Posts Tagged ‘business’

Giving In Order To Receive

October 13, 2016

I have been on Twitter almost since it began. More than 3,600 people follow me. Many of those 3.600 follow me so that I will follow them back. Some “game” the system and have maybe 100,000 followers.

They give in order that they may receive.

Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be give; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. –Jesus

There are preachers out there happily proclaiming the “prosperity gospel” using verses such as this in a financial context.

Jesus taught us much about how to handle our finances.

This teaching sounds very like excerpts of longer stories told in other gospels. But let’s just look at context.

He just told the parable of the sower, and explained it to his close followers as a metaphor for the spiritual condition of hearers of the word.

Therefore, we must consider the spiritual meaning of this terse phrase.

This is important. He commands, “Pay attention.” Remember he said, “And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit.”

In like manner, those who give will also receive.

We know many cynics who game the system. Or they are always out for what they can get.

Those who give of their time to help others, seem to always have someone around when they need help. Or those who give generously of their money or resources seem to have enough to live on and more to give away.

Those of usĀ  who just give because of the condition of our heart will be blessed. No matter what the social darwinists–survival of the fittest–believe, it’s not all about me. It’s about the condition of my soil which bears fruit in others a hundred times over.

Moral Obligation To Justice

September 2, 2015

I hate blatant misrepresentation of Scripture.

Hate is a strong word, and I am a person of few, if any, hates. But when someone twists a story told by Jesus to wring all meaning from it save some sort of self-serving, political interpretation–well, I hate it. That sort of thing makes disciples look bad all over the globe.

A friend of mine posted one of the pictures that is the dominant theme of Facebook these days (both right and left, religious and pagan). His “picture” was of Pope Francis with a saying about the moral imperative of economic justice.

Someone whom I assume is a friend of my friend ripped the thought and suggested the Pope should read Matthew 20 (OK, arrogance knows no bounds). This is a story about a vineyard owner who decided to pay the laborers who worked 1 hour the same as those who worked all day.

“This shows that I can do with my money whatever I want,” the guy proclaimed.

Unless we missed the message that God has returned to Earth physically and inhabits the body of this guy, we need to take another look at the passage.

The meaning has nothing whatsoever to do with me and my money. It is a parable about God. God is the owner of the vineyard. “For the kingdom of heaven is like….” If God wishes to save people at the very end of their lives the same as those who have been disciples their entire lives, well, God can do what God wants to do. After all, he is, er, God.

Jesus really only gave us two commandments. Unfortunately for us, they are not easy to live out every day. Love God. Love our neighbor.

Which of those two tell us that we can do whatever we wish with our money? Or even says that it is our money to begin with?

So, I’m reading Proverbs 26 this week. Which of these am I doing?

Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself.

Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes.

Perseverence Is A Key Leadership Trait

July 24, 2015

A couple of guys meeting regularly felt a call to start a coffee shop. Not just a coffee shop, but one with a mission. 

The mission was brought to them through a conference in Thailand where the plight of coffee farmers was brought to awareness. As is often the case with commodities, large corporations buy up all the coffee paying the lowest possible price.

Farmers cannot make a living, often being forced to sell daughters into the sex trade. Evidently men have such great physical need along with a lot of money to make selling sex a lucrative business.

Smaller roasters buying directly from the farmer can pay a fair price for the product and still bring the coffee back to sell at a reasonable price to the retail customer. In the case of a farmer in Thailand, he was able to make a profit and at the same time pay his laborers a fair wage such that 50 young women were brought back home rescued from their horrible life.

The thought of the coffee shop based on Direct Trade coffee grew. Plans were laid. Investors sought. Contractors interviewed until one came forward with a workable plan within budget.

Just when they thought they could go no further, a new investor or donor came forward. Work could proceed. Even at the last minute when a sign needed to be purchased and installed and working capital obtained, new investors came forward.

Two years is a long time to work on a dream. Today, the High Grounds Cafe opens. I changed my “office” from the local Starbucks which is at a grocery store and Tim Hortons this week. I’m an investor and I’ve witnessed the perseverence that led the investors, contractors, employees to this stage.

I’ll never forget a poster I saw about 30 years ago showing a heron swallowing a frog. But the frogs front legs (“arms”) were free and it was strangling the heron. The caption–Never Give Up.

Certainly perseverance is a necessary leadership trait. Now–what can I learn from that. Congratulations Chuck and Chris.

Business As Mission

June 16, 2015

I’ve been gone for several days. The schedule was packed and my daily habits were upended.

Bev and I went to Colorado Springs to attend a conference where the speakers introduced ways they were using business to further God’s Kingdom. I had no knowledge of YWAM, Emerge, or Sustainable Communities Worldwide until just a couple of weeks ago. Prior to that I had heard of Business as Mission, but knew only a little about that movement. 

I studied the plight of farmers in developing countries for many years. I used to give talks as a representative of Bread for the World in the 80s. But that organization focused on political action. We’ve learned that government aid, indeed most efforts at just giving money, are almost always detrimental to the intended recipients.

For exmple, we can give big lots of shoes to people in an area–and in so doing drive all the local sellers of shoes out of business. By providing temporary help to some people, we cost others their livelihoods.

Often farmers are caught in a cycle of debt to bankers for short term loans such that they are actually the same as indentured servants. Many years ago it was pineapple and sugar. Large companies come in, bribe the local officials. Grow products to ship back to the US and western Europe. The local farmers become the same as slave laborers. Plus they lose their land and can no longer grow their own food. A terrible viscious circle.

Coffee has become the more modern equivalent. There are so many middlemen that the farmer seldom can make a living and often goes hungry for months in a year.

Direct trade coffee (not Fair Trade which may or may not actually help the farmer), cuts out several layers of distribution and offers farmers a sustainable income.

Other presenters told about how they have built businesses in cultures often unfriendly to Christians and had great influence in their communities and even brought many people into knowledge and experience of God.

They build ethical businesses practicing both good business practices and making disciples. The combination wins over local–and sometimes even national–leaders. And it leads to the spiritual development of many.

It was a great conference. We met many successful business people and some mission leaders.

Best of all, it helped to overcome my prejudice against “Christian businessmen.” Every time I have run into one of these guys in my career, I came out on the short end. They broke contracts, didn’t pay me money owed, and showed other unethical or devious behaviours. Here were a group that showed the true example of how to do business and maintain the type of ethics of which Jesus would be proud.

Charity Will Never End Poverty, Opportunity Will

May 27, 2015

She visited Africa. Saw a poor, rural village where women had to walk miles for their daily water. Feeling deep emotions, the woman pulled out her check book and paid for a water well for the village.

It was a great act of kindness. 

However when she returned after several years, she was dismayed to discover that the well was not being used. It had not been used for some time. The people in the village had a well, but it had no “water department.” There was no one trained to maintain the well. Calling in a maintenance crew from the city was far beyond the reach of the local people.

People in another area once lived off the fruits of their farms. Then large corporations entered the area with the idea that the climate was great for growing crops that would be in great demand in North America and Western Europe. 

Colluding with corrupt local and national government, the company bought all the land, threw the farmers off their land, and hired them back at extremely low wages to grow the crops. That happened many years ago in places where pineapples grow. We enjoyed pineapple. The people now had no way to grow their own food and not enough money to buy it. They were modern slaves in effect.

Ethical business

That same effect happened with coffee. By the time ground coffee reaches the grocery store, it has gone through so many “middle men” that there is not enough money to pay the farmers.

I have bought whole bean coffee for years “fair trade” from a small roaster in Tennessee–Just Love Coffee. Fair trade coffee cuts through the layers and pays the farmers a fair price for their labors.

The next step is “direct trade.” A local roaster buys beans directly from farmers he met while on a short-term mission trip. 

Is it possible to run an ethical business that benefits the community, employees, suppliers all the way to the grower?

I think so. I’m an angel investor in a coffee shop due to open in 4-6 weeks just down the street from where I live. High Grounds Cafe touts a “quadruple bottom line.” (The Website is under construction, too.) We will buy our beans fromthe roaster I just mentioned.

The quadruple bottom line?

  • Spiritual
  • Economic
  • Social
  • Environmental

The working foundation is to be ethical in all our dealings–whether with the building code people, employees, customers, community. And the farmers who grow our beans.

I’ll have more to say in the future. Next month I’m heading to Colorado Springs for a conference of Christian business people with the same outlook. How can we help plant sustainable businesses in areas of abject poverty? Something that truly changes the lives and outlooks of the people rather than just handing out money.

Money is essential help following a disaster such as we just witnessed in Nepal. But giving money is not a sustainable aid package. Changed lives–that is sustainable.

And They Will Know You By How You Live

May 11, 2015

Today’s lesson concerns how we live…ethics.

I learned marketing many years ago and sometimes consult with companies about their marketing strategies (or lack of as is often the case). So, I’m always reading about the topic.

Luke writes at the end of chapter 2 while describing the explosive growth of the new movement of Jesus-followers, “having earned the goodwill of all the people.” People all around the Mediterranean rim at the time were attracted to Jesus because of the way his followers lived.

Jesus even told us that his followers would be known by the way they lived–love being an action verb.

How does that relate to marketing? How does marketing relate to our lives?

A couple of nice examples presented themselves this week.

Some marketing people, and presumably the CEO, of Keurig had a brilliant idea. The company makes household appliances including a one-cup-at-a-time coffee brewer. I have one. Love it. Just like the razor blade model or the ink jet printer model where the company makes money from the continual lock in of replacing blades or ink regularly, Keurig marketers thought they would force customers to use its coffee supplies packaged in K-cups.

Within hours, technology blogs were posted with ways to defeat this lock in so that we could still use our own coffee beans. Sales of the Keurig 2 machine–and for the company–dropped.

The CEO acknowledged the reason for the drop in sales as customers just wanted to use their own beans and so bought rivals’ products. Duh. That’s not unethical, just stupid. Not knowing one’s customers.

But stupid leads to questionable ethics.

I’m watching my granddaughter play a “game” on an Amazon tablet. She’s 5. Building necklaces for the Strawberry Shortcake character.

Strawberry says that you can add a picture of her or one of her friends to the locket. So, little girls tap one of her friends and is taken to a page where you can buy the friend package for $9.95 each. My granddaughter realizes she can’t use those pictures and just starts tapping other things. Mostly she likes taking pictures of herself or other people.

But how can a group of people sit in a conference room and discuss how to increase revenue. Well, we need “in-app” sales. How can we entice our under-10 customers to buy additional items? Let’s make it appear that they can add something only to be diverted to a page for purchasing. If an astute parent has not set blocks and controls, a considerable bill could be accumulated. Or much discord strewn in the home while little Susie whines about wanting more stuff.

Thank you marketers.

I have invested in a coffee shop (hence my Keuring example about coffee) where the fundamental value accepted by all investors and managers starts with ethics. Treat people from the farmer who grows the beans to the employees to the customer to the community with the best ethics.

Others can also decide to build companies on ethical foundation. And all of us can look for ethical companies for our purchases.

People will want to know about us by the way we live, by the way we transact business, by the way we treat all people.