I began exploring the biblical principles that could help today’s employees be successful at their work. The last couple of days have been looking at characteristics of biblical figures to see what behaviors they exhibited to drive that success. I want to deviate from that line of thought for a few days and maybe will plan on returning in the coming weeks.
As I was asking God what I should write about today, He told me to look at the parables Jesus shared. He said Jesus was using heavenly principles which are also applicable on earth. We know many of the scriptures are multifaceted and as we did into a verse it can point us to a number of different meanings. As we use the heavenly principles of the parables on earth to glorify our Father in our work, we will find a new framework for success. We can learn deeper mysteries in those parables as we follow Him and seek to bring Him glory in our workplace. He will elevate us at the right time in our work and we will get His reward for our obedience.
Why do I believe the heavenly principles have earthly application in a multifaceted way? In Matthew 16:19 Jesus says. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then again in Matthew 18:18 He says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Which means the principles that work in heaven will work on earth. Even Jesus tell us to pray in the Lords pray in Matthew 6:10, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Again, what is done in heaven can be done on earth. So it makes sense that using the parables Jesus spoke as heavenly principles can have an application on earth. Especially since work is a God ordained activity.
Over the next few days, I will be exploring the various parables that have a story that is related to work in some form or fashion. While some of the parables may not be explicitly related in a work context, I will be weaving in examples from twenty years of leadership and Human Resource experience. Here we go!
Parable of the Shrewd Manager
Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
“The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
“‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
“Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
“‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.
I always was confused by this parable until I read that it was customary for steward or business managers in Jesus’ time to work on commission. They would get their salary from the commission on their owners business dealings. In the case of the shrewd manager, when he reduced the bill for each of the items, he was not actually stealing from the owner. That is what I always thought and was confused why the master would commend him for his actions. Instead, the shrewd manager was cutting his commission. By him forgoing his short term commission, he endeared himself to the people who owned his master money.
The heavenly principle is to be willing to help others, even if it doesn’t give you a short term benefit. In a earthly sense, some might call this “pay it forward” or “give to get.” As a heavenly principle for work, it goes much deeper than being nice to someone or to give up something so you will get something later. On the surface, it does suggest that is what the shrewd manager is doing. However, if we benefit others without any expectation of repayment or reciprocity, then we will be blessed to a much greater degree. I know this goes against everything we are taught, however, heavenly principles usually work opposite to manmade principles.
A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to present to a board of director of a large company. I chose to allow a peer make the presentation, even though I had put the materials together. Everyone thought I was crazy for giving up such a great career advancement opportunity. Maybe I was, however, the other person needed it more than I did at the time. Looking back, if I had taken that opportunity, it might have set me on a different path in my career. By giving it away, I eventually got to move to Malaysia and Japan. The benefit came later, but I was much better off in the long run.
I have found in my career, doing things for others without expecting anything from them always has a positive payout. It is usually not immediate, but in the long run you will be blessed. During my time being an unemployed HR executive and a aspiring writer, I have shared many job leads with others that are in the same situation as I am. While it seems crazy to add competition for a job, I know that the right job will become available. Who knows, maybe one of the folks I share a lead with will get a job and then open the door for me. It is not why I do it, I do it to share the love of Jesus. This heavenly principle is a great one to learn to have long term success at work!