by Richard Harshaw
In the next few issues of this publication, I want to talk about business management principles and ethics as laid down by one of the oldest books of wisdom and human enterprise ever written: the Bible.
Now before you roll your eyes and groan, “Oh crud, another preacher telling me how to live my life!”, let me promise you that there will be no “preaching” in these columns or, for that matter, any attempt to proselytize you or to convince you to believe as I do. I fully respect whatever you hold as your personal belief system, be it like mine (Christian), Judaism, Islam, or any other faith (or no faith at all). Human nature cuts across all faiths and that is my point—that this book that many revere (and some despise) has some pretty good and practical advice on how to live a happy and productive life, and people of all faith backgrounds (and even those who have no faith background at all) can benefit from its observations on the human condition and how to deal with it.
Is Money Evil?
One of the most mis-quoted statements from the Bible is that money is evil. The Bible never says that. Not once. Ever. What it does say is that the love of money (or, literally in the original language, Greek, “a greedy and strong desire for money”) is the source of all types of evil . Money is not bad. Nor is it good. It is a thing, and a thing cannot be bad or good. It can only be bad or good in the way a moral agent (a human being) uses (or abuses) it. I start this column with that point because I know many people think that money is evil and thus avoid it and boast in their poverty, but they don’t realize that money has a purpose that, when fulfilled, can lead to blessings for many, many people.
The warning throughout the Bible is that a fixation on money can divert your attention from the really important matters in life (like your relationship to your Creator and your fellow human beings).
I live in Phoenix, Arizona where the world-famous Mayo Clinic has one of its three major hospitals. I have used its services over the years and can attest that if any doctors can find a way to heal you (or at least help you deal with your maladies) it is the amazing team and the Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic is not cheap. But what a lot of people don’t know is that much of the funding for the Mayo Clinic comes from private donors. (For instance, the atrium of the hospital in Phoenix was built with funds provided by radio host Paul Harvey and his wife.) How many orphanages have been built by people with no money? Or schools? Or libraries? (Need I mention that Andrew Carnegie, the steel baron, gave a great deal of his fortune for the establishment of libraries around the United States, as well as the famous Carnegie Hall?)
The Good Thing of Work
People acquire money through the process of work. Most people work for someone else—they enter data into a computer, or bend sheet metal, or wire computers, or pave highways, and so on. They exchange their labor for money. The same is true of those who don’t do “manual labor”—they exchange their knowledge and know-how for money. And some own companies that hire people who do these things. In the long run, it matters not whether you earn your money from flexing your muscles or exercising your gray matter or running a company that utilizes people who do. You provide a service that someone needs and will pay for, so you do that service and get paid.
Over the years I have had a lot of people say they wish they made more money. Ever say that to yourself? Here’s the secret answer to making more money: find a way to serve your fellow human beings more (or more efficiently) and you will make more money. Did it ever occur to you that money is a measure of how much society values your contribution? How valuable is a shoe shine? Now compare that to a cardiologist who cracks your chest open and sews some of your veins onto your heart in a bypass operation that saves and prolongs your life. Which is worth more in general? So if you want to make more, increase your contribution—either do more of it, do it more efficiently, or find a contribution that people value more than what you are doing now. No one owes you anything. You owe to yourself to maximize your contribution so you can maximize your reward.
I know a lot of Christians who point to the curse God placed on Adam for his rebellion in the garden of Eden as proof that work is bad. But that is shortsighted and totally misses the point. The facts are that before Adam rebelled, he worked—he took care of Eden, and that must have been a pretty big job (imagine you and your mate taking care of a game preserve the size of New Jersey!) It is just that in his sentence on Adam for the rebellion that God said, “From now on, your work is going to be a whole lot harder!”
So don’t let anyone say that hard work is bad or that ambition is evil. After all, Proverbs 14:4 tells us, “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” In other words, if you want a full barn, work your tail off.
Next column we’ll look at the way you relate to your employees and customers can make (or break) your business. Until then, “Keep Busy!” (It’s the motto of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, and is good advice. By the way, the Corps’ unofficial motto? “God would have done it if he had the money!”)
1-See 1 Timothy 6:10
2-See Genesis 3:17-19