09 Mar #111 – Silos Are for Farms (and Famines)–Personal Silos
ESSENCE: For a leader seeking to lead an organization to faithfully “do right” through business a better way or an investor seeking to invest in alignment with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities, eliminating personal silos must be a priority. In this post, we look at personal faith and wealth silos. The secular “world” view of faith and work is that they have absolutely nothing to do with each other–they exist in separate silos that must be taken down. Another category of personal silo behavior is how we treat wealth. One behavior involves using a silo to store up our wealth for future security and the other involves segregating our wealth into separate silos. Our wealth is all God’s to be used to serve—with no separate “pockets” or silos. When an organizational leader or an investor who professes Biblical faith has personal silos–compartmentalizing their life to keep one foot in the world’s kingdom and one foot in God’s Kingdom–their faith loses authenticity, which undermines the integrity of their witness as a person of Biblical faith.
We have talked in various past posts (for example, post #064–Humility-A Key To Wisdom) about the problems of “silos” in life and in organizations. It is a big enough problem and an important enough issue to have a few dedicated posts. We believe silos are only helpful on farms and during famines.
For a leader seeking to lead an organization to faithfully “do right” through business a better way or an investor seeking to invest in alignment with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities, eliminating personal and organizational silos must be a priority.
In this post, we will look at personal silos. While one could probably identify many ways in which people silo aspects of their life in unhealthy ways, we will consider two we think are most relevant to people seeking to lead and invest in alignment with Biblical faith : faith silos and wealth silos.
Although we didn’t describe them as “silos”, we talked about the idea of a siloed faith life back in post #010—Mind the “Gaps”. The secular “world” view of faith and work is that they have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Faith is personal and does not belong at the office/factory/store (sometimes because the proponents of this view are hostile to faith).
Sadly, many people who profess faith in God do not get much further than this view. Back in post #010, we explained the three gaps that people serious about faith-work integration needed to cross: the Sunday/Monday Gap, the Sacred/Secular Gap and the Knowing/Doing Gap. The “world” is effectively stuck behind the Sunday/Monday Gap, but so are many regular church-goers. What they do Monday-Friday is disconnected from the faith they practice on Sunday (or Saturday)–not because they are hostile to faith, but because they have never been taught otherwise.
The “Sunday/Monday” gap is crossed when you understand that what you do Monday-Friday is not disconnected from the faith you practice on Sunday (or Saturday)–you should bring your whole self (including your faith) to work or to your business.
The “Sacred/Secular” gap is crossed when you understand that your work or business itself has intrinsic value in God’s Kingdom–your work and the way you manage your business is a sacred vocational calling and a form of worship (you have probably heard that the Hebrew word avodah means work, worship and service). As Tozer says, what matters is the “WHY” behind your work or business.
The “Knowing/Doing” gap is crossed by taking those understandings and implementing change by actually doing something!
As described in post #10, it appears, based on some empirical and anecdotal evidence (we are unaware of any academically rigorous study), that less than 10% of people who profess a Biblical faith have really crossed the Sacred/Secular gap. It is not possible to truly lead a business or invest in alignment with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities without eliminating personal faith/work silos and getting across all three gaps.
Another category of personal silo behavior is how we treat wealth. One behavior involves using a silo to store up our wealth and the other involves segregating our wealth into separate silos. To understand why wealth silos are inconsistent with living, leading and investing in alignment with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities requires recalling three Biblical principles:
God owns everything. The Bible is full of passages reminding us that God owns everything. For example, Psalm 50:12 (“For the world and its fullness are mine“) and Deuteronomy 10:14 (“Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it“), Perhaps the most direct when it comes to wealth is Haggai 2:8: “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts.“
Wealth is a gift from God. Deuteronomy 8:18 tells us: “You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.“
Gifts from God are to be used to serve others. 1 Peter 4:10 declares “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.“
Wealth Storage Silos. We learn from the story of the “rich fool” in Luke 12:13-21 that storing our wealth in order to have “ample goods laid up for many years” in order to “relax, eat, drink, be merry” may be the goal in the kingdom of the world (aka, the kingdom of “me”), but it is not the way of God’s Kingdom. In God’s Kingdom we are to use the wealth we receive to serve others, storing up our treasure in heaven.
Moreover, in God’s Kingdom we are meant to put our trust in God. Wealth storage silos put our trust in our worldly stored wealth. Business consultants, particularly those advising organizations in difficult times, sum it up in the phrase “Cash is King“. It is much easier to trust God, personally or organizationally, when you have large cash reserves (just in case God isn’t trustworthy and shows up late, shows up the wrong way or doesn’t show up at all).
Of course, Trusting in “secure” money is a misplaced Trust, because no worldly asset is truly “secure”–just ask investors in businesses that were “too big to fail” (think Enron, General Motors, Chrysler, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Long-Term Capital, Continental Illinois) or start-ups “too hot to fail” (think Theranos or WeWork), customers of “Ponzi-schemes” “too good to pass-up” (think Madoff or Stanford Financial) and people living through hyperinflation (think Venezuela, Argentina or Zimbabwe).
There may be times when wealth storage is ordained by God because God has “paid forward” provision for a future “famine”. Like Joseph was guided to store grain so that Egypt could survive a famine, God may provide a person or an organization with wealth that is to be used to weather future “famines”. This is not trusting in wealth for security—it is being wise with God’s provision.
Wealth Segregation Silos. Another way that leaders and investors who profess Biblical faith utilize wealth silos in a way that we believe is inconsistent with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities is by segregating their wealth into “investing wealth” and “giving wealth”. They see “investing wealth” as “theirs” to be invested for the “largest” return. They see” giving wealth” as God’s to be used charitably to serve others.
In post (#109—BIGGER Returns), we discussed at length the need for investors of Biblical faith to think BIGGER to consider “Kingdom returns” with their investing wealth—not just financial returns. As we said then, financial return is not bad (recall post #059-What About Profit?). In fact, it is absolutely necessary (just as adequate profit is necessary for any business). Investors need to ensure the flourishing of those on whose behalf they are investing. In addition, as stewards of capital and a business that belongs to God (He owns everything), one of an investor’s responsibilities is to keep the organization viable so that it can pursue its God-given purpose. Financial return just needs to take its proper place as a necessary means not the faith-driven end.
It is all God’s to be used to serve—with no separate “pockets” or silos. That may look like “investing” in something that delivers lower financial return but higher Kingdom return. It also may look like “giving” in creative ways that allow a nonprofit entity to generate sustainable wealth.
Compartmentalized Christianity promotes the hypocrisy that the non-Christian world so regularly points out in church-going Christians. (Dave Kahle)
Silos Undermine Integrity
We emphasized back in post #90 (Intentional Leaders–Commitment to Authenticity) that authenticity is the embodiment of the “wholeness” of integrity, which is at the core of Integriosity®. When an organizational leader or an investor who professes Biblical faith has personal silos–compartmentalizing their life to keep one foot in the world’s kingdom and one foot in God’s Kingdom–their faith loses authenticity, which undermines the integrity of their witness as a person of Biblical faith.
A person who professes Biblical faith but lives with personal silos that keep faith compartmentalized on Sundays or in their charitable giving risks sending the world an unfortunate message about their Biblical faith. David Kahle wrote:
Compartmentalized Christianity promotes the hypocrisy that the non-Christian world so regularly points out in church-going Christians.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): I have experienced compartmentalized faith and have agonized over how to break down the silos. I spent decades believing faith had nothing to do with work. At eight years old I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. Also at eight years old I was confirmed in the Polish National Catholic Church. After the service, the bishop walked down the line of hose confirmed to congratulate us. To each person, he said simply “Congratulations”. When he came to me, he said “Congratulations–you’re going to be a priest one day.” I recall thinking, “No I’m not–I’m going to be a lawyer, and they have nothing to do with each other.” Silo.
Many years later when my faith was re-awakened, I struggled to understand how to live out my faith as a corporate lawyer. I did become more generous—with my “giving” wealth. Silo.
When God called me to leave in 2009 my partnership in a Wall Street law firm for an undisclosed destination, I had no idea that the journey to my “purpose” would take more than a decade. Although it has been a period of immense spiritual blessing, it has been a period of eating from the grain stored during the prior period of abundance. Like Joseph’s time in Egypt, God filled our silo for the “famine” he knew was ahead. God is faithful and provides, but sometimes it is by paying forward the filling of a silo that we are to use wisely.