Starting a ministry (or small business) is not for the faint of heart especially (even more so) if you intend to operate your business on Biblical principles (which I hope you do). Forget about all the paperwork involved. I’m talking about how you balance Godly business practices and assertiveness (read: not get walked all over) in business transactions when the other party involved doesn’t operate under the same principles. Recently, I found myself in a challenging situation when someone approached me about collaborating in ministry and wasn’t forthcoming about their true intentions in our meeting. Needless to say I left the meeting feeling defeated because it hadn’t gone as expected. Struggling to find peace with the situation I started digging into God’s word to find clarity about the tension that exists as we, Believers, try to operate our businesses from a Biblical perspective. With that said, I went to Matthew 7:
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
I was viewing my situation from a prideful and limited perspective. After reading Matthew 7, I put myself in their shoes and asked, “what would I have expected from the meeting,” and while I would have approached the situation with more transparency; I would also have been praying for a miracle. In my situation I would have been praying we could easily transition our ministries and it would be free. As the word free came to my heart I was slightly surprised but realized I have been given the ultimate free gift from Jesus and why shouldn’t I be so generous. My circumstances are unique and I understand you can’t always give things away, especially if you’re a for-profit business but I would challenge you to view your business dealings through the lens of Jesus’ sacrifice for you (a free gift of salvation).
I began seeing my situation from a higher perspective but I was still struggling with this person’s character and my ego said they shouldn’t get away with being so arrogant. I need to make it right. I need to tell them they aren’t a nice person and so on. I tried to reason why it was necessary for me to tell them what I thought. I typed into Google (yes, you read that right), “what does the Bible say about treating people in business,” and wouldn’t you know the Bible has something to say about my very question.
In Romans 12:9-21, Paul is talking about “love in action” and I won’t quote the whole passage but verse 10 says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves,” the word honor jumped out at me. It’s no coincidence Paul uses honor instead of respect because honor isn’t based on the characteristics of a person rather on their status and since Paul says love one another this means no one is excluded from being honored. If perhaps I have lost you on the honor vs respect argument, let’s just say I don’t have to like the way someone treats me to honor them in Jesus name. You may be dealing with some sketchy people in your business but you are still required to honor them even though you may not respect them. That made it easy for me.
Skipping to verse 17, I was confused, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone,” what does right in the eyes of everyone mean? Am I supposed to try to please everyone with my actions (I’m a recovering people please-er so this couldn’t be the right answer) because I couldn’t possibly please everyone with my decision. Aren’t we thankful for different Bible translations?!? The New Living version provided the clarity I needed, “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.” There is was again, honor, so not only should I honor this person but the way I conduct my business should let people see I’m honorable.
Ok, I get it, I should honor this person even though they aren’t very nice and I should conduct my business so that people see I’m honorable (just in case that’s too many “honors” – how about moral, upright or fair) but the child in me was still saying I need for them to know how I feel. Side note, if I thought I could be adult enough to tell them politely how disappointed I was with our interaction I might consider saying something but I’m not that mature (how’s that for transparency). So, I kept reading and verses 19-21 finally helped me with my feelings.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I don’t need to be consumed with anything other than my own actions in business and life. A popular saying in our church is, “You be Jesus, let God be God,” and I think verses 19-21 would encourage us to do the same. I found the peace I was praying for at the beginning of this journey. I also found clarity on dealing with people, whether in business or just in life, who don’t meet my expectations.
Full Disclosure: When I started writing this post I had very different intentions but by the end I found the strength I needed to keep going in my ministry. If you’re in a battle right now and not sure how to fight it or feel like you can’t fight it anymore I would encourage you to cling to the promises God has made to you. Don’t let anyone keep you from doing the things God has placed on your heart. You might be closer than you think. My Pastor has a great message on this very topic. Check it out here. I’m praying for you.