Category Archives: Christian Living

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

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

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

Keeping Yourself Pure and Why it Matters

What happens to a Christian Business Owner when he is in bondage to impurity?

Even though the current DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Revision 5) publish by the APA (American Psychiatric Association) does not include sexual addictions as a stand-alone diagnosis (http://www.projectknow.com/research/sex-addiction-effects/), the effects of constant attention to sex and sexual elements in one’s life has devastating effects on a Christian Business Owner’s ability to fulfill his role as a steward of that which God has given to him.

Note: Even though I’m using the male gender in this article, it should be noted that the population of women who are addicted to sex is on the rise. While their numbers dwarf in comparison to the numbers of addicts for males, it is a growing problem that will need to be addressed by the Christian community.

Paraphilia is a word used in this area to describe (also known as sexual perversion and sexual deviation) the experience of intense sexual arousal to atypical objects, situations, fantasies, behaviors, or individuals. Such attraction may be labeled sexual fetishism. The previous version of the DSM (DSM-IV-TR) describes paraphilias as “recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors generally involving nonhuman objects, the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one’s partner, or children or other nonconsenting persons that occur over a period of six months” (criterion A), which “cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” (criterion B).

Note: The DSM-IV-TR names eight specific paraphilic disorders (exhibitionism, fetishism, frotteurism, pedophilia, sexual masochism, sexual sadism, voyeurism, and transvestic fetishism, plus a residual category, paraphilia—not otherwise specified). Criterion B differs for exhibitionism, frotteurism, and pedophilia to include acting on these urges, and for sadism, acting on these urges with a nonconsenting person. Some paraphilias may interfere with the capacity for sexual activity with consenting adult partners. Noe that in the DSM, a paraphilia is not diagnosable as a psychiatric disorder unless it causes distress to the individual or harm to others.

The negative effects of impurity are as follows:

  • Less time spent doing hobbies or hanging out with friends and loved ones.
  • Loss of productivity at work and at home due to the distraction of the sexual addiction.
  • Financial problems related to overspending in an attempt to satisfy the sexual addiction.
  • Loss of employment due to absences, accessing restricted content on the job, workplace sexual harassment, or any other problem related to sexual addiction.
  • Increased chance that substances will be abused.

People who are in bondage to sex and impurity often describe their lives as:

  • Abnormal.
  • Sick.
  • Guilty.
  • Anxious.
  • Ashamed.
  • Regretful.
  • Depressed.
  • Uncomfortable.
  • Numb.
  • Hollow.
  • Empty.

But the relational side-effects are difficult as well:

  • Loss of trust because of lies, deceit, and denial of hurtful things being done.
  • Difficulty in achieving real intimacy, either because of violations of trust that have occurred or because sexual partners are looked at more as objects than as individuals.
  • Failed relationships due to infidelity, lies, or lack of trust.
  • The chance that sexual addiction will lead to legal problems if the behaviors escalate to illegal activities, such as child pornography, soliciting sex, exposing yourself, rape, or any other violation of the law.

So, now that we’ve taken a look at the general effects of bondage to impurity, we need to ask the question with which we started: How does living in bondage to sexual impurity manifest itself in Christian Business Owners? I will suggest that there are five devastating effects:

Lose God’s blessing and start to live under curses (2 Chronicles 7.14)

I have written about 2 Chronicles 7.14 elsewhere on this blog (here, here, here and here), so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice to say that until you repent of your sin and turn away from it, God will not be able to bless you. Instead, you will live under His curses. You don’t want to live under God’s curses.

The larger point, from 2 Chronicles 7.14 is that your “land” (think “my business”) will not be healed (assume your sin is causing problems in your business) until you repent of your sin. Keep living in sin and your business will continue to be unhealthy – sick – diseased and so forth. Your cash flow problems might look like a collection problem, but consider that God is causing your customers to pay late. Your employee problems might look like training and maturity issues, but consider that God is causing enmity to exist between yourself and your employees that cannot be resolved by training courses. It may be that, no matter what you do, your business is deteriorating. You’re living under the confusion, curses and rebuke (Deuteronomy 28.20, 28) that comes from God when we, as Christians, live in sin.

I would suggest you get on your knees and see what sin you have that needs to be confessed before God, repent of your sin, then listen to His voice to see what your next steps are, both in life and in your business.

We lose our strength to discern and fight the spiritual battles that a Steward of God will need to fight

Your business does not belong to you – it belongs to God. Everything we have comes from God. We are merely stewards of that which God has given to us. When we live in sin, we lose our sensibilities (Deuteronomy 28.20, 28) and our arrogance kicks in, causing us to think that we can handle it – we can do it on our own. You know, Samson killed over 1000 men in his defense of Israel, but it took only one woman to bring him down. If you can no longer spot the spiritual battles that you’re in because you’ve lost your spiritual radar due to your own sin, then it will be no wonder that Satan will play you like a puppet. As a business owner, can you discern when you’re in a spiritual battle?

Lose your honor and dignity

Assuming your sin comes to light, you’ll lose your honor and dignity in the company of your church, your personal network and your business network. Is your impurity worth it?

Lose your wealth

You’ll lose your wealth either by spending it on one or more women or by your business deteriorating to the point of bankruptcy. But either way, the Bible promises that you’ll lose your wealth. Just consider the first part of Proverbs 5:

7 Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say.

8 Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house,

9 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.

11 At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent.

12 You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction!

13 I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors.

14 And I was soon in serious trouble in the assembly of God’s people

If you’re in bondage to impurity – then do whatever it takes to get free. Do it today. We recommend using Resolute’s Video series to help you get started.   It’s the only way you can steward your business for God in a way that will be pleasing to Him.

Bill English

Do not Wear Yourself Out to get Rich

Proverbs 23.4: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint”.

Hmmm……

Are you serious? Turn away good customers who are ready to buy my products and services?

Yep.

Do you mean, work less even though I could make more money and thus give more money to God?

Yep. (Hint: God doesn’t need your money)

Are you kidding me? Restrain my sales team?

Yep.

Think about it.

Why would God have written this – intended for our good? I can think of at least four reasons.

First, when we throttle our businesses and our success, we purposefully create margin in our lives so that we have time for the things that really matter – time with God and with family. I’ve met way too many business owners who chase the next deal, loading up their over-worked staffs with more and more work because they are incapable of throttling themselves or turning down another deal. These individuals have no margin. They usually end up crashing, losing their marriages, key employees and losing their money too. They burnout. They didn’t build in margin. They tried to stuff too much work into too few hours.

Second, when we throttle our businesses and our success, we demonstrate that we love God more than money. Many successful business owners get a taste of success and they are instantly hooked. They become intoxicated. They become driven by their need for money – they love it – they love profits – they love wealth and riches. They pursue what they love and no matter how much they have, they always want more. Christians are not to be like this.

Thirdly, when we throttle our businesses and our success, we show our employees respect by not expecting them to work longer and longer hours to support more and more sales. We show that we want them to have a life outside of work and we support them by making sure their workload is reasonable.

Lastly, when we throttle our businesses and our success, we show that we value wisdom and understanding more than money or riches. Proverbs is constantly comparing the value of material wealth to wisdom and you know what? Wisdom wins every time. Have the wisdom…. It takes wisdom to show restraint, because only the wise understand the empty and fleeting nature of wealth.

Money and wealth will never make your happy. Never. Ever. Never. Never. Never. Never.

So don’t be fooled. Work hard – yes. Make money – yes (see Luke 19). But if you can make more by pushing yourself and your staff to being out of balance, then turn back and have the wisdom to show restraint. Money isn’t worth it. Turn your heart to Jesus Christ. Only He can fill that big, empty void you’re stuffing with money. Let Him fill you and you’ll find yourself having the wisdom to show restraint.

Bill English

How Open Should an Owner Be about Their Christian Faith?

Recently, I’ve had several Christian Business Owners ask me about how much of their faith should they openly display in their business.

Their question brought me back to my high school days in which one of my classmate’s father owned a business. I was going to see him about purchasing a yearbook advertisement when I couldn’t help but notice in his lobby this rather large sign on the wall:

“This business is dedicated to the glory of Jesus Christ”.

If I recall correctly, he had lost both his business and his wife about a year later due to his affair with his rather well-blessed secretary.

How much should a Christian Business Owner share about his or her faith with employees, vendors, partners, customers and the community? Interestingly enough, the Bible is silent on this question. When you consider the four core purposes for business – Products, Passions, Profits and Philanthropy – you’ll find that even in fulfilling the purposes God has for business, there is ample room for variation on the degree of intensity and the frequency of display in which Christian Business Owners can engage when integrating their business into their faith.

However, I find that Esther’s life can give us some principles to live out which will call all of us in business – to one degree or another – to display our faith in the marketplace. But it won’t be some pretty sign or pithy saying or eloquent web page. We’ll have to lay our lives bare and be willing to risk it all to stay faithful to Jesus Christ.

At this point, if you’ve not read the book of Esther, I would ask that you stop reading this article – go read the book of Esther and then return here to continue.

You didn’t go read it, did you? Ok – we’ll move on anyways.

Esther was a Jew who, through a series of events, became the Queen to Xerxes, a king who seemed to like food (he was always holding a banquet), money (he used the banquets to display all his wealth) and women (he made sure he enjoyed an endless supply of women and rated them on how well they pleased him). So, we have a guy who probably was fat, very rich, all powerful and loved sex. Other than the “all powerful” part, this seems to describe many men in American today. There really is nothing new under the sun.

Not to be crude, but I suspect he enjoyed all kinds of sex – I doubt little was outside his range of enjoyment. Recall at the beginning of Esther, he wanted to display the beauty of wife for everyone to see – which meant he wanted to display her body fully naked to show all the men what he could enjoy at any moment, any time, at his discretion. She was just another luxury he had that others didn’t have. His arrogance was profound.

So, Esther makes it all the way to being his Queen without ever revealing her identity or her religion. Commentators have taken her to task for this, roundly criticizing her silence about her beliefs. I’m not so sure I’m all that critical of her. One can’t really know what it was like to have such luxuries given to them in exchange for pleasing the most powerful man on earth sexually. Today, we would call her a trophy wife or a “kept woman” or at the worst, a prostitute.

Yet, the writer of Esther doesn’t condemn her for her silence. Instead, the writer focused on God having placed her in her position of favor with the King so that His people could be saved. Much like Esther, as business owners, we have been entrusted with position and a platform in our communities.

Through another series of events, Esther becomes the only person on the planet who could save the Jews from complete eradication from the face of the earth and through her bravery along with three days of fasting before the Lord, God saves his people.

Now there are two macro points that I believe can be applied appropriately to Christians who own businesses. The first is this: silence about your beliefs is not condemned in this story. Now, before all you folks who protest that we should never be silent about our beliefs, I want to point out that there is a certain decorum that is expected in the business world about how faith is lived out – especially from those who don’t believe the way we do. Even within Christian circles, there are different level of comfort and expectations about how one goes about sharing their faith appropriately. Don’t be so quick to judge others if you don’t share your faith regularly. And if you do, check your arrogance at the door. God hasn’t made you like another and vice versa. I can’t find a place in the Bible where we are commanded to openly share our faith in the marketplace.

When I first started in business, we had daily prayer sessions at my business. I made it clear that no one was forced to attend and that non-attendance or attendance at the prayer times would have no effect at all on performance reviews. After about a year, it became clear to me that some used those times to get out of meetings in which they should have participated. It caused problems. My staff was about half Christian, half not. Those who didn’t believe didn’t say anything, but I received back-channel messages that all were not enthusiastic about the prayer times. I, myself, found it was more and more difficult to attend due to my travel schedule and my heavy meeting load when I was in the office. The prayer times eventually faded away and I didn’t try to resuscitate them. Was I wrong? I don’t think so.

I’ve met some business owners who open meetings with prayer. I was one of them. I’ve met others who feel it is wrong to share your faith with employees due to the power imbalance between an owner and an employee. I’ve often wondered how I would react if I worked for a Muslim employer who took time, with half the staff, to pull out their mats and pray toward Mecca. How would I feel? Would I be drawn to Islam as a result? Or would I resent that those who shared my employer’s faith got, essentially, an extended break to practice their faith while I was expected to work? Would I judge he quality of their work more closely because of their openness about their faith? Probably. I’m human, you know.

How open or silent you are about your faith with your employees, I’ve concluded, is a decision to be explored between you and God. I am not in a place to tell you what to do or not do. I believe this is one area in which we need to allow freedom and difference – and to value those differences.

The second point we can learn from the story of Esther is this: God has given us a position of status and a platform for speaking out at the right time by entrusting us with a business in the marketplace. I will suggest that as time passes, more and more of us will be called to risk everything we have to stand up for God. Esther risked her life to stand up for her people and God. He may very well ask you to do the same. I think the question will be whether or not we will be faithful to God, even if it means losing our business and our source of income, not to mention our reputations and influence. In the face of death, Esther stood up. Will you stand up? Will I?

The legal environment in which we operate is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity. The cleavage is widening and the divergences are become more profound. I don’t think we’re too far away from the Bible being labled as hate speech by the LGBTQ community and seeing them use the court system to create a set of laws that will profoundly call us to faithfulness and suffering. Christian businesses are under attack. There is a growing segment of our society that sees us as the real terrorists in America. Just read So many Christians, So Few Lions if you don’t believe me. Do you have a proper theology of suffering? Are you prepared to suffer for Christ?

So, in short, how much of your faith should you share in your own business – that’s entirely up to you and the Lord, in my opinion. On the second point, if God calls you to suffer publicly for Him and lose your business, will you stand up? Will you lose it all for Christ? On this question, I fear many more Christian Business Owners will be called by God to suffer. I think the jury is out on how many will be faithful.

Bill English

Sorry, Christians Don’t Get to Retire

I have referenced how I believe that we will need to work well into our 70’s because I simply don’t believe that most have saved enough to be independently wealthy and whatever safety nets that are provided by the Federal Government will have negligible effect in 15 or 20 years.

But I’ve not dealt with retirement, as a concept, directly until now. So let me be direct and blunt:

The Scriptures do not support the notion of retirement.

Retirement implies stagnation, non-productivity and ceasing of growth. It has been retired. It is no longer useful. No longer helpful. No longer “part of the game”.

Sorry, Christians don’t get to become useless, unhelpful, irrelevant and unproductive. It’s not part of God’s plan and it’s not part of His will.

Work is a gift from God. Work existed before the Fall, so work is not a result of the fall nor is work part of the curse that God placed on Adam. I can find no place in the Bible where there is even a hint of support for our American concept of retirement – sitting back, relaxing every day, being non-productive and living off the money we have saved or inherited.

What I do find are passages like this:

Isaiah 60.21-22:

They are the shoot I have planted,

the work of my hands,

for the display of my splendor.

The least of you will become a thousand,

the smallest a mighty nation.

In Psalm 1.3, the Godly person is one who:

…is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—

whatever they do prospers

In 1 Corinthians 3.6, Paul uses the imagery of growth when he talks about him planting a seed, Apollos water but giving glory to God because He is the one who causes a person to grow.

One can even point to Philippians 1.3-5, where Paul writes:

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

The idea is that God never stops working in us to grow the “good work” and that He does so until the “day of Christ Jesus”.

The passages I have cited at the tip of the iceberg. There are literally dozens of passages that indicate that God is creative and that He wants us to work and grow until we reach heaven.

Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t sell your business as you get older, but it does mean that as a Christian, you’re not allowed to sit back and do nothing. You must be growing – developing – learning – becoming – until the day you see Christ face to face.

Sorry, Christians don’t get to retire.

Christian Business Owners Never Stop Learning and Growing

Proverbs 8.10-11 says this:

10 Choose my instruction instead of silver,

knowledge rather than choice gold,

11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies,

and nothing you desire can compare with her

The command is pretty clear: choose instruction and knowledge over money and wealth, because the wisdom that you gain from instruction and knowledge is more precious than any wealth you can accumulate.

There are many things worth more than money and wealth, the Bible teaches. This is just one instance where material wealth is deprecated in relationship to something else that God gives us. Another example is 1 Peter 1.3-7:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. [emphasis added]

Note that Peter tells us our faith is more valuable than gold – more valuable than material wealth.

It is a common temptation for Christian Business Owners to desire wealth because we have such a strong potential for creating it. When we own a business, our potential to create wealth is greatly enhanced when compared to a person who is employed with a predictable salary. And frankly, it is fun to make money. There is a feeling of satisfaction that we get when we’ve closed a big deal or earned a sizable bonus. Such reinforcements to creating wealth can build within us a deep desire to make more money – to get that feeling of satisfaction over and over, stronger and stronger.

Yet Proverbs tells us that we should pursue knowledge and instruction ahead of pursuing wealth creation. Peter reminds us that our faith is worth more than any retained earners we’ll create on our balance sheet.

Another common temptation for Christian Business Owners is to “pack it in” – to coast. To reach a certain age and then stop growing and developing, whether personally or professionally. When we do this, we’re running counter to the given assumptions of the Proverb’s passage – i.e., that we’ll be in a state of always growing and developing. Don’t let the lure of wealth with its’ comforts and perks cause you to stop learning and growing. Keep pursuing knowledge and instruction – keep pursuing learning and mentoring. Never stop. Don’t give up. Keep going. Why? Because those who stop growing become ineffective and unproductive for the work of the Kingdom (2 Peter 1.5-11):

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, our work is for the Kingdom of God, not for our businesses. Anything that gets in the way of advancing the Kingdom and our holiness and sanctification should be jettisoned. This includes “coasting” as we get older.

Be sure that your heart is not set on accumulating wealth. And be sure that you’re learning and being instructed, regularly, persistently.

Bill English

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