11 Jan #155 – Four “First Things” To “Keep First” in Leading Faithfully (PART 2)
ESSENCE: As faithful leaders enter 2023, we want to share the four “first things” to “keep first” in leading faithfully–they are actually captured by the word Integriosity itself. In our last post, we described the first two. In this PART 2, we will describe the second two. A key element of the RENEW step of Integriosity is re-ordering disordered priorities, because business as usual — business in “the way of the world” or, more precisely, according to “the kingdom of this world” generally puts “second things first”. In looking at Biblical principles for work and business, we believe it is important to go back to first principles by asking what the Bible tells us are the keys to everything else. And then we have to Keep First Things First by pursuing those first principles and trusting God to take care of the “everything else”! The key Biblical principles that form the foundation of Integriosity are embedded in the word itself: Integrity (and its components Righteousness and Kingdom) and Generosity (and its components Love and Humility).
As faithful leaders enter 2023, we want to share the four “first things” to “keep first” in leading faithfully–they are actually captured by the word Integriosity itself. In our last post, we described the first two. In this Part 2, we will cover the second two.
Leading an organization faithfully through business a better way requires aligning the purpose, values and culture of the organization with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities. Integriosity® is a four-step process toward that alignment–RENEW, RE-IMAGINE, RE-ALIGN and RESTORE.
A key element of the RENEW step of Integriosity is re-ordering disordered priorities, because business as usual — business in “the way of the world” or, more precisely, according to “the kingdom of this world” generally puts “second things first”. In looking at Biblical principles for work and business, we believe it is important to go back to first principles by asking what the Bible tells us are the keys to everything else. And then we have to Keep First Things First by pursuing those first principles and trusting God to take care of the “everything else”!
C.S. Lewis explains the importance of Keeping First Things First (and why the world’s pursuit of the “second things” misses the mark):
Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.
RECAP: The 4 “First Things”
The key Biblical principles that form the foundation of Integriosity are embedded in the word itself:
Integrity (and its components Righteousness and Kingdom) and
Generosity (and its components Love and Humility).
We believe they are the priorities a faithful leader needs to “keep first” in leading faithfully. The two “Integrity Priorities” are God-focused and the two “Generosity Priorities” are people-focused.
The Bible sets these four up as foundational priorities.
• But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
• Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor. (Proverbs 21:21)
• The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. (Proverbs 22:4)
In these Scriptural passages, we see the “first things” and also the “second things” to which they lead. If the “first things” are Righteousness, Kingdom, Love and Humility, the “second things” are “all these things”, “life”, “prosperity”, “honor” and “riches”.
Colossians 3:2 tells us “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” We believe the “first things” are “above” and “second things” are “on earth”.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)
Understanding the 4 “First Things”
We have spent many posts explaining the nuances of the four “first things”:
• Righteousness (posts #040-#044)
• Kingdom (posts #045-#052)
• Love (posts #053-#059)
• Humility (posts #060-#064)
To help faithful leaders kick-off 2023, here are some of the key ideas from those posts about the second two–the People-focused first things of Love and Humility embedded in the Generosity element of Integriosity. (In our last post, we covered the God-focused first things of Righteousness and Kingdom embedded in the Integrity element of Integriosity.
• “All the Law and the Prophets” depend on the commandments to love God and love your neighbor, which makes understanding love your neighbor in an organizational context essential to leading faithfully. James Hunter’s faithful presence is the best tool we know for understanding what it means to love your neighbor through the culture of social structures such as organizations and businesses. It is about enacting Shalom where you are for the benefit of all.
• Embedding the Biblical principle of love your neighbor in the culture and heart of an organization is essential to leading faithfully because it is essential in order for each person in the organization (and each person the organization touches) to be fully human by living out Imago Dei–becoming more fully human by acting “Godly”, which itself is essential in order for them to flourish.
• By our nature as creations in the image of God, we are given gifts of creativity and productivity through specific skills and physical and mental abilities. 1 Peter 4:10-11 declares that we are to use these gifts–the basis of our work and stewardship–“to serve one another” in order that “God may be glorified“. When we reflect the image of God by exercising our God-given gifts through work to serve one another, we are also living out the commandments to love God and love one another. Work is a VEHICLE for living out those commandments.
• An organization is a merely a collection of people working together toward a common purpose. As such, it derives its purpose from their purpose. Organizations such as businesses have intrinsic Kingdom value because they are a creation of God’s image-bearers that provides the platform and the opportunity for humans to come together in relationship to express and fulfill their humanity through work by producing and promoting flourishing and “building for the Kingdom” in ways that could not be accomplished by people working alone.
• The generosity and service aspects of Love lead us to the purpose of work and business (maximize flourishing), but there are also respect and sustainability aspects of Love that are inherent in the Creation Mandate. Biblical sustainability is about caring for all God’s creation as its STEWARDS. It is motivated by obedience to the Creation Mandate–not by fear or guilt or legal obligation.
• The last of the four “first things” embedded in Integriosity is Humility, and it is the key to understanding the “HOW” of the other three “first things”–Righteousness, Kingdom and Love–and it is a key to Wisdom. In fact, we believe leadership without Humility is antithetical to leading faithfully.
• Humility is knowing who you are in relation to God’s creation and His plan, knowing who you are in relation to others, and knowing who you are in relation to God. Such an understanding permits faithful leadership in service to a bigger WHY of serving others. It permits leading an organization to pursue business a better way.
• Living sacrificially–a key to Righteousness–is not possible without Humility. In order to lead an organization in a way that sacrificially stewards creation and benefits the common good, a faithful leader must have an understanding of their role and the role of the organization in the MUCH BIGGER picture of God’s creation and His plan–the Creation and Restoration book-ends of the BIGGER Four-Part Gospel.
• Humility in Loving Others flows from knowing who we are in relation to other people. By embracing Imago Dei, Humility leads us to treat others with dignity, respect and kindness because of WHO they are. Humility also allows us to Love Others by showing grace for their mistakes by being honest about WHO we are–recognizing the IMPERFECTION in our own humanity. Humility by leaders in Loving Others is incredibly important to an organization because it unleashes the unique contributions each person can make to the organization.
• Humility in pursuing the Kingdom flows from knowing who we are in relation to God–it means recognizing the “smallness of our greatness” and returning to the childlike qualities of dependence and trust on God in making decisions and leading the organization. Every faithful leader must choose whether to give in to pride in pursuing their own kingdom or to embrace Humility in pursuing God’s Kingdom.
• Finally, Humility is a key to Wisdom. Pride, on the other hand, can keep the leader of an organization in an information and wisdom silo. Humility by a faithful leader can lead to horizontal Wisdom (unleashing the unique contributions each person they lead has to offer, which enriches the leader, the organization and its people) and vertical Wisdom (seeking God’s guidance through prayer and trusting His process, timing and outcome). A leader without access to the wisdom, knowledge and experience of other people in the organization CANNOT make the best decisions for the organization. The leader who operates without the Humility to recognize the need for God’s Wisdom, pray for guidance, and trust the answers, is destined to miss the ancient path of business a better way.
The hard part is Keeping First Things First and pursuing them simply because they are “first things” and not in order to get the “second things”. Having an agenda of “second things” can leave us with nothing. The problem is that an agenda of the “second things” makes them your “first things”–and that is a disordered priority. In the words of C.S. Lewis:
Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): Actually leading faithfully (and not just happily strolling along a Side Road) is such a radical concept for a business leader. It is also why I keep writing that you can’t unleash God’s potential for business unless its purpose, values and priorities align with Biblical purposes, values and priorities. It is also why Integriosity may be hard for even faithful leaders to embrace.
Changing the heart of a business is hard–it is far easier to just change some personal behavior (i.e., Individualize), give generously (i.e., Monetize), or implement some very overt faith practices (i.e., Cosmeticize). You will be affirmed by many people–you will feel good about what you are doing, and what you are doing is more than what the vast majority of leaders are doing! These questions even make me wonder (frequently)–how many faith-inspired leaders have the conviction and will to actually lead faithfully in leading an organization? For that matter, who needs faith at all–isn’t it enough to just be moral and ethical and try to do the “right thing”?
Not too long ago, a friend (Dr. Skip Moen) wrote a devotional that quoted Michael Wyschogrod:
When man develops a morality not based on God’s commandment—even if coincidentally much of it may coincide with those commandments—an act of expulsion of God has occurred. He is no longer the lawgiver. Now reason or moral intuition or something else performs the function that the Bible can only envisage God as performing. Man dethrones God, and this form of rebellion is particularly dangerous because it leaves man morally fulfilled, freed of the guilt that may be experienced—sooner or later—by the rebel who violated God’s command and who might not remain self-righteous as the moral rebel. The moral rebel finds a relationship with God increasingly irrelevant as his moral convictions deepen and he engages himself more and more in the realization of his moral ideals in the context of the real world.
Once again, in a moment of doubt, God has reminded me through friends that a BIGGER Gospel matters for business, faith-inspiration matters for business, humanizing and beautifying matter for business, and Integriosity is worth the effort–there are plenty of faithful leaders who will be convicted to take the brave steps needed to actually lead faithfully through business a better way. It is about trusting God’s process, timing and outcome–for them and for me.
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Photo Credit: Original photo by Ch_pski on Unsplash (photo cropped)