound…” (Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Vol. 14, p. 84). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

Proverbs 10.4

Lazy hands make for poverty,

but diligent hands bring wealth

Principle: you can’t get rich by being lazy. Bachman Turner Overdrive had it wrong (even though I like the tune – it’s rather catchy):

You get up every morning from your alarm clock’s warning
Take the 8:15 into the city
There’s a whistle up above and people pushin’, people shovin’
And the girls who try to look pretty
And if your train’s on time, you can get to work by nine
And start your slaving job to get your pay
If you ever get annoyed, look at me I’m self-employed
I love to work at nothing all day

And I’ll be taking care of business (every day)
Taking care of business (every way)
I’ve been taking care of business (it’s all mine)
Taking care of business and working overtime, work out

If it were easy as fishin’ you could be a musician
If you could make sounds loud or mellow
Get a second-hand guitar, chances are you’ll go far
If you get in with the right bunch of fellows
People see you having fun just a-lying in the sun
Tell them that you like it this way
It’s the work that we avoid [emphasis added], and we’re all self-employed
We love to work at nothing all day

And we be taking care of business (every day)
Taking care of business (every way)
We be been taking care of business (it’s all mine)
Taking care of business and working overtime

Proverbs 10.15

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city,

but poverty is the ruin of the poor

Principle: the wealth of the rich is their security, but this must be tempered with other teachings on wealth (see also 18.11 where this same idea is stated).

Proverbs 10.22

The blessing of the Lord brings wealth,

without painful toil for it

Principle: The Lord’s blessing can greatly reduce the effects of the original curses God placed on work (see Genesis 3.17)

Proverbs 11.4

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath,

but righteousness delivers from death

Principle: Wealth will not impress God at the Judgment Seat. Only your righteousness (which is imputed to us anyways by God through Christ’s atonement) will save us on that day. Your wealth is temporal and has no eternal value.

Proverbs 11.16

A kindhearted woman gains honor,

but ruthless men gain only wealth

Principle: Evil men can acquire wealth, but they cannot acquire the higher valuables in life, such as honor.

Proverbs 14.24

The wealth of the wise is their crown,

but the folly of fools yields folly

Principle: Wealth is an ornament for those who use it well.

Proverbs 15.16

Better a little with the fear of the Lord

than great wealth with turmoil

Principle: Wealth is not nearly as valuable as fearing the Lord.

Proverbs 19.4

Wealth attracts many friends,

but even the closest friend of the poor person deserts them

Principle: People like to be around wealthy people. Money attracts “friends”. Be careful, however, as these “friends” will desert you when you’re poor. Blood, Sweat and Tears had it right:

Them that’s got, shall get
Them that’s not, shall lose
So the Bible said, and it still is news
Mama may have, and papa may have

God bless’ the child,
That’s got his own
That’s got his own
Yes the strong seem to get more

While the weak ones fade
Empty pockets don’t
Ever make the grade
As mama may have

And papa may have
God bless’ the child
That’s got his own
That’s got his own.

And when you got money,
You got a lots of friends
Crowdin’ ’round your door
When the money’s gone

And all you’re spendin’ ends
They won’t be ’round any more
No, no, no more
[emphasis added]
And rich relations

May give you
A crust of bread and such
You can help yourself
But don’t take too much

Mama may have
And your papa may have
But God bless’ the child
That’s got his own

That’s got his own
God bless’ the child who can stand up and say
I’ve got my own
Ev’ry child’s, got to have his own!

Proverbs 19.14

Houses and wealth are inherited from parents,

but a prudent wife is from the Lord

Principle: Material wealth can be gained by earthly means, but the most valuable things we want in life come from the Lord.

Proverbs 22.16

One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth

and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty

Principle: The sure way to become impoverished is to make your money on the backs of the poor. Why? Because God is the defender of the poor and He will set Himself against you.

Proverbs 28.8

Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor

amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor

Principle: When you make your money by taking advantage of the poor, you will amass wealth, but God will ensure your wealth lands in the hands of another who will be kind to them – who will not take advantage of them.

Summary

Here is an introduction for Proverbs’ teaching on wealth:

Verse or Passage Core Principle Application for Christian Business Owners
Proverbs 3.9-10 We give back the first part of our wealth to remind ourselves Who gave us our wealth. It teaches us humility and giving. Our minimum giving should be our tithe. Our maximum giving should be more than our tithe as God leads and directs us.
Proverbs 5.10 Do not spend money to sin. God will take away your wealth and you will lose your honor and dignity as well as your wealth. Take seriously how you entertain customers, partners, vendors and so forth. Do not invest in businesses that create sin.
Proverbs 8.12-19 Wisdom, wealth, right behavior and devotion to God are inseparably bound You can’t live with private sin and expect God to bless you financially.
Proverbs 10.4 You can’t get rich unless you work hard Avoid “get rich quick” schemes – they don’t exit. Avoid laziness. Work hard and yet don’t become a work-a-holic.
Proverbs 10.15 Wealth provides security. Don’t think your wealth is your primary security. Part of the reason we tithe and gift our wealth is because we know that God is our ultimate security and provider.
Proverbs 10.22 When we live in righteousness, even our hardest work is not that hard and God gives us increased productivity Walk with God in righteous and you will find your work is more productive and not as “painful” as it was when you were living in sin (2 Chronicles 7.13-15)
Proverbs 11.4 While wealth may be a sign of blessing from God, it’s not a ticket into heaven. Only your righteousness before God – which is given to you anyways – is your way into heaven. Wealth is temporal – righteousness is eternal Put your trust in eternal things in God alone. Your wealth is worthless outside of these worldly systems.
Proverbs 11.16 The highest valuables you really want in life cannot be purchased with money. Pursue the most valuable things that can be found only in God. Keep your wealth in it’s’ place so that it can be used for God’s Kingdom.
Proverbs 14.24 Wealth is like an ornament to the wealthy person when it is used properly Ask God how He would have you use your wealth. It doesn’t belong to you – it belongs to God to be used for his purposes on this earth. Be willing to live at a lower standard of living in order to use your wealth for God’s Kingdom.
Proverbs 19.4 Wealth attracts people – lots of them who will claim to be your loyal, trusted friend. Don’t fall for this ruse. As you become wealthier, don’t fall for the schemes of those who want to cozy up to you with a hidden agenda of getting at your wealth. Be careful who you trust with your wealth and your information.
Proverbs 19.14 Material wealth can be gained by earthly means, but the most valuable things we want in life come from the Lord. Set your heart on treasures in heaven, not on acquiring treasures on this earth
Proverbs 22.16 The sure way to become impoverished is to make your money on the backs of the poor. Why? Because God is the defender of the poor and He will set Himself against you Pay fair wages. Ask for honest work. Train your employees. Focus on building them up and making them better people, not just better workers
Proverbs 28.8 When you make your money by taking advantage of the poor, you will amass wealth, but God will ensure your wealth lands in the hands of another who will be kind to them – who will not take advantage of them Be kind to the poor – help them out by providing good work and a fair wage. Give them work even when you don’t need it. Protect their dignity by providing work for them.

I’ve written this list elsewhere on this site, but it bears repeating here:

  • Money can buy a house, but it can’t buy a home.
  • Money can buy medicine, but it can’t buy health.
  • Money can buy a thrill, but it can’t buy satisfaction.
  • Money can buy power, but it can’t buy respect.
  • Money can buy sex, but it can’t buy intimacy.
  • Money can buy an education, but it can’t buy wisdom.
  • Money can buy a membership, but it can’t buy friendship.
  • Money can buy an army, but it can’t buy peace.
  • Money can buy servants, but it can’t buy loyalty.
  • Money can buy prestige, but it can’t buy a reputation.
  • Money can buy a religion, but it can’t buy a savior.

The things we most deeply want in life cannot be purchased by money. It’s one of the great lies of Satan – that money will satisfy you. Everything you really want in life is found, ultimately, in the person of Jesus Christ.

God gives differing amounts of wealth to those in the body of Christ. To whom much is given, much is required. If you are a Christian Business Owner, take a moment to check yourself against the truths of Proverbs. And then take whatever action God asks of you in response to your self-assessment.

Bill English
Founder, Bible and Business

Using Social Media in the Hiring Process

The question is this: “Is it ethical to search for data about a candidate on Facebook, Twitter and other sources? We’ll assume the candidate has not submitted this digital information about themselves.

From where I sit, this is not an ethical problem.  If they freely post information about themselves and don’t privatize it using the tools within Facebook or other social platforms, then I think it is safe to assume that they intend for non-friends and non-family to view their information.  If they didn’t know or didn’t think about setting privacy features in these platforms, then that alone might give me pause about their candidacy.

In the old days, we asked for references and talked with those references about the candidate.  Those references were supplied by the candidate, but were also prescreened (presumably), so I always wondered if I got the real truth when talking with a reference.

Today, we can bypass references (I find they are not that helpful, frankly) and I can learn more about a person just be looking through social media than I can by talking with references.  Again, these posts are voluntary and are in the public domain.  Seems to me that if one’s trash is public information, then one’s posts on social media are as well.

Now, having said all this, the book Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age  makes the argument (among several) that it is not a social good for us to have a medium where our past follows us perfectly (an argument with which I agree):

“Since the beginning of time, for us humans, forgetting has been the norm and remembering the exception. Because of digital technology and global networks, however, this balance has shifted. Today, with the help of widespread technology, forgetting has become the exception, and remembering the default…Do we want a future that is forever unforgiving because it is unforgetting? “Now a stupid adolescent mistake can take on major implications and go on their records for the rest of their lives,” comments Catherine Davis, a PTA co-president. If we had to worry that any information about us would be remembered for longer than we live, would we still express our views on matters of trivial gossip, share personal experiences, make various political comments, or would we self-censor? The chilling effect of perfect memory alters our behavior…the demise of forgetting has consequences much wider and more troubling than a frontal onslaught on how humans have constructed and maintained their reputation over time. If all our past activities, transgressions or not, are always present, how can we disentangle ourselves from them in our thinking and decision-making? Might perfect remembering make us as unforgiving to ourselves as to others? (Mayer-Schönberger, Viktor. Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.)

These are important questions because the opportunity to “start over” – create a “clean slate” or “rebrand” yourself is far more difficult in a world where memory is perfect, searchable and just a click away.  Those who browse through a candidates’ posts should browse through their own first just to remind themselves of the (probable) double standard they are likely to employ:  “I’ll be hard on this guy but would expect others to be forgiving of my past”.

I get posts now in Facebook with pictures I’ve long forgotten were there.  I’m honestly thinking of killing my FaceBook and Twitter accounts because of the perfect memory of the internet.  Why have that sitting around?  It does me little good. This is why many politicians just kill their social media accounts – too dangerous to have out there in the wild internet and have past posts and pictures used against them.

Mayer goes on to write:

“Google knows for each one of us what we searched for and when, and what search results we found promising enough that we clicked on them. Google knows about the big changes in our lives—that you shopped for a house in 2000 after your wedding, had a health scare in 2003, and a new baby the year later. But Google also knows minute details about us. Details we have long forgotten, discarded from our mind as irrelevant, but which nevertheless shed light on our past: perhaps that we once searched for an employment attorney when we considered legal action against a former employer, researched a mental health issue, looked for a steamy novel, or booked ourselves into a secluded motel room to meet a date while still in another relationship. Each of these information bits we have put out of our mind, but chances are Google hasn’t. Quite literally, Google knows more about us than we can remember ourselves. (Mayer-Schönberger, Viktor. Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.)

Everytime you go online, every time you search, every time you do anything on the internet – someone isn’t just watching, they are recording what you’re doing.  Is this not the thrust of the argument against our Federal Government when Greenwald writes in his book No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State in his chapter the Harm of Surveillance: 

“When Google CEO Eric Schmidt was asked in a 2009 CNBC interview about concerns over his company’s retention of user data, he infamously replied: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” With equal dismissiveness, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a 2010 interview that “people have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people.” Privacy in the digital age is no longer a “social norm,” he claimed, a notion that handily serves the interests of a tech company trading on personal information…A comprehensive experiment conducted in 1975 by Stanford University psychologists Gregory White and Philip Zimbardo, entitled “The Chilling Effects of Surveillance,” sought to assess whether being watched had an impact on the expression of controversial political opinions. The impetus for the study was Americans’ concerns about surveillance by the government: The Watergate scandal, revelations of White House bugging, and Congressional investigations of domestic spying by the Central Intelligence Agency have served to underscore the developing paranoid theme of American life: Big Brother may be watching you! Proposals for national data banks, uses of surveillance helicopters by urban police forces, the presence of observation cameras in banks and supermarkets, and airport security searches of person and property are but some of the signs that our private lives are under such increasing scrutiny. The participants were placed under varying levels of surveillance and asked to give their views on the legalization of marijuana. It turned out that “threatened” subjects—those who were told that their statements would be shared with the police “for training purposes”—were more likely to condemn marijuana usage and to use second- and third-person pronouns (“you,” “they,” “people”) in their language. Only 44 percent of subjects under surveillance advocated for legalization, compared to 77 percent of those not so “threatened.” Tellingly, percent of the participants being monitored spontaneously sought approval from the researchers (asking, for example, “Is that all right?”), whereas only 7 percent of the other group did so. Participants who were “threatened” also scored significantly higher on feelings of anxiety and inhibition. White and Zimbardo noted in their conclusion that the “threat or actuality of government surveillance may psychologically inhibit freedom of speech.” They added that while their “research design did not allow for the possibility of ‘avoiding assembly,'” they expected that “the anxiety generated by the threat of surveillance would cause many people to totally avoid situations” in which they might be monitored. “Since such assumptions are limited only by one’s imagination and are encouraged daily by revelations of government and institutional invasion of privacy,” they wrote, “the boundaries between paranoid delusions and justified cautions indeed become tenuous.” (Greenwald, Glenn. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State. Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.)

Once a person truly understands what they are doing when they post in social media and how the internet *never* forgives and can make an action 10 years old current simply by referencing what is held in storage on some hard drive, then it becomes easy to see why people are starting to get off social media or carefully choreograph their social interactions.

Foundations of Christian Stewardship Part II: It’s about God’s Agenda

The second element in understanding Biblical stewardship for Christian business owners is a natural follow-on to the first element, which was God owns everything and it is this:

All events are orchestrated by God to serve God’s agenda

This can be a bit disconcerting to us Type A people who like to control everything. We like to roll up our sleeves and get stuff done. But Proverbs 16.4 is clear: “The Lord works out everything for His own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster.” (There are other passages that could be cited beyond this one)

As Christian business owners, we need to understand that trusting in God and replacing our agenda with His is the essence of trusting in God. Garrett writes:

“Biblical righteousness is fundamentally an attitude of trust in God, an attitude implicitly and explicitly demanded in 16:1, 3. Wickedness, too, is more than simple disobedience to the commandments; it is above all manifest in an attitude of pride” (Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of songs (Vol. 14, pp. 152–153). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers).

It is natural for us business owners to think about our agenda for our business. But have you ever taken time to learn from God what His agenda is for His business that He has entrusted to you? This directly goes to the core purposes for business: Passions, Products, Profits and Philanthropy. The four core purposes for business, collectively, need to be the organizing principle to which our businesses – our entrustment from the Lord – are tethered.

What is the Lord asking you to do with His business? How is He asking you to manage it, grow it, use it to further His kingdom? Are you developing the passions and talents in the people God has brought to you? Are you developing new products and services that will enable your community to flourish? Are you using your profits as directed by God – perhaps giving away more than is normal because God wants to bless you as a giver and wants to bless others engaged in other ministries? Does God’s agenda for your business drive your strategy and tactics?

Take time today to do an inventory of your person and work. Remember that God owns everything – including your business – and He will orchestrate the events of your life and your business so that you are working in concert with Him to accomplish His agenda.

Bill English

Are you Called or Driven?

In our Bible class yesterday at church, we discussed James 2.14-26:

“14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” a and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

We also looked at Ephesians 2.8-10:

“8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

The thrust of what our teacher was saying is that we are saved only by grace, but our salvation, our faith, is evidenced by “good works” which God has prepared for us to do.

For whatever reason, during the class, the Holy Spirit was bringing to my mind the warning passage in Matthew 7:21-23:

“21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ”

How are the connected, if at all? How could people do such wonderful things and NOT know Christ? I believe the answer is as follows:

Those in Matthew 7 focused on the results, not on knowing God. I wonder, honestly, if some who do so many great things for Christ really knew him. I recall spending my freshman year at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana. Their motto is this: “To know Him and to make Him known”. That’s the right focus and the right order. I will suggest that no matter what we accomplish on this year, none of it matters if we don’t know Christ on an intimate and personal level.

Those in Matthew 7 were highly talented people who were likely seen as being very spiritual and rather successful. I think it would be tough to imagine that these folks were not both popular and seen as spiritual leaders since they could drive out demons and perform miracles.

Those in Matthew 7 were NOT accomplishing the Will of God. It’s hard to imagine that God didn’t want demons driving out or miracles performed, but then again, we have trouble understanding how evil spirits could be sent by God to torment Saul or incite David to take a census or be allowed to afflict Job. It’s not as if once the demons are eradicated that God can now do His work. That is such an immature view of God. No, God can do His work and accomplish His will just fine even when the demonic are present.

We are saved with a view to us doing “good works”. The catch here is that we don’t get to choose or define what a “good work” is. Only God gets to do that. And Ephesians 2.10 is clear: He is preparing us for the work and He is at work in the future preparing the work for us so that when we are called to do the work, the work is prepared for us to be successful and we are prepared to do the work successfully.

Now, we can mess this up in a number of ways. One way that Christian Business Owners – people who are highly talented, smart, energetic and so forth – can mess this up is to see into the future what could be and then decide that it should be and that the combination of the two represents God’s call on our business. I would suggest that we can be led astray from what God is calling us to do when we mistake our drive to be successful for God’s call on our lives.

A “good work” has the following characteristics:

  1. It is a work which God has prepared in advance for us to do
  2. It is a work that God has prepared us to do
  3. It is a work that we learn about through time spent with God
  4. It is a work that is an outgrowth of our faith

With reference to #2, let’s bear in mind that if we can accomplish the work solely through our own talent, then I would question if it is a “good work”. There is much we can accomplish apart from God, but our achievement in “good works” simply must be born in our relationship with God. What is God calling you and I to do? What “good work” has He prepared for us to do?

Our faith in Christ is evidenced by our doing good works. Good works are those which accomplish the will of God. We can do spectacular things which appear to be accomplishing God’s will without ever knowing Christ. We will only know what those good works that God has prepared for us to do are by spending time with God, hearing His voice, knowing Him intimately.

If you do the latter – no matter what you accomplish – you will be doing good works. If you do not do the latter, you are in danger of being told to leave His presence because He “never knew you”.

Bill English

When Leadership Provides Status, Meaning and Power, it’s Hard to Give Up

For the senior generation in a family business, their leadership in their business and family has provided status, meaning, power, and other rewards. Hence, the greatest impediments to peaceful transitions are the senior leaders’ fear of losing it all.

Their dual role as a leader in the family gives them a sense of “specialness” that comes with the leader’s belief that he or she is uniquely qualified to lead. Status and specialness reinforce each other and the two combined is a core reason why the senior generation often stays on in the family business well after they should. Couple that with the second generation’s ambivalence as to when is the right time to ask mom and dad to step aside and it becomes easy to see why the family system supports the putting off of the necessary transition until there is no other choice.

This is why Christian Business Owners are taught to hold their business with an open hand – an entrustment from the Lord who is the ultimate HR director of their company. When a business owner walks closely with the Lord and values His direction more than the perks of ownership, when God calls the owner to retire and focus on something else, the owner more easily lets go of his position.

I’m not saying it is easy – just that it is easier because the personal value system of a Christian Business Owner is different from others – or at least it should be.

Status and power are fleeting. Meaning in life should come from our identity in Christ and a deep sense of fulfilling our calling before Him. Leadership is about service to others – not being the top-dog who gets the limelight. For Christians, our transformation in the Lord ought to change us to recognize what status and power really are: temporary and worldly constructs that will not last into eternity.

Think about men such as Napoleon, Hitler, Charlemagne, Nebuchadnezzar, Mao Zedong and others….men who would have become God had they been able to. Yet only one God became man – Jesus Christ. Our example of leadership, power and status is one who gave it all up in order to accomplish God’s will. We should be the same as Him. Philippians is helpful at this point:

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

The mature Christian Business Owner will recognize when it is time to move on – time to leave his business to his children (or sell it) and take the next steps of obedience to Christ. Power, status, meaning and rewards will pale in comparison to what he (or she) has with the Lord.

If you’re a Christian Business Owner who knows it is time to transition out of your business but you’re having a hard time doing so, then please draw near to God and let Him transform your hear, your values, your identity – everything about you. You’ll then find that giving up the business when He calls you to do so will be the right step and you’ll take it in boldness and confidence, knowing that God has His hand on you and is working “all things together for good”.

Bill English

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