To Have and To Hoard

Why did God call me to study theology when I knew I was going into business? It seems like those two ideas don’t go very well together in today’s culture. We leave the businessman to do his thing in the office, and the pastor and church leaders to worry about winning souls. Instead of separating the mission from our daily lives as business men and women we must find a way to combine the two. God is looking for businessmen that share the gospel at the same time. When God called me to study theology, it seemed to me that He was calling me to give up running a business and serve Him full-time. I didn’t understand that God could use someone in business just as much as a pastor.

A few years ago, I found myself at an ASI convention, listening to a series of presentations by Jesse Zwicker on how to start a business. Growing up, I’d always had a desire to run my own, but I had growingly felt that earning money was a bad thing and that God was calling me to give up my entrepreneurial ambitions. However, Jesse Zwicker shared during his presentations an Ellen White quote that states: “The desire to accumulate wealth is an original affection of our nature, implanted there by our heavenly Father for noble ends.”[1] This quote changed my life and made me rethink giving up my previous ambitions. I started to feel that God was not asking me to switch career paths but was instead calling me to pursue my business ventures.

If this desire is, as Ellen White says, “an original affection of our nature”, this means that Adam must have had this same desire. The desire is not the problem; but what we do with it. The focus isn’t on accumulating wealth for our own pleasure or spending it on whatever we want. All of our efforts to make money should be encouraged whenever the goal is towards active and charitable benevolence. White says that we should use it for “noble ends.” In the light of Jesus’ Second Coming we should use our income to further His cause and not for our personal gain. When the rich young ruler came to Christ, he was not rebuked for having earned too much but for not giving it away;[2] this one aspect of his life would keep him out of heaven.

The wrong idea of earning money paralyzed me into thinking that somehow while running my business I wasn’t serving God. When we think of missionaries, we often think of people doing mission work on a volunteer basis and not of self-sustaining businessmen. It’s true that God hasn’t called us to waste our money on ourselves, but that doesn’t mean that because we don’t have any money we are somehow holier than others who do. The question we have to ask ourselves is: Why are we earning the money in the first place? Are we doing so because we love money or is it our sincerest desire to serve God with everything He has given us?

You might remember the story of Job in the Bible. Job was an extremely rich man, and in reference to his wealth, the Bible calls him the “greatest of all the men of the east.”[3] As such, he stands as an excellent example of what it means to be a Christian businessman. On the outside people could have thought that he was only trying to make money for selfish reasons. But after God tested him and he lost everything, it was clear that the things he owned were God’s and Job was focused on serving Him.

In the parable of the rich foolish man, God gave him everything that he owned. He was so blessed that God entrusted to him more, intending for him to give it away to those in need. But instead of giving it away, he hoarded it all for himself. He just kept building bigger barns.[4] The tragedy is, not only did he not get to enjoy all that God had given him but the people that God intended to receive these blessings never did. The goods that God had given the rich man just stayed in his barns. The problem was that this man lived for himself. He forgot that there was eternity at stake and because of this he lost everything he had. Ellen White comments on the parable that, “To live for self is to perish.”[5]

What if God told you to start a business that was for the purpose of serving him? One of the greatest examples that we have of this is the life of Paul. The apostle went on many missionary journeys and many of them were fully funded by his ability to generate wealth. His income was so substantial that he was able to spend large amounts of time in full-time ministry and serve God while still having enough to provide for his needs and those of the people around him.

But, as Ellen White asks, “Why should Paul, a minister of the highest rank, thus connect mechanical work with the preaching of the word? Was not the laborer worthy of his hire? Why should he spend in making tents time that to all appearance could be put to better account?”[6] 

There have been many times when, while I have been working in a trade, I feel like my time would have been better spent serving God somewhere else, but this is not always the case according to Ellen White. There are two main reasons why God is calling many Christians to go into business. The first is so that we can have access to a group of people that we would never have access to otherwise. Ellen White answers her own questions: “…Paul did not regard as lost the time thus spent [in mechanical work]. As he worked with Aquila he kept in touch with the Great Teacher, losing no opportunity of witnessing for the Saviour, and of helping those who needed help… As he worked at his trade, the apostle had access to a class of people that he could not otherwise have reached.”[7]

The second reason is to be able to support yourself and not have to rely on other people’s generosity to continue your ministry. Ellen White continues, “Paul sometimes worked night and day, not only for his own support, but that he might assist his fellow laborers. He shared his earnings with Luke, and he helped Timothy. He even suffered hunger at times, so that he might relieve the necessities of others. His was an unselfish life.”[8] This is the true selfless business model that we need to get to if we are going to finish the work. We not only have to be self-supporting but we must be ready to give up our funds when God calls.

You might not be called to be a pastor or minister, but this doesn’t preclude you from sharing God wherever you go. If we want to start industries at our schools, we have to start by looking at how we can earn money for the cause of Christ. Paul’s ministry of making tents allowed him to have access to a group of people that would have never heard of the gospel otherwise. Paul’s goal was not just to make good tents but to lead others to Christ. Making tents was not only a tool for sharing the gospel, but also provided him a way to support himself and others as they reached the community. The money he earned was a tool for sharing and not something that he just used to spend on himself.

Blending theology and business isn’t easy. Doing business for God requires a lot of faith and reveals a great need for Christ abiding in the heart. The greatest lesson that needs to be learned is that our money is not our own; it all belongs to God. Doing business as a Chirstian means that you’re no longer in business for yourself but for God. Every transaction is an opportunity to witness to your customer, and an opportunity to place money in God’s hands to be used for His glory. When we learn to do business God’s way, it can be used as a powerful tool for finishing His work.

Today, God is calling for laborers in His vineyard, not just pastors or Bible workers, but consecrated businessmen and women who will take full advantage of the unique opportunities their jobs provide to share the gospel. He is calling for wise and faithful stewards who will use and increase the talents He has given to help and sustain His work in home and foreign mission fields. He is inviting dedicated Christians to follow His ideals for business. How will you respond?

[1] Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1940), 148
[2] Mark 10:21, 22
[3] Job 1:3
[4] Luke 12:18
[5] Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Battle Creek, MI: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1900), 259.
[6] Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1911), 351.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid, 352.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *