27 Apr #118 – Whose “Will” Be Done?
ESSENCE: Faithful vs willful really is a daily choice that a “faithful business-leader” must accept and wrestle with in order to lead faithfully. Even the phrase “faithful business-leader” seems to hold the tension of the faithful/willful dilemma. A “faithful” person wants to put God first. A “business-leader” is expected to be ruthlessly “willful” in their effort to achieve increased profits and growth. Ignoring the tension of the faithful/willful choice can actually be choosing “willful” and convincing yourself it is “faithful”. In reality, faithful vs willful is really just a choice of “wills”. The daily choice is God’s will or my will. Choosing “faithful” is about keeping first things first. We believe there are four keys to a faithful business-leader successfully pursuing faithful as their first thing: Humility, Trust, Patience, and Prayer. We believe choosing faithful over willful in running a business necessarily leads to pursuing the maximization of human flourishing (with profit becoming a means to that end rather than the end of the business).
Integrous is about providing integrity advice and legal counsel to help faithful leaders lead faithfully. There are many ways to express the essential choice faced by every faithful business-leader every day in every decision:
• Why vs What
• Abiding vs Striving
• Purpose vs Agenda
• God’s Kingdom vs World’s Kingdom
• Faithful vs Willful
For purposes of this discussion, let’s just focus on the last expression—“Faithful vs. Willful”.
“Faithful” vs “Business-Leader”
How does a “faithful business-leader” navigate this choice to “lead faithfully”? Even the phrase “faithful business-leader” seems to hold the tension of the “faithful/willful” dilemma. On one side of the choice is “faithful” and on the other side is “business-leader”.
A “faithful” person wants to put God first. They want to follow God’s lead, wherever it may go. They understand that everything they have belongs to God, and they want to surrender their goals and desires—their “will”—for God’s “will” to be done. They want to live their life in alignment with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities. The faithful person measures success in terms of obedience.
On the other hand, a “business-leader” is a businessperson building a business in the world. They have analysts, markets, investors, employees, and customers to keep happy. They have financial metrics to track and hurdles to achieve. The world of business measures success in terms of profit and growth. They are expected to be ruthlessly “willful” in their effort to achieve increased profits and growth.
Ignoring the Tension
Some “faithful business-leaders” believe there should be no tension between “faithful” and “business-leader”—being “faithful” should lead to success as an “business-leader”. In fact, there is content floating around the faith and work movement that 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.
We call this “vending machine theology” and it is a feature of the Placebo we call the “Bless You” Pill. In vending machine theology, God is like a vending machine–if you put in the right stuff, good stuff comes out. In the case of faith/work integration, that “good stuff” is a financially successful business with higher profits and extraordinary growth. It is a prosperity Gospel applied to business.
The problem with this “theology” of faith and business (other than the obvious theology problem) is that it starts leaders out with a corrupted “WHY”. It puts faith/work integration in the same bucket as Six Sigma, TQM, JIT, Lean, etc.–something that has helped others prosper and is worth a try as long as it works. When faith/work integration is adopted as a means to any end other than glorifying God, the business-leader will continue to be “faithful” only as long as it is not in conflict with being a successful “business-leader”. As Larry Crabb wrote:
Biblical principles are reduced to basic principles of the world when they’re followed in order to gain the “better life” we demand.
Ignoring the tension of the faithful/willful choice in this way is actually choosing “willful” and convincing yourself it is “faithful”.
Accepting the Tension
“Faithful vs willful” really is a daily choice that a faithful business-leader must accept and wrestle with. In the words of Oswald Chambers:
One of the biggest traps we fall into is the belief that if we have faith, God will surely lead us to success in the world.
To be “faithful” rather than “willful”, a faithful business-leader must first accept the tension:
• Choosing “faithful” can’t be a means to an end–it must be the end in itself.
• There are no guarantees that pursuing “faithful” will lead to greater financial success.
Having accepted the tension, the faithful business-leader can begin to make choices—faithful or willful. In reality, “faithful vs willful” is really just a choice of “wills”. The daily choice is “God’s will” or “my will”—“faithfully” seeking first God’s Kingdom and righteousness or “willfully” seeking first my kingdom and my worldly success.
One of the biggest traps we fall into is the belief that if we have faith, God will surely lead us to success in the world. (Oswald Chambers)
Choosing “faithful” is about “keeping first things first”. C.S. Lewis wrote “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.” The Bible is pretty clear about what is a first thing and what is second thing.
• 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 the “faithful vs willful” dilemma, success at “faithful” must be the first thing and success at “business-leader” is the second. 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”.
We believe there are four keys to a faithful business-leader successfully pursuing “faithful” as their “first thing”: Humility, Trust, Patience, and Prayer.
Humility. Navigating the tension between “faithful” and “business-leader” requires Godly wisdom, and humility is a key to wisdom. The link between humility and wisdom can be seen in Proverbs 11:2:
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
God is the source of all wisdom, and the Bible tells us that God will give wisdom to those who ask (James 1:5). The faithful business-leader who operates without the humility to recognize the need for God’s wisdom and the need to pray for guidance is destined to run aground on the rocks of the “faithful/willful” dilemma.
Trust. Of course, even the faithful business-leader who has the humility to recognize the need for God’s wisdom will only get the benefit of that wisdom by trusting God’s process, timing, and outcome:
• Process: God’s process is often counter-intuitive and counter-cultural.
• Timing: God’s timing often seems excruciatingly slow.
• Outcome: God’s best outcome for a business (the “all these things” promised in Matthew 6:33) may not be the world’s best outcome.
Prayer. The importance of prayer in pursuing “faithful” seems so obvious. Unfortunately, many faithful business-leaders do not associate God with business decisions. Oswald Chambers observed:
In spiritual issues it is customary for us to put God first, but we tend to think that it is inappropriate and unnecessary to put Him first in the practical, everyday issues of our lives.
God’s wisdom comes through prayer. Of course, praying for a particular process, timing and outcome is NOT praying for God’s wisdom, and ignoring God’s wisdom to pursue your own process, timing or outcome is NOT wise–it is choosing “willful” over “faithful”.
Patience: It is difficult to read the Bible and not walk away feeling woefully impatient. God’s story is full of people who patiently waited and persevered (the first cousin of patience) a LONG time–a VERY LONG time. Remember Abraham (waited 25 years for Isaac), Jacob (waited 14 years to marry Rachel), and the most patient of all, Moses (40 years in exile and then 40 years in the desert).
There are also stories of characters who got impatient and tried to short-circuit God’s timing (and God was not pleased). Remember Sarah (Ishmael was NOT the fulfillment of God’s promise) and Saul (he got impatient and offered the burnt offering himself–NOT a blessing after all).
Choosing “faithful” over “willful” in leading a business is “playing the long game”, and that takes Biblical patience (and perseverance).
The Risk of “Faithful”
In his book To Change the World, James Hunter warns:
To enact a vision of human flourishing based in the qualities of life that Jesus modeled will invariably challenge the given structures of the social order. In this light, there is no true leadership without putting at risk one’s time, wealth, reputation, and position.
At Integrous, we believe choosing “faithful” over “willful” in running a business necessarily leads to pursuing the maximization of human flourishing (with profit becoming a means to that end rather than the end of the business).
As such, choosing “faithful” over “willful” in leading a business challenges “the given structures of the social order“, which in a fallen world will certainly bring resistance. Resistance is likely to lead to dilemmas–times when the challenge for a faithful business-leader trying to pursue “faithful” over “willful” will be prayerfully seeking God’s wisdom, choosing one of two imperfect paths based on a balancing of God’s commands and then trusting in those commands and God’s sovereignty and promises. Choosing God’s “will” to be done.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): This post is adapted from an article written for the Faith Driven Entrepreneur blog and first posted April 20, 2022. Thank you to the team at Faith Driven Entrepreneur, particularly Gregg Pittman, Justin Forman and Henry Kaestner, for giving me a chance to contribute in a small way to the incredible work they are doing through the Faith Driven family of offerings: Faith Driven Entrepreneur, Faith Driven Investor and Faith Driven Athlete.