If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read the previous parts to this series.
For many years Joseph’s guitar had served him well, but then he began having problems with it. When this happened, we were on a speaking trip with no time to stop to have the repair done plus a concert was coming up on Friday. Since Joseph was really ready for an upgraded guitar, it seemed like the perfect time to make the purchase. We found a local music store and went in to see what was in stock. It didn’t take long to find a guitar that was comparable to Joseph’s ability.
As we were discussing price and warranty, the owner asked if we worked for the government. That seemed like a bit of an odd question to us. We answered “No. Why?” He explained that he could ship an empty box to our home in Kansas and write up the guitar purchase as a telephone order. That way we could save money by not paying the sales tax. We told him that as Christians we pay what is owed to the government, and therefore, we couldn’t do that.
He said, “I’m a Christian too, but the Bible doesn’t say a person can’t save a little here and there.” However, we were thinking that while the Bible might not say you can’t save a little here or there, it does say “. . . Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s …” (Matthew 22:21).
The salesman was offering to violate the law which is also contrary to Scripture. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1). Whether we like it or not, we are to obey the law. This man and his business were mostly likely headed for trouble, and it is probable he was not going to experience God’s blessing on his business. The salesman was either choosing not to obey Scripture like he was choosing to disobey the law, or he was ignorant.
We need to be Bereans studying Scripture and then applying it not only to our personal lives but also to our businesses. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Maybe you’ve had a situation similar to what we experienced with the guitar salesman when doing business with a professing Christian who wanted to do something that was questionable and perhaps even illegal. Situations such as these highlight that there are many professing Christians in business, but there is great need for businesses to reflect the truth of God’s Word. As Christians we are to be bright lights in a sea of darkness.
I would encourage you to be committed to seek God’s blessing on your business. One way to do that is by obeying the law. Instead of ignoring the law or pushing the limits to just short of disobeying the law, seek to glorify the Lord in this area too. As laws change and continue to become more complex, it takes diligence to comply.
One example of that would come from our Titus2 speaking ministry. When we travel to various states and localities to give a conference, we are also selling our materials. The tax laws vary every place we go so it takes an incredible amount of research time, filling out the correct paperwork, and then paying the taxes that are owed. It would be easy to ignore the tax laws and assume since we are only there for a one-time sale, we wouldn’t owe taxes. However, despite the inconveniences and the difficulties involved, we know it is right to do what the law tells us to do.
I believe one of the primary attitudes important in self-employment is that of a servant. “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all” (Mark 10:44). The way to success is through the unlikely path of having the heart attitude of a servant. As Christians it should be second nature for us to have that attitude in business. Since we began our family business, our mission has been the success of our customers.
For our family business, we only accept work from someone who we want to see succeed. When we work for a client, we put one hundred percent effort into the project’s successful completion. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17). If a prospective client has products we can’t endorse such as alcohol or tobacco, we turn their business down. If we feel their leadership isn’t ethical, we don’t work for them. In good conscience, we have to be able to endorse the company and its products in order to work for them. It is not about us making money but about our client’s success. These policies reduce the number of clients we have, but the Lord has provided the right ones in the right time.
A servant’s heart will require you to tell your customer “no” sometimes if they ask for something that you are convinced is not in their best interest. Years ago I worked for a large company on a billion dollar contract. The customer had wanted several things that my employer was convinced would not be good for the project. Since my employer said the customer is always right, they agreed to it. Eventually, those requests caused the whole project to fail. It was the only contract my employer had ever defaulted on, and it was because they didn’t tell the customer “no” when they should have.
A servant’s heart doesn’t mean he is relegated to being just a robot of the customer’s wishes. If he is skilled and knowledgeable in his trade, it means he knows more than the customer does about what it takes to do the job. So not only may he end up telling the customer “no,” but he may also need to tell him there is a better way to do it.
A servant’s heart doesn’t mean he isn’t paid appropriately for his time. A business must make a reasonable profit, or it ceases to be a business and becomes a hobby. To guarantee that he is around to serve future clients, he must make a reasonable profit. If the customer doesn’t agree his services are worth the price, then he finds other customers who do. At the same time, a servant is striving for excellence by ensuring that the service or product rendered is truly worth the income received. Don’t earn business based on a low price but by providing great value.
A servant’s heart will accurately represent his products and services. He won’t use gimmicks to get a sale because he is looking for needs that he can realistically meet. Then once accurately presented, the customer can decide if the product or service meets his needs. Few people like surprises unless it is on their birthday.
A servant’s heart will seek to ship orders as accurately, timely, and damage free as possible. Many businesses are satisfied once they have the order, but at that point the customer wants what he ordered. How hard we are willing to work to ship it is a measure of a servant’s heart.
There is a discount chain that is known for being ruthless with their suppliers in order to provide their customers the lowest possible price. However, a servant’s heart respects that his suppliers must make a profit if they are to stay in business and deliver a quality product. He also sees that all invoices are paid as quickly as possible even if there are thirty day terms. His suppliers are treated with respect, and a good relationship is cultivated for the sake of the ultimate customer.
The Lord put us on this planet to seek Him first and to work. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15). We seek to glorify the Lord in everything we do, and we diligently work hard as servants.
I want to clarify that when I refer to our “family business,” I’m not referring to Titus2 but to the computer business we began in 1997. Our sons are the ones who have their respective endeavors in the “family business.” My primary involvement is to give them counsel. It’s one way of leaving them a heritage by helping them build strong, stable businesses. My heart, focus, and joy is Titus2.
Following the Lord Jesus in our personal walk is exciting, but adding self-employment to the mix makes following the Lord a bit thrilling. Self-employment provides so many challenges and opportunities to trust Him and seek His direction. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20).