#026 – Faith As Usual – The “Save or Give” Pill

We believe there are five common Placebos of what we call faith as usual that can lead well intentioned leaders down Side Roads in their effort to integrate their faith and their work.  The second Placebo (after The “4-Hour Content” Pill) is The “Save or Give” Pill, which commonly leads to the Side Roads of Monetizing and Cosmeticizing.

Remember, Placebos can be presented as being the red pill of business a better way, but are actually empty capsules or “feel good” pills.  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.

The “Save or Give” Pill

In prior posts, we have discussed the three Gaps that must be crossed in order to implement faith/work integration:  the Sunday/Monday Gap, the Sacred/Secular Gap and the Knowing/Doing Gap.  We have also suggested that many leaders begin to pursue integration of their faith and work after being inspired by content–whether that is reading a book, watching a video, listening to a podcast, hearing a sermon or speech or attending a conference.  Unfortunately, some of the content on faith/work integration hasn’t itself gotten across the Sacred/Secular Gap (because the author/pastor/presenter probably hasn’t crossed the Gap).  As a result, the leader setting out inspired or guided by that content is doomed to a Side Road.

The “Save or Give” Pill is a message that crosses the Sunday/Monday Gap but then gets stuck.  It correctly gets the leader across that Gap by acknowledging business is a platform for doing Kingdom work, but then stalls the leader short of the next Gap by suggesting that only two types of Kingdom work can legitimately be done from the business platform:

  1. Save – Evangelizing people at or through work (e.g., employees, customers, vendors) or
  2. Give – Generating wealth that can be donated to support people and organizations (like the local church and missionary and humanitarian organizations) that do the “real” Kingdom work of evangelizing people or caring for “the least of these”.

The problem with this message is that it sees business as a secular platform for sacred work, rather than a sacred platform itself.  That is worth repeating–it sees business as a secular platform for sacred work rather than an intrinsically sacred platform.  This is the definition of of being stuck between the Sunday/Monday Gap and the Sacred/Secular Gap.  It fails to see business as having intrinsic Kingdom value.  In most cases this is likely because the author/pastor/presenter sees sacred work as all about, and only about, the “Great Commission” (make disciples) or the “Great Commandment” (love God and your neighbor).

Depending on who prescribes The “Save or Give” Pill, the Great Commission and the Great Commandment will have different emphasis, but The “Save or Give” Pill doesn’t even recognize the “Cultural Mandate” (Genesis 1:28 – be fruitful and steward the earth).  If a person’s focus is on the Great Commission and evangelism, it is hard to see how business (or work) can be “Godly” unless it is explicitly evangelistic or directly serving evangelism.  If a person’s focus is on the Great Commandment and social good, it is hard to see how business (or work) can be “Godly” unless it is “doing good” for the less fortunate.

It is possible that the leader given The Save or Give Pill will get stuck at Agonizing, because everyone who starts down the path of faith/work integration likely Agonizes at some point about what they should be doing.  It is also possible that the leader will get past Agonizing to Individualizing.  But the two Side Roads most uniquely tied to The Save or Give Pill are Monetizing and Cosmeticizing.

There’s nothing wrong with the cognitive dissonance that placebos cause. It’s effective indeed. But it works even better if there are actually active ingredients in the potion we’ve created. (Seth Godin)

Placebos like The “Save or Give” Pill can be presented as being the red pill of business a better way, but are actually empty capsules or “feel good” pills. 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 doing nothing.  BUT, they are not the best–we believe they are not what God calls us to in stewarding organizations of humans pursuing their humanity through work.  Sadly, the Side Roads often make us feel good about ourselves (and lead to huge pats on the back and even notoriety from the church and the faith/work movement), so we don’t seek more.  We believe more is much harder, but it is necessary and worth the journey. That journey is the journey of Integriosity®.

SPOILER ALERT:  One of the key concepts in the first stage of Integriosity–RENEW–is seeing a MUCH BIGGER Gospel than a “Gospel of sin management”.  Dallas Willard identified two forms of the “sin management” Gospel: “evangelism” (focused on the Great Commission and correct beliefs) and a “social Gospel” (focused on the Great Commandment and correct actions).  Integriosity requires embracing a Four-Chapter Kingdom Gospel (Creation/Fall/Redemption/Restoration) rather than a truncated Two-Chapter Gospel (Fall/Redemption).   The Four-Chapter Kingdom Gospel connects the Great Commission and the Great Commandment to the Cultural Mandate.  It is focused on the broader story of God’s love for the world and His eternal restoration project to which we are invited and commanded to participate.

PERSONAL FOOTNOTE (from PM):  When my faith was renewed in 2003 and I began to think about what my new-found faith meant for my practice of law, I quickly entered a state of Agonizing and for five years never really got past Individualizing when God called me to walk a different path.  Learning about the Four-Chapter Gospel from my friend John Seel and studying the Cultural Mandate was the key that opened the door to my understanding of faith/work integration.

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