This week’s publication is introducing a new segment to Ecclesiam – Special Topics. Dr. Lyle Bowlin, Dean of the Jannetides Business & Entrepreneurial Leadership, is discussing the intersection of faith and theology with business decisions.
I believe we can think of our lives as an integration between physical and spiritual qualities. The physical part of our world is ever changing and often chaotic. The spiritual part is at the very core of our being. What you may choose to call this will vary by your cultural upbringing and belief system.
There is an all-important point to keep in mind in our discussion and that is that “God is a Spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24) We can talk endlessly about matter and energy, and space and time in the created material world, but that still leaves a higher realm of God and his angels. Our knowledge and understanding of the physical world comes through the scientific method, which is based both on observations and on mathematical models that can be tested and verified by measurements and experiments. The spiritual world is something we know about by personal revelation from our God.
God has created man to live simultaneously in this integrated world of material and spirit.
It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweigh them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’ – 2 Cor. 4:13-18 (NIV)
So, how does this understanding of God affect business decisions? I offer three practical applications of this understanding towards engaging business operations that hopefully spark further insight and creative applications.
1. It is said in Proverbs 13:11 (ESV) “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” This is a great example for CFOs to follow. If you focus on short term projects and playing with the accounting rules to get short term wealth it will not be long-lasting or sustainable. An ethical example of this is High Frequency Trading (HFT) which tries to get very short term (nanoseconds) profit that has no lasting value for the market. It is important for firms to spend time analyzing options and investing in longer term projects to get the sustainable long run profits for their shareholders, employees, suppliers, and communities they serve.
How would you try to influence others in your firm to look beyond ‘profit’?
2. We must also avoid elevating ourselves over the needs of the organization. An excellent example of what can happen to an organization when middle managers let their own interests get ahead of the corporate interests comes from Leviticus 10:1-2:
“Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” (NIV)
Everything they did was wrong. Aaron was to use his censer on the annual Day of Atonement after a special ritual. His sons should have never used their censers at this time. They were promoting themselves as IMPORTANT!
This is a good illustration of what so many managers are often tempted to do without the direction of the CFO or CEO. They do things with the wrong motives and justify them with the rationalization that their actions had been taken by the CFO or CEO in the past. However, their behavior is really driven by their egotistical desire to appear important. What specific steps can you take to avoid this situations in your career?
However, their behavior is really driven by their egotistical desire to appear important.
Just like managers in an organization, Nadab and Abihu were not outsiders. They were anointed priests (high ranking middle managers) and trained in the service of the Lord (organizational culture). God was making a point that it is a serious matter to be a servant of God just like it is a serious matter to be empowered to make choices in an organization.
3. Managers must work against their natural behavioral tendencies to make themselves look good and important by not making choices beyond their span of control. For example, as an entrepreneurial organization is starting to grow, it is important that the managers truly understand and follow their organizational culture. Others will see how they behave, not just act, based on what they say. When a financial manager fails to represent the best interests of the corporation in favor of protecting his or her job we have an agency conflict.
This is why a Christian business education is so important for tomorrow’s leaders. Regardless of their vocational field, they must always be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to speak into their lives and influence their choices.