16 Sep #034 – Faith As Usual – Prosperitize
We have explored the five common Placebos of what we call faith as usual that can lead well intentioned leaders to stumble down faith as usual Side Roads in their effort to integrate their faith and their work. After Agonizing, Individualizing, Monetizing and Cosmeticizing, the fifth of the six Side Roads is Prosperitizing. Side Roads represent responses to Placebos advertised as the red pill that we believe actually miss the ancient path of business a better way.
Remember, Side Roads are not inherently bad–in fact, they are better than doing nothing at all. But Side Roads are not transformative and can lull the leader into believing they are on the ancient path when they are missing deeper purpose for the organization, deeper calling for themselves and deeper flourishing for their people. In his book Ekklesia, Ed Silvoso writes “The enemy of the “best” . . . . is the “good”, because by being so satisfying, it deprives us of the hunger for the “much more” that in this case God has in store.”
Prosperitizing is the Side Road that flows from The “Bless You” Pill–it is when leaders pursue faith/work integration because they believe it will lead to God blessing their business with worldly success–measured in terms of profit and growth. It is unique among the Side Roads because it can happen to a leader who has crossed all three of the Gaps we believe are necessary for genuine faith/work integration: the Sunday/Monday Gap, the Sacred/Secular Gap and the Knowing/Doing Gap. It is also unique because it can run parallel to any other of the Side Roads–a leader can be detoured on the Prosperitizing Side Road while also lost on the Agonizing, Individualizing, Monetizing or Cosmeticizing Side Road.
As you hopefully recall from a prior post, the Placebo of The “Bless You” Pill tries to draw people into faith/work integration by emphasizing how God will bless their business with increased growth and profit if they integrate their faith into their work and run their business as a “Christian business”. The promise of blessings may be direct, or it may just be implied. Again, as discussed in a prior post, at Integrous we call this “Vending Machine Theology“. In Vending Machine Theology, God is like a vending machine–if you put in the right stuff, good stuff comes out.
While the Side Roads of Agonizing, Individualizing, Monetizing and Cosmeticizing involve misses as to the WHAT and HOW of faith/work integration, what makes the Side Road of Prosperitizing unique is that it is related solely to a misguided “WHY”. For that reason, it is perhaps the most insidious of the various Side Roads because the organization can look like it actually is conducting “business a better way“. In that case, the leader will likely “feel good” about himself or herself and is certain to receive affirmation from others and get put on stage at faith/work events and written about in books to share the practices they have instituted. But the faith/work integration is being done for the wrong reasons–and we believe that is the worst kind of “miss” because God cares about the heart.
- Honoring and glorifying God through obedience to His Word and his commands can’t be a means to an end–it must be the end in itself.
- There are no guarantees that pursuing a bigger WHY for a business will lead to greater financial success.
- If we are living faithfully to achieve worldly success, then we will quickly compromise or jettison our faithfulness if worldly success doesn’t materialize.
As it says in 1 Samuel 16:7, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart'”. Faithfully “doing right” means doing the right thing, in the right ways, and for the right reasons. Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons looks good and probably “does good”, but it is missing “business a better way”–it is missing God’s heart for our work.
But the Lord said to Samuel, ``Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
As we have emphasized in prior posts, the risks of relying on a Placebo and stumbling down a Side Road include:
- Missed purpose for the organization
- Missed calling for its leaders
- Missed flourishing of its people
It is important to emphasize that none of these Side Roads is bad–they are better than not even thinking about faith/work integration. A business detoured onto the Side Road of Prosperitizing may look like it is is on the ancient path of business a better way. But like an enlightened secular business that treats people well so long as it continues to be good for the bottom line, the Prosperitizing business is “doing” faith/work integration so long as God comes back with the right blessing of material prosperity.
Many businesses want to do the RIGHT THING. Some add that they want to do it in the RIGHT WAY. Integriosity® is about doing the RIGHT THING, in the RIGHT WAY for the RIGHT REASONS. In an earlier post, we highlighted a quote from Larry Crabb: “Biblical principles are reduced to basic principles of the world when they’re followed in order to gain the ‘better life’ we demand.“ Prosperitizing is not business a better way because WHY matters. We believe the more of RIGHT REASONS is much harder, but it is necessary and worth the journey. That journey is the journey of Integriosity.
SPOILER ALERT: Integriosity comes from the words Integrity and Generosity, and one of the key Biblical principles in the RENEW step of Integriosity is understanding that Generosity is embodied by the principles of Love and Humility, and Humility holds a key to the HOW of Loving others–we must love from the right motives.
PERSONAL FOOTNOTE (from PM): It was in preparing a 2012 presentation on “Ambition and Life Choices” for a Priority Associates event in New York City that I began to see a window into “heart”. Ambition is defined as a “desire to achieve a particular end“, and as we consider our life choices, we must ask the question “to what end” are we striving. I concluded that our identity, a central concept in Integriosity, holds a clue as to the end we are chasing. Philippians 3:7-8 tells us the only thing of real value to chase is “knowing Jesus”, and Matthew 6:24 tells us we can have only one primary “god”. Like a person, an organization can have one ultimate ambition–one ultimate identity–one true “heart”. Without intentional leadership, that heart will be profit over people.
Several years ago my wife shared with me the “Thomas Merton Prayer”, and I keep it on my phone for quick reading (and sharing). It is why I believe WHY is more important than even WHAT or HOW.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.