If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah11 and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp. 

Judges [7:10]-11 

In the book of Judges, we find the remarkable story about Gideon defeating one hundred and thirty-five thousand barbarians with only three hundred men. Before the battle, Gideon prayed for wisdom to accomplish this mighty task.  In response to Gideon’s prayer, God says,  If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah (11)and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp. 

In response, Gideon awakens Purah and asks him to go with him to the edge of the barbarians’ camp. Laying down on the wet early evening ground, both Purah and Gideon hear a barbarian sentry express fear to his fellow sentry. The barbarian had a dream the previous night that Gideon would lead a great army and destroy their army.  Through hearing these words of fear,  Purah determined they would be successful.  

Purah advised Gideon they would be successful based on what he had heard. Purah sensed a heightened level of fear by the barbarians, which would cause them to flee even at the hint of Gideon attacking their camp. Purah also knew God would not lead Gideon into a trap. 

Even though Gideon only had three hundred men, his plan, given to him by God, was to essentially encircle the camp in the dark of night with each of the three hundred blaring trumpets and vigorously waving torches. Then, from down in the valley, the barbarians would look up and see what appeared to be a great army. The barbarians would then flee out of fear from hearing the noise and seeing the spectacle of lighted torches.  

This was the plan, but would it work? Purah told Gideon from what he heard the plan would work. Sure enough, when Gideon did do as God advised and encircled the camp, the Barbarians became confused and sought safety in a heightened state of fear. Not only that, many of them turned on each other during their attempted escape.  

Gideon won the battle with only three hundred men based on a marvelously audacious plan given to him by God. Now imagine we were Gideon and had heard God’s plan would we have continued. I must admit I would have been very doubtful and in need of encouragement.  

God knew there would be doubt and asked Gideon to seek Purah for advice and give him confidence. By the way, the name Purah means, in Hebrew, one who bears fruit. I love these names in the Bible; it is always amazing to find out how the meaning of the name ties into the story, and here is another excellent example.  

From a historical background, Purah was Gideon’s helper on his father’s farm. The two were very close, and both loved God. When Gideon had a challenging task on the farm, it was Purah he relied upon to help. Likely they spent many long hours together working and discussing life. So when God told Gideon to have Purah help him gain confidence, it really wasn’t all that surprising. A wise and trusted friend is what God knew would move Gideon forward.  

For me, I see this as an essential part of the Gideon story. We all need Purah’s in our lives to help us move forward. In my own life, during the difficult times of my business career, I didn’t have just one Purah; I had many. When Footlocker was chronically close to filing bankruptcy, I had Marc, Z-man, Lauren, Peter, Anne Marie, and Joe B. to help me think through all the complicated steps. Without their advice and counsel, Footlocker would have failed.  

Even today, in my non-business life, I have many marvelous Purah’s; my brother and sister-in-laws, my brother, my sisters, my wife, my mother and father-in-law, my mother, and the memory of my father. All gifts who give sage advice.  

Over the years, I have learned that if I am to accomplish anything, it requires God and the Purah’s in my life. I have also learned God wants me to seek the counsel of these Purah’s during the complex times.  

We all have Purah’s. And to help us, God asks us to talk with them. Not just when we are faced with difficult times, but in all the times of our lives. Many times life can be complicated, and the answer to our prayers can be hard to understand. This is when the Purah’s in our lives help us sort things out. 

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 

Matthew [11:29] 

In my latest book, Jesus Is Everything, is a chapter called Surrendering to Jesus. Recently I was asked by an owner of a successful real estate company who read the bookhow can I surrender to Jesus and stay loyal to my business? Essentially, he was fearful that surrendering himself to Jesus would ruin his business. I actually hear this remark a lot.  

But to me, it is not a case of giving up; rather, it is an addition to running a successful business or having a bright career. Surrendering to Jesus doesn’t mean we should stop running our businesses or give up our jobs. Instead, it means we add the lessons of Jesus to all of our business behaviors and actions. Simple things like not being deceptive to customers. Or when we have a complex problem to not just rely on our human abilities to solve. Instead, pray to Jesus to help with the solution. Surrendering to Jesus helps us become both moral and successful.  

Jesus, right after he appointed all of the twelve apostles, gave a sermon to the masses. At the time of this sermon, the people were being told by the Pharisees Jesus wasn’t in compliance with the ten commandments, and they should not follow him. Ironically, the Pharisees followed their own passions and not those of God. In turn, to keep the local population subdued, they created excessive legalistic rules to follow. In effect, they were made the everyday person burdened by unnecessary rituals.  

In this sermon, Jesus contradicted the Pharisees on many fronts. In a direct reply to the burden of a false lifestyle and overly legalistic rules, Jesus said, Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. His statement cut directly against the ways of the Pharisees. What Jesus was offering was a new life, free from the burden of the Pharisees and free from the rat race of serving man.  

This is the surrendering Jesus wants from and for us. Not to bind us, but help us. Jesus wants us to stop pursuing the unquenchable goals of materiality and legalism. Instead, he wants us to chase a far more noble goal, that of living for God. He is also assuring us, we will have a far easier life. Jesus isn’t saying quit our jobs or sell our businesses. Jesus is saying to use his methods and teachings in running our businesses or in pursuing a career.  

I had a friend many years ago who was caught up in an awful business cover-up, which would end up making the national news. When he asked me what he should do, I encouraged him to pray and come clean by saying Today’s dollar is cheaper than tomorrow’s. At first, he resisted my advice by saying he would get fired if he told anyone. Seeing his reluctance, I agreed he would likely get fired, but that was likely anyway because it was only a matter of time before what his company was doing would be revealed. I also knew his action of revelation would start the process of a freed life.  

He revealed everything to his company’s CEO and was fired, as were his superiors, who encouraged him to participate in the illicit scheme. Lawsuits followed, and for a couple of years, life was tough for my friend. He lost his ability to work in a public company and was banned from being an accountant.  

However, later he started his own company in an unrelated field and enjoyed success. In his new position, he stuck to a clean and moral course. But he also expanded his prayer life, and when he needed answers to complex problems, he called on Jesus.  

While he achieved success in his new career, more importantly, he gained peace of mind. No longer did he worry about his actions. He was able to go home with a freed spirit. It also seemed that the day-to-day problems got more straightforward because he became riveted on following Jesus. Finding Jesus’ ways were aligned with a less complicated life. 

His story is the point about surrendering to Jesus. In his surrendering, he gained freedom. He also gained clarity in dealing with complex problems.  

Jesus wants us to live in peace and knows following his ways leads to a better life. No longer will we chase selfish and material gains. Instead, we gain a reputation of honesty and fair play, making us more valuable employees. If we own a business, we will earn a sterling reputation for providing  great customer service.  

Jesus is asking us, when we take his yoke, to focus on morality, kindness, and service. He knows the greater reward lies in how we accomplish and not what we gain. Jesus does not want us to get trapped by obtaining material gains at any cost. Instead, he wants us to obtain a life lived with a noble purpose.  

Jesus’ yoke is far easier, and our surrendering is not an act of giving up. On the contrary, it is an act that leads to freedom.  

The kingdom of heaven is like a person who sowed good seed in his field.But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 

Matthew [13:24]-25 

One of the new phenomena in our society is the rise of non-profits that collect millions of dollars yet give very little back to fulfill their intended mission. Essentially these organizations identify a popular social cause and then raise money. But at the same time provide little help for the worthy cause.   

For example, the Children’s Wish Foundation solicits funds to help seriously ill children receive a gift to answer a wish, not to be confused with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Perhaps the desire is a trip to Disney World, a visit to a national park, or to watch their favorite sports team play. The charity plays on the outstanding reputation of the Make-A-Wish foundation to collect money. Yet distributes very little to the children. Instead, most of the money goes to the founder and hired consultants. The foundation preys on the knowledge that Americans are very willing givers.  

Last year, Americans donated close to half a trillion dollars to what is thought to be worthy causes. Even today, Congress is debating handing out another trillion to what is called Human Infrastructure. Next year a substantial amount of money could be handed out to Not For Profit organizations with little oversight to ensure the money is appropriately used.  

Unfortunately, hucksters know this as well. And over the last decade or so, many organizations have figured out how to take advantage of our generosity. It seems that hustling money from Americans is a growth industry. Unfortunately, these hustlers are the weeds amongst the many who actually try to do good.  

In my daily activities, I see both hustlers and well-intentioned leaders of Non-profits. Examples of good organizations, like A Season for Giving, survive through volunteers doing the work. Or Ida’s closet, which an eighty-year-old woman runs, handed out over thirty tons of clothing last year. One of my favorites is Street Squash, an organization that helps inner-city youth attend college. As a result, 85% of their attendees graduate from a four-year college. Well above the national average.  

But I also see organizations like the national BLM, which raised tens of millions of dollars and provided little funds to their local chapters. The founder recently quit after making millions and getting a movie contract. While the well-intended local chapters of BLM bitterly complained they needed money to help their communities. At the same time, violent deaths for this group rose in some states by thirty percent.  

I, too often, see Non-Profits who prey on the sympathies of Americans and set up their organizations for the sole purpose of collecting a paycheck and send little of the money back into their communities. This is the new American Hustle.  

What would Jesus say about all this? In the famous Parable of the Weeds, Jesus gives us his opinion. He said, First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn—both an ominous warning to those who bilk and a hopeful message to those who do good. Even in Jesus’ time, there were bilker’s and harvesters.  

Herein lies the problem. How do we sort out the weeds from a productive harvest?  Do we stop giving and helping those who valiantly try to make a difference, so we don’t get caught up with the weeds? It seems Jesus is telling us to continue to give to those who do good and leave the rest to Him. But knowing who the weeds are is also essential.  

I have found actually visiting the various Non-Profit helps a lot. Look at what they do and talk with those who do the actual work. For instance, with Ida’s Closet, I met Ida. An older woman with a no-nonsense communication style. Frankly, she would be embarrassed if she knew I was writing about her. In the back room of a small church, she sorts through the clothes that arrive in large plastic bags. Unneeded garments that were donated by someone she likely doesn’t know but heard about her work.  

She sorts the garments by type, size, and gender. Then places them on a rolling rack for volunteers to hand out during their street missions in Atlantic city. She carefully sorts that which is in good shape from those not so good. She is defiant about not having poor-quality products hit the street. She is the harvester Jesus is talking about. She is street smart and knows her mission.  

There are many great Non-Profits out there, run by well-intentioned people. Unfortunately, there are also the weeds of life. We can sort them out by digging a little deeper, and if you can’t, visit them. A quick google search helps. Look for statements about how much of their funds go directly to aid. Generally, above 90% is an excellent measuring criteria. Look at what they accomplish and does it make sense when compared to what they receive.  

The current American Hustle isn’t new. It was there two thousand years ago as well. So let’s all help the good harvesters and leave the weeds to Jesus.  

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

Matthew [6:33] 

Recently I was on a podcast called Real Faith Stories, the host Brian Robinson asked me how do we bring Jesus to work?  This is a question I hear quite often. My answer was, the most significant and positive force Christians have in their life is Jesus. And bringing Jesus to work will help any business or business person. The how and why we bring Jesus is the critical piece of this answer. Not for personal gain, instead to be morally and ethically directed. 

I have heard from many mixing Jesus with business is sinful. And it is sinful if we try to use Jesus to get ahead or gain a selfish advantage. However, it is not sinful if we intend to share our business lives with and through Jesus. In effect, letting Jesus becomes our guiding light in all our business conduct.  

In the second part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Simply, Jesus is saying in whatever we do, our first effort should be to know and do what God/Jesus would want us to do. In other words, know and align ourselves to the ways of God/Jesus.  

Once this is donethen everything else will fall into place. For instance, Jesus says,  love your neighbor as yourselfThis is an important message about working with our customers, who are our business neighbors. Imagine the quality of our customer service if we treated everyone as we would want to be treated. Using this mindset, instead of trying veiled sales attempts, we will try to find out what the customer really needs and honestly provide for those customers’ needs. Who wouldn’t like a business or person which operates in this manner? And this attitude is certainly not sinful. 

Or consider the verses in Colossians [3:23]-24, where it says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Imagine if everyone worked as if they were working for Jesus. Honest and hard work would abound. Quality would exist in all product production and in all services rendered. Our every action would be designed to do and be good.  

When I ask business owners, would you hire someone who works as if for the Lord? I always get a resounding yes!  

Part of the answer to how we bring Jesus to work resides very much in our intent and behavior. Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)  Our goal in bringing Jesus to work isn’t to show others how pious we are. Instead, our goal is to be the best Christian employee or Christian business owner. 

It also means our efforts should be geared to the principle of serving the Lord and not just saying or preaching about serving the Lord. There is an old saying which says, live the Gospel, don’t just say the Gospel! People are savvy and will immediately see through our motives. If we only talk about the ways of Jesus but do not follow these words in our actions. Our words will soon become very hollow.  

So the answer to Brian’s question, it is wonderful to bring Jesus to work. However, those who do must also check their motives. If it is only to use Jesus to get ahead- likely we are off track. But if bringing Jesus to work is to help us sincerely be better and ethical business people- we are on track.  

Those who say mixing Jesus and business is sinful miss the point. Jesus should be in our lives all the time, regardless of what we are doing. Just because we work doesn’t mean we abandon Jesus. The critical message is how we bring Jesus to work. Not to gain an advantage or preach a hollow message. But to act in a manner, Jesus would approve.  

So the next time we are at work. Let’s all try working as if we are working for Jesus.  

For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Luke [14:11]

I remember getting a call from John, a person I have been helping navigate a transition into a much higher position with his company. He told me the president of his company had invited him to dinner, along with other senior members of the company. Not only that but he was told he was in line for a promotion very soon—pretty heady stuff for a young executive who had only been with the company for a year.

His question to me was, how do I approach the dinner? I immediately replied, stay humble and focused on doing a good job. However, he was immediately put off guard. It seemed to him, my comment didn’t match the question. He was right. My statement didn’t directly address the question of how exactly to behave at the dinner. Instead, my reply was more directed at how he was to act in all aspects of his interactions, both at the dinner and in the office. 

It wasn’t that I was trying to be evasive. Rather, I know from the experience in my career and from watching others, in this moment, he had hit a critical crossroad in his career. Getting invited to a dinner with the president of your company and being told you are getting promoted is a huge step. This is one of those milestone moments in any person’s career. 

I had come to know John well. And it didn’t surprise me he was being recognized as a solid employee. He is an enthusiastic and very positive person. Always willing to help others and committed to doing the best he can on any project. I am also sure his company had learned they could trust him on any assignment. The president had heard this opinion from the other senior members of the company. So the president wanted to get to know him a lot better. Hence the invite to dinner. 

In the past, I have seen people take one of two courses when they hit this milestone. The first and most dangerous is to become pride-filled. They tend to overstate their accomplishments and boast about their successes. Often time adding in a few exaggerated achievements. As a result, they become proud of themselves and not as proud of the people they work alongside. The reality is most accomplished senior executives, like presidents, will see right through this behavior. But, unfortunately, this behavior becomes a career-ender for these people. 

The second and most desirable course is to stay humble. Not overstate what you have accomplished and to be sure you recognize those who have had just as much success. People who remain humble see their peers as teammates and not as competition. Humble people listen to learn, and when they do talk, they stay positive. These are the people presidents want to promote. 

It is not that I felt John would become prideful. Instead, I was simply throwing up a caution flag. A reminder to stay true to who he was and not overreach. 

In Luke [14:11], Jesus says, For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. What is ironic about this statement, Jesus is giving this advice to people who have also been invited to a dinner-a wedding. Jesus had also been invited and noticed the people who thought of themselves first tried to get the best seats, and those who thought of others first took the lesser seats. A critical insight into each person’s true motives. As we know, Jesus prefers people to think of their neighbor first. 

Presidents of organizations generally think the same way. They will always index to liking people who are team players. They know to build an organization around me first people is a dead-end street. 

Now John is a team player, both in the office and outside. But these moments of recognition can also be moments of getting trapped. We can either exalt ourselves or stay humble and authentic. The lure of making sure the boss knows how good we are will almost always backfire. Genuinely thinking of others first is far more admirable and likable. 

So, I wasn’t avoiding the question John asked. Instead, I was repeating advice from Jesus about how to act at dinner and in the office. Jesus knew about the trap of being too proud and gave us sage words of business and life advice. Another example of why Jesus is good for business and business people. 

“The works of hands are faithful and just; his precepts are trustworthy”

– Psalms 111:7

Abraham Lincoln left his family at the age of twenty-one and became a store clerk in Salem, Illinois. He earned a reputation as being honest and sociable. To help defend this frontier outpost, he joined the local militia. To his surprise, after one year he was elected by the other members of the militia as their captain. A remarkable achievement for a twenty-three-year-old who was new to town. In a very short time he gained a reputation as a man of integrity, and his famous nickname, “Honest Abe,” was given to him during this period of his life.

Many of us from the marketplace are faced with the question of integrity on a daily basis. How do we handle a client’s money? Do we reveal everything or hold back important information? Do we consider ourselves justified because everyone else does it? We ponder and debate. We look for answers from within our hearts. We’re under pressure to complete a deal, to give our boss the right answer. We are constantly besieged with these crossroad decisions.

I was recently confronted by a supplier to pay for more work than had actually been completed. I knew he was wrong, but I paid him anyway. His attitude was that of entitlement. I had noticed that over time he had become more difficult in his billing practices and a little more forward in his requests. After I handed him the check, I decided to end our relationship and began to use other suppliers. After a while, the man complained that I wasn’t giving him any business. I advised him I had found another supplier. He never asked why; he just got angry and stormed off.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

When we view our relationships from only one side, we find it harder to be honest. We begin to feel entitled and justified. We cross the boundary of fairness. Our short-term gains turn into a crisis of reputation. It happens slowly. Customers leave without telling us why. People begin to avoid us. Our reputation becomes a hidden curse. Proverbs 22:1 reminds us of this, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

When we treat our neighbors with respect and honesty, we may suffer short-term financial setbacks, but we build long-term relationships. Recently, I needed a moving company and asked around. I was told to use Company X, they were the best and most honest. I called them, and in our conversations, I asked, “Why don’t you advertise?” The company representative’s response was “We have more than we can handle from our referrals.”

PARTING THOUGHTS

What are the questions we ask ourselves about fairness?

How do we resist the temptation of the short term?

How are your referrals?

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. 

John  [8:32] 

One of the most dangerous things for any business to get caught up in is a self-fulfilling prophecy. A self-fulfilling prophecy happens because you had feelings it will happen, and our subsequent action supports our beliefs. In other words, without the use of facts or truth, we feel something will happen, and then it does, mainly because the actions we take ensure our feelings happen.  

So how does this happen? During the Great Depression of the last century, many previously solid banks failed because their customers thought they would fail. The bank’s customers believed they would fail and withdrew all their money, resulting in a catastrophic capital loss. Thus, causing many banks to fail, sending the country deeper into an economic morass.  

Fortunately, in my business career, I worked with a number of great CEOs who were adept at gathering facts before deciding what to do next. For example, when people would gather to discuss a problem, these CEOs would insist on getting the hard evidence and push away guesses or feelings. The reason is facts aren’t based on feelings or opinions. Instead, they are based on concrete and well-researched information.  

For instance, someone might propose a solution based on just one incident out of very many and offer a solution. Ignoring the multiple times, the event hadn’t occurred. They were essentially selecting one isolated incident to support their feelings or opinion.  

This is dangerous because a solution based on feelings and opinions doesn’t solve the problem. The problem will still exist and likely get worse. The right solutions require the right facts.  

Sometimes, these feelings or opinions circulate and are accepted because people with alternative agendas push their agenda, regardless of whether it is suitable for the company. This makes it harder to get the facts. Instead, they will point to an isolated incident that supports their agenda and convince people their feelings are a universal truth.  

This behavior creates an uphill climb to convince an organization to take a different course for the person who knows the real truth and facts. In some cases, the person trying to give the facts will become isolated or beaten down. As a result, they will likely either go silent or go along.  

Jesus had this problem early in his ministry. Many of the religious leaders tried to change the minds of people about Jesus. They used skillfully crafted words to convince the local population to condemn Jesus. They weren’t interested in if Jesus was telling the truth. They were more interested in getting rid of a person that threatened their power base.  

The facts, in this case, were clearly on Jesus’ side. He was the Son of God and sent by God. He cured many. He spoke clearly and was always faithful to the words of God. He counseled the downtrodden and showed compassion. Certainly, no one knew the scriptures better than Jesus. Many times using the scriptures against the religious elite.  

The dilemma for Jesus was that even though he did what he said and said what he did, it went across the grain of those in power. Instead of using facts, his detractors used feelings and misguided opinions to prove him wrong. To them, it wasn’t a question if he was right or wrong. Instead, it became a quest to eliminate his influence.  

Jesus didn’t respond to the religious elite. He simply said to the masses, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. A simple message, stick with me, and you will discover what is real. And we all know Jesus did fulfill his mission. He was crucified and rose on the third day to save us from sin.  

To prove the point, not much is known today about Jesus’ detractors, but much is known about Jesus. That is the issue with feelings and opinions. They don’t last long but can cause a lot of problems. It is always the facts and the truth which survive.  

The same is true with our faith lives. Stick close to the message of Jesus. We should test everything we feel or hear against the words of Jesus. If it matches, likely, we are hearing or feeling the truth. Otherwise, we are reacting to either our misguided desires or falling for someone else’s agenda.  

The truth will always set us free.