You are in a conference room, the opposing company that has just bought you out sits looming across the table. They inform you that your services to the company are no longer needed. In your anguish of just losing your job, the manager looks at you with a sympathetic grin and utters the words that we have esteemed as universally acceptable, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” Our global society has become one where the American dream is alive and well. It speaks of the ability to achieve any of your dreams, soar to any height imaginable, and that the world is for the taking. All that is required is your blood, sweat, and tears and a drive that just won’t quit. We see the effects of this pursuit as many of us work 80-hour work weeks sacrificing our time, energy, and life for the dream of making it in this world. We justify our position, stress, and health concerns for the greater good of providing for my family, or obtaining my goals. We are told that we can achieve anything we want if we work hard enough. We are also told that you are allowed to do whatever it takes to reach the top. I am reminded of one of my wife and I’s favorite movies, “You’ve Got Mail.” In it, Joe Fox, the multi-millionaire businessman is giving advice to a local small shop owner in danger of losing her business. He tells her to go to the mattresses, a Godfather reference, that tells her to fight to the death. To claw, scratch, and do whatever it takes to survive and thrive. That the ends justify the means, and if the end goal is to be successful, then it doesn’t matter how you get there. This is the model that much of corporate America and the world for that matter has operated on. Perhaps you are a part of the system as you barely have time to read this blog. Chances are, if you are in this system of overwork, overstress, and overcompensation, you have probably already stopped reading. If you are one of those individuals then may I recommend a book that re-framed my perspective of work and setting appropriate goals for my future. The book is entitled, “The Sacred Pace” by Terry Looper. I highly recommend it and it will change your life.
So, we see this work environment where society is telling you that you can do whatever it takes to reach the top. That your acquisition of more is allowed to be first priority in your life. That if you have the resources, means, and ability to get more, then you should – what is stopping you? The idea of more is acceptable in both Christian and non-Christian circles alike. It is ok to acquire wealth, it is ok to work hard, and it is ok to go after your dreams. But to what end? Is the acquisition of wealth for your own personal gain? Is it a litmus test to your identity, purpose, or value? Or is your acquisition of wealth to bless and benefit others? Is your striving to work hard costing you your very life? Are you so stressed out that you cannot function as a wife or husband, a parent, or a friend? Is your life so consumed with your work that you have no other identity or purpose outside of it? Are your dreams to acquire as much as you can get? As Matthew so eloquently proposes, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” The American dream looks a little different when you start weighing the costs that it takes to achieve. Is it worth it?
And then comes the realization of the fact that your gain might cause others loss. We live in a finite world that is full of limitations. There is only so many slices of the pie, and if we take more, then others have less. And I am sorry for being straightforward and convicting, but as someone that lives near the top 1% in the world of wealth myself, this has been something really heavy on me. I don’t even recognize my opulence and my excess. I don’t even understand the abundance of food, shelter, clothing, accessories, means, and abilities that I have living in the place that I do with the resources that I have. I don’t recognize it until I travel to a town in the middle of Jamaica and visit an infirmary where people are left on the doorstep to live the rest of their lives in filth, dying a slow miserable death because their families don’t want to take care of their needs. Or when I travel to Rhino refugee camp that houses over a million refugees who seven out of ten have seen someone brutally murdered in front of them and eight out of ten women have experienced severe sexual mistreatment. Or when I go to a small village in Russia and work with teenaged orphans who will all find a life of drugs or sex trade waiting for them when the turn eighteen. Where our only goal is to try to get them to smile once in our time with them. I have example after example in my travels across the world that I simply cannot un-see. These experiences have engrained within me a realization that my opulence is a cause of their need. And I recognize a very important fact – it’s not business, it is personal. These are real people in real places living real lives. There are millions of people that do not have access to food, shelter, clean water, education, or a safe environment. There are real people living right now that won’t be alive tomorrow because they starved, died of disease, or were butchered for their faith or their race. And while we don’t see them on a daily basis, we have to start being able to get to the point where we cannot un-see them. That it festers within us so much that we are forced to act. The best dose of medicine is proximity. Because proximity breeds empathy. I challenge you to go to a homeless shelter, go on a missions trip, or interact with someone that you would classify as a “have-not.” Ask for their story, give them yours, and begin a dialogue to get their side of the story. What are their dreams and hopes?
While this message is a hard one, it is one that must be spoken. While we can easily dismiss these words as exaggeration, or denial, or mere information that makes it a nice message, the reality is this, while millions starve, there is enough food on this planet to feed 300 times the population. While millions go without shelter, there is room and housing equipment to shelter everyone on this planet. We can prevent diseases, we can provide clean water. The means are available, they are simply appropriated in different places with a God that is saying, “You have dominion over this earth, I gave you the authority and responsibility to take care of this world, do something about it!” It is up to us, because those that have the means are given additional responsibility to help those in need. Our two commandments are simple – Love God, Love Others. This isn’t a political statement, this isn’t me leaning to one side or the other. This is me leaning on the words of Jesus that tells us to love everyone, serve everyone, and die to yourself so that you can find a life that is worth living that will you’re your mind and give you everything you ever dreamed of!
However God is calling you to help, go do that and then do more. Let’s make it personal, and not just about business. Let’s give where it is needed. Let’s train where giving doesn’t help and bring up those in need with the skills and ability for them to get themselves out of poverty on their own. Let’s be Christ in all situations so that we can live a life that’s worth living. Where our wealth, our work, and our dreams change the world for the better and for Christ. In the end it should have little to do with business, and everything to do about people! So let’s go into all the world and make it personal.