Iglesia Vida Abundante exhibits a Kingdom optimism that sets a good theological stage for engaging business and government with confidence that its efforts will make a difference because God’s Kingdom will indeed prevail in this world. Muchas gracias Pastor Evelio Reyes for your leadership. Vida Abundante hears God’s call to their mission outside their church walls. That’s why they reach out with their school, radio station, television station, and prayer for government leaders. GRACIAS…support (my biz, you).
Pastor Evelio Reyes has commissioned GEP to mobilize business people to help fulfill the church’s mission outside its walls. Given the established place of business in the community, entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to use its influence to follow God’s heart for the poor. In fact, business is God’s method of providing for the needs of rich and poor alike. When the poor of Tegucigalpa and Comayaguela pray for their daily bread, YOU are God’s answer!
In the days of Moses, God gave daily bread directly from heaven for a limited time. On the very day the Hebrews entered Canaan, however, God’s relief project came to an abrupt end. The manna ceased. Strikingly, at the earliest possible moment that the Hebrews had the prospect of providing for themselves, God quit with relief. He didn’t wait until the first harvest, or even the first planting. God’s regular method of providing daily bread is to partner with people’s own work.
Then and now, business is the only sustainable solution for poverty. Theologian Wayne Grudem writes in his book Business for the Glory of God: “A short-term solution is to give food and clothing to the poor, and that is certainly right. But it is no long-term solution, for the food is soon eaten and the clothing wears out. Because businesses produce needed jobs and goods year after year, I believe the only long-term solution to world poverty is business.”
But we business people don’t always follow God’s heart for the poor. We get so busy with our own concerns. We sacrificed a lot to build our businesses, so it’s easy to think we deserve to keep all the rewards. Since we forget, God has given us over 2000 verses in scripture reminding us to exercise justice and compassion. Galatians 2:10 says to “remember the poor”.
Matthew 25 is a powerful reminder that when we act in love for the poor, Jesus receives it as love to himself personally!
Theologian John Stott wrote this interpretation of Matthew 25 from the perspective of a homeless woman:
I was hungry and you formed a humanities group to discuss my hunger. I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your church and prayed for my release. I was naked and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance. I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health. I was homeless and you preached to me of the spiritual shelter of the love of God. I was lonely and you left me alone to pray for me. You seem so holy, so close to God, but I am still very hungry – and lonely – and cold.
I’ve personally experienced that intimacy with Jesus when serving those in need in Haiti and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. My four trips to help people recover from that disaster was one of the reasons I started Entrust. It’s natural to spend our time with people who have the same social status and power as we do. When we cross those barriers to serve in Jesus’ name, we experience Jesus in powerful ways. God has entrusted us with influence, but not for us to use it for our own benefit. Our businesses are not our own. They are God’s and we are his stewards.
Andy Crouch wrote in his book Culture Making: “Stewardship means to consciously take up our cultural power, investing it intentionally among the seemingly powerless, putting our power at their disposal to enable them to cultivate and create.”
I want us to look at a place in Scripture where God connects the powerful with the powerless.
Leviticus 19:9-10: When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God.
The insights I’m about to share on this passage come from Tim Weinhold in an article called “Gleanings”. The next section of my talk is a direct quote from Tim Weinhold:
“The key to unlocking the fuller significance of the gleanings model is to realize that commercial farms were the chief means of wealth creation in ancient Israel. Landed farmers were not merely farmers, they were privileged owners of the primary business engines of their day. Understood more broadly, therefore, God brought the gleanings mandate not to farmers per se, but to those who control the engines of wealth creation. Gleanings was meant for business people.
Viewed through this lens, two important principles jump out:
1. God intentionally forged a direct connection between business engines and the poor.
Businesses are the creators of economic wealth and opportunity — precisely the resources of which the poor are in desperate need. It is easy to miss the essence here. God did not say to the business owners, once you’ve harvested the economic rewards of your business efforts, please pass a portion of those rewards along to the poor. Rather, God did something more pointed, more radical. He says instead to the farmers of Israel, I want to make a direct link between your business engine itself — your commercial farming operation — and meeting the needs of the poor.
2. God forged a direct, experiential connection between business people and the poor.
God could easily have found a less direct way to leverage the wealth generation of businesses to assist the poor. But he didn’t. Rather, through gleanings, God brought the poor and the business person into direct contact.
I imagine a farmer standing in one of his fields, overseeing the harvesting effort of his employees. He thinks back to the risk and effort in acquiring this field, plowing, planting, tending, all the while not knowing whether the rains would come or the locusts would stay away. Now though, God be praised, a rich harvest is being gathered.
This is a pregnant moment. The business engine is producing its rewards and there is an invisible question on the table: who should rightfully share in those rewards? To the business person, all too often, the question is invisible because the answer is obvious: the rewards are mine! I had the vision. I took the risk. I labored long and hard. Of course, I now deserve the rewards.
And then the farmer glances over to the edge of the field and sees several of the poorest members of the community gathering the gleanings. He thinks to himself, without the gleanings from my field, these people would probably be forced to beg. They might even starve. Perhaps a heart softening, even a heart and vision re-calibration, begins.
The farmer might think: I begin to see that this business engine I run, and this business vocation I pursue, is capable of more than merely giving me and my family a good life. It’s capable of giving a good life to my community, even my society. And, as I think about it, that’s the way it should be. This harvest is really the fruit of a partnership between my efforts and the goodness of God. It’s only right, therefore, that those God wants to bless — the poor and marginalized especially, and my community generally — share in the rewards of his and my partnership.”
Since most of today’s businesses are not farms, how should we practice the principle of gleanings?
Business has both intrinsic and instrumental value in God’s purposes for the world. Through its normal operations, business can naturally serve the poor by:
- providing meaningful work through which employees emulate God’s creativity and productivity
- providing means for poor families to support themselves and lift themselves out of poverty
- providing the community with goods and services that will enable it to flourish
A book by Neal Johnson called Business as Mission describes how job creation alleviates poverty: “Businesses generate jobs that create wealth that, through the multiplier concept, raise the economic level of the community or nation….This process allows people to retain the dignity, self-esteem, healthy pride and realistic hope that come from being usefully employed and economically self-sufficient”. The company I started now employs 25 people; it’s satisfying to know that God is using me to feed 25 families.
When you create a job for the poor, you make them less vulnerable to human trafficking.
An article on the subject says: “In the midst of crushing poverty and absence of opportunities for productive employment, including business, trafficked people are compelled to ‘sell’ themselves because they need to feed themselves, their children and/or their parents.
In the absence of other income and employment opportunities, poor parents, single parents and young adults find that human trafficking is the only option available and will continue to do so as long as their survival continues to be undermined by pervasive poverty. Business can break the cycle of poverty and multiply the options available to the poor. When they have meaningful work close to home, they’re less likely to risk traveling with strangers to false job opportunities in distant places. Educated children are likely to be hopeful about the future and resist the false temptations traffickers offer them. Children in schools are also likely to render recruitment by traffickers more difficult than children on the streets.”
Beyond these intrinsic ways business serves the poor, it plays vastly important instrumental roles as well. Have you ever stopped to realize that business is the source of the wealth which funds all the good done by non-profits, governments, churches and schools? From our business profits, we can give to ministries that serve the poor. And we can give our time, as my business has given me the time to start Entrust, a non-profit that helps businesses in Honduras and Haiti to create jobs for the poor. Because my company has a good management team, I’m able to give my time to speak today about alleviating poverty through business.
We can use our goods and services themselves to enable those who serve the poor. I’m sure your business offers a discount to churches and ministries. My business does free tree trimming for a pregnancy care center that helps young pregnant women choose life rather than abortion.
Our best day yet…
Let me close with a few stories of other businesses which are intentionally following God’s heart for the poor:
Through a variety of business ventures, Timothy enables start-ups, creates jobs, provides cattle and plows for the impoverished, and cares for hundreds of orphans. Running these businesses has enabled Timothy to help transform the lives of thousands. He views his own story as a testament to what is possible for individuals like Aloysius Kongoli, an AIDS orphan from Kampala.
When Aloysius was 14 years old he lost both his father and mother to AIDS, leaving him to care for three younger siblings. Timothy was moved to help Aloysius. He told Aloysius that he could not promise to pay his school fees, but if Aloysius was willing to learn a trade he could help him do that. Aloysius decided to become a tailor. When he completed the course, Timothy gave Aloysius a sewing machine as a graduation gift. He also paid rent on a small space for six months and continued to mentor the young tailor for the next six years. In 2008, Aloysius was 25 years old, had a thriving business with eight sewing machines and ten employees, and was able to send his three siblings to school.
Rob Smith/ Thain Boatworks/Earthwise Ventures
Thain Boatworks builds commercial and consumer boats at its shipyard outside of Seattle. Rob Smith, founder and CEO, is a native of South Africa. He is intimately acquainted with the derelict state of the road system in much of Africa, and with the constraint that poses for business/economic development. Recently, Rob decided that Thain could do something to help.
Thain launched Earthwise Ventures with an ambitious vision: build commercial ferry boats (passengers and cargo) in Seattle, disassemble and ship the components to the shore of Lake Victoria, then reassemble and launch the boats to provide commercial ferry service to strengthen the transportation infrastructure in east Africa. (The first of ten planned boats has launched.)
Jeff Rutt/Keystone Custom Homes/HOPE International
Jeff Rutt, the CEO of Keystone Custom Homes in Lancaster, PA founded HOPE International to provide microfinance services to the poor in the developing world. To help capitalize HOPE, Jeff had Keystone every year build a house and donate to HOPE all the profits from its sale. To maximize profits, he invited all the subcontractors working on the house to join Keystone in donating their labor. This proved terrifically popular. Jeff eventually invited several other home builders to follow his example. Today, via the Homes for HOPE program, HOPE International benefits annually from the proceeds of several houses built expressly to generate funds for microfinance efforts to help the global poor.
Larry Dahl/Oil Stop/World Vision
Larry Dahl, President of Oil Stop — a chain of oil-and-lube shops — is focused on service. He had a vision for how Oil Stop could serve not only its customers, but also the poor in Africa. Now each Oil Stop customer is invited to donate $1.00 toward the company’s partnership with World Vision to dig wells in Africa. Each customer dollar is matched by Oil Stop, making $2.00, which is then matched by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, making $4.00. Last year, their “Oil and Water Do Mix” effort generated over half a million dollars to drill clean water wells.
Land of a Thousand Hills:
• Wage earners killed in genocide – ministry to widows
• Reconciliation between Tutsis and Hutus
• cooperative = voice/power
• innovative bicycle – using creativity to serve the poor.
• None of these detract from the quality of the product
• Concern for poor motivates many people to buy their coffee!
Each of these businesses has found creative ways to link their business engines to the poor. What about you? Are there ways God might hope you creatively share the rewards of your business with the poor and marginalized?
Tim Weinhold writes: “God’s ultimate poverty solution is transformed business people, inspired by the good their business engines can do for the poor and their community.”
Contributed by Evan Keller, Founder/CEO of Entrust
Additional resources by Evan: