Our Stuff Works!

In Deuteronomy 28 God said, if you agree with me and do things my way, I will make you the head and not the tail, above and not beneath. Similar to the promise in Ps 1, “Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.”

The Lord is saying, “think the way I think and you will succeed.”  Simply put God’s Ideas work! There are a number of worldly philosophies that are running rampant today, postmodernism, relativism, collectivism, humanism, etc.  The thing is, that if you try to apply these in business they just don’t work – Believer, our stuff works.  You see, those who learn and live God’s truth as it applies to work, business and economics will have a sustainable competitive advantage in a confused world.  Your feet will be on a rock while everyone else is on sinking sand.

Many of the best business minds of the last couple of generations Carnegie, Drucker, Deming credit their wisdom to its source, God’s Word.  Why are the most prosperous nations of the world also those who at some formative point in their history enthroned truth (protestant nations by large) in the building of their economies?  Japan is an interesting case study because it is an exception, not protestant, but the heir of protestant ideals taught by W. Edward Demming the American grandfather of Japanese business and an ardent Christian.

Listen to this quote from Deming’s book the new economics, “The first step is transformation of the individual. This transformation is discontinuous. It comes from understanding of the system of profound knowledge.The individual, transformed, will perceive new meaning to his life, to events, to numbers, to interactions between people. Once the individual understands the system of profound knowledge, he will apply its principles in every kind of relationship with other people. He will have a basis for judgment of his own decisions and for transformation of the organizations that he belongs to.”  Obviously this is flowing from his understanding of Romans 12, “be not conformed but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”

Relativism and post modernism can’t even say, “best practice” with a straight face.  If everything is relative, if there are no correct metanarratives, no objective truths, then one way is as good as another.  Of course this is Hogwash!  There are best practices, there is a better path, there is a straight and narrow.  Be encouraged, our stuff works!

Robin Hood and 3 Forms of Destructive Redistribution of Capital

By: Jason Benedict

My family and I recently watched a show about Robin Hood.  The kids asked me if I thought Robin Hood was heroic.  I guess I do, but that takes some explaining.

One reason I like Robin Hood is that according to family lore, he and I have something in common.  We both have ancestors who hail from Nottinghamshire, England (The Benedicts supposedly settled there upon fleeing Southern France).  In general we love the Robin Hood story because Robin Hood is about justice a balancing of the scales.  The evil nobles used the power of force and government coercion (enter prince John and that despicable Sheriff) to extract money and goods from the productive, hardworking, enterprising peasants.  They then spend it on their own wasteful, and unproductive (albeit lavish lifestyles).  Robin Hood to the rescue!  He helps the peasants throw off the weight of oppressive big government.

What I can’t accept is the modern reversal in which government is seen as Robin Hood and the hardworking, enterprising business folks are seen as Prince John.  You see the system has changed since feudal England.  Dr. Walter Williams says, “Capitalism is relatively new in human history. Prior to capitalism, the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering, and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving your fellow man.”  You see a free market allows you to get a kind of credit (we call this money: e.g. Dollars) in exchange for rendering service (providing goods and service) to our fellow man.  In this system those who become the most proficient at this, amass the greatest number of credits.  This proficiency I speak of is not merely time and effort, but it also factors in strategy, wisdom, insight (cleverness), charisma, leadership, etc.  We also have corporations on the scene, another relative newcomer in world history.  Corporations represent teams of people working in – get this – cooperation, to provide service to their fellow man.

So back to Sherwood Forest – how did Prince John reinvent himself in the 21st century as a government “benefactor” of the people?  Let’s look at 3 destructive forms of redistribution of Capital (goods and money):

  1. An armed robber (perhaps a Meth addict – but at any rate an unproductive and lazy member of society) goes into a local grocery store and using coercion takes money from the small business owner (he is rich after all) – he redistributes this Capital to himself and uses it for his own consumption.  The winner – the robber.  The loser – all of us.
  2. The Federal Government uses its overwhelming powers of coercion to take money (unethical but legal) from the same small business owner (he is rich after all) – the government then redistributes this Capital, Some of it is distributed to the less productive members of society, who spend it on their consumption.  The winner – the government who is seen as a benefactor and reaps the vote as a reward thus maintaining power.  The loser – all of us.  Question – are there any incidents in which some good is done with some of this money? Yes, you can find an anecdote here and there of someone who used this “redistributed” money to accomplish some positive end*, but this is a question of efficiency and outcomes.  The net result is that we are all worse off, and this is a terribly inefficient way to get some of the money into the right hands.
  3. The Government uses its ability to borrow and/or print money and (essentially) takes cash from future generations, and in the same inefficient way they redistribute the cash that rightfully belongs to future generations of achievers.  They give this capital to the less productive members of society who in turn consume it upon themselves.  Questions – but wait a second, when the government spends that money doesn’t it stimulate the economy?  Didn’t they teach us in school that there is a multiplier effect on the economy?  Don’t we all benefit?  Let me give you an analogy – government stimulus spending is like plugging in a fan and using it to blow a windmill generator and using the windmill generator to power a light bulb, to power a solar cell to power the same fan.

So Robin Hood, what is the alternative?  Freedom!  Allow the free market to use its unrivaled economic efficiency to allocate capital to the most productive members of society.  Allow the free market to confiscate capital from the most wasteful and unproductive among us – thus incentivizing them to change their unproductive behavior (so we all win).   “If a man does not choose to work, neither shall he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).  Allow philanthropy and altruism to address the problems that can’t be solved by the market, but allow individuals to direct their philanthropy themselves.  When someone helps their fellow man of their own accord and with their own means this is virtue.  But when someone helps their fellow man (and themselves) with someone else’s means through coercion and against free will this is despicable.  When they congratulate themselves for this redistribution it is evil.

*Public Goods: of course there are legitimate uses of taxation for public goods: defense, justice, policing, infrastructure, etc.  Things that cannot or should not be allocated by the free market. Though these should be more at the local level than federal with exceptions.

For further insights I suggest that you investigate the writings (or YouTube ® videos if you prefer) of the late Milton Friedman, Dr. Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell.

The Two Trees

by Jason Benedict

In my book Eden Inc. I make the case that the Eden narrative sets the precedent for a global enterprise mandate.  That the mandate in Gen 1:26 is to extend the rule (or Kingdom) of God to the ends of the earth.  I believe the means for the completion of this mandate is enterprise.  Within this construct, the Garden of Eden is not some primordial jungle but rather a functioning agricultural enterprise that was given to Adam and Eve to accomplish a global mission.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:26-28 NIV: emphasis mine)

Genesis is a rich book when it comes to developing a theology of enterprise.  We find the mandate, means, mission construct mentioned above, but we also see the introduction of satanic influence into God’s system, the resulting fall, and the introduction of a diabolical alternative to God’s intention for enterprise.

As we have discussed, God’s original intention for enterprise (insert “business” if you like) was for it to be an economic engine for His global purposes.  God was in a very real sense the ultimate entrepreneur, and he brings man in as a partner (a regent) in his operation.  This partnership was a covenant relationship that involved Adam having a daily consultation with God.  God would consult with man who would then implement God’s purposes in the Earth.  Out of this relationship of love, trust, reliance, and obedience blessing flowed intoEden and was supposed to flow into the entire Earth.  This relationship was shattered by the introduction of sin and a new order or world system.  These two competing systems are paralleled in the two trees of the garden.

The Tree of Life is analogous of covenant relationship with God (more on this later), and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Tree of Knowledge for brevity sake) is about the attempted misappropriation of divine prerogatives.   The eating of its fruit represents the inauguration of the kingdom of darkness. 

 [The serpent said] “…when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5 NIV)

That tree was for God alone, and was off limits to man.  It is the “me” tree, it is about controlling your own reality, destiny and outcomes.  Conversely, The Tree of Life represents listening, trusting, and obeying.   The Tree of Knowledge is about independence, being in charge or being _____  enough (Fill in the blank.).

Branches of the Tree of Knowledge are:

  • Intellectualism: being smart enough to control destiny
  • Perfectionism: being good enough, beautiful enough or perfect enough…
  • Witchcraft: using secret knowledge to manipulate outcomes (I couldn’t think of a phrase with enough in it).
  • Machiavellianism: Trying to be powerful enough to control destiny.
  • Materialism: Being rich enough…
  • Vain Religion: Being pious enough…

We are constantly confronted with temptations to live our lives out of the Tree of Knowledge.  The world system pulls on us like gravity on a swimmer: To be passive is to be sucked under.  Go through the list above and think about the pull that these things exert our lives.  I know that they pull on me.  Just think of the blizzard of advertising we are each exposed to: you note that these themes predominate.

When I reflect on the times in my life when I was trying to go it alone (or simply slipped into going it alone), I have flashbacks of the fear, anguish, worry and strife associated with those times.  If I had to do word association I would come up with PRESSURE.  When I think about the times in my life when I have been walking in reliance upon God, the word that comes to mind is PEACE.

An Understanding of the Two Trees Applied to Finances

One of the most common ways that this worldly system manifests itself is in the temptation of riches.  This is even evident in the terminology we use.  We say things like, “He is independently wealthy,” or “I want financial independence.”  The sentiments represented by these statements stem from the world system based on the attempted misappropriation of divine prerogatives.  The desire for riches is always condemned in scripture.

“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:9,10 NIV

“Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income…” Ecclesiastes 5:10 NIV

“You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24 NIV

While the scriptures summarily condemn a wealth motivation, those who desire blessing are commended.  Examples are Jabez and Jacob.

“Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.1 Chronicles 4:9,10 NIV [emphasis mine].

“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Gen 32:24-26 NIV.

To the casual onlooker, blessing and wealth may appear to be essentially the same thing but, there is a marked difference in the motivation behind the two.  The concept of riches as we have seen is rooted in independence from God.  The concept of blessing is rooted in covenant relationship.  For much of my life I thought that if I could just get rich enough I would be able to rest:  I could stop worrying and striving to get by, make ends meet, and support my family.  I have discovered this kind of thinking is a vain delusion.  God does desire for us to be able to rest, but that rest is the rest of relationship and not the rest of riches!

I have always been inspired by the stories of European Jewish families that escaped the Nazi holocaust with little more than their lives: The Third Reich froze their accounts, stole their art, and looted their businesses.  Yet many of these families rebuilt their wealth in one generation.  Part of the explanation for this is that these families were experts at building human capital, the other part is that though people can steal your goods they cannot steal your blessing.  Riches are temporal, but blessing is eternal.

I wish that every Christian family had a strategy to see their passive income surpass their regular expenses.  I am just saying that this strategy should be informed and motivated by a desire for covenant blessing and not financial independence.

The principles of covenant blessing are Sunday school simple, yet in their simplicity they somehow elude us:

  • The blood of Christ has established a new and living way into Relationship with God.
  • Agree with God and be blessed
  • Listen to God’s voice and obey.
  • We are blessed to make us a blessing
  • God is absolutely unique and everything is ultimately about God.

It is as simple as repent, agree, trust, worship, listen, and obey.  It seems to me that many of the Old Testament laws are meant to encourage these basic things.  This seems true of the laws governing Old Testament economics: the Sabbath, the Jubilee, tithes and offerings.  These laws would seem to have the effect of putting Israel at a severe economic disadvantage to their neighbors (competitors).

  • You must work one fewer day than your competitors.
  • You must tithe 10% of your income rather than reinvest it for growth.
  • You cannot accumulate real property much beyond one generation.
  • You cannot charge interest to your brethren.

These laws basically give Israel a handicap in all the areas that economists call the factors of production: Land, Labor and Capital.  I believe that this is rooted in a supernatural paradigm of covenant blessing that essentially says, “yes these things are handicaps, and they do put us at a competitive disadvantage naturally speaking, but we trust in God and have a covenant with Him and this fact nets us an overwhelming competitive advantage.

Applying this Understanding to the Extension of the Kingdom

Much is being written about Kingdom Business and Business as Misisons these days, and I am excited about this.  Nevertheless, we need to make sure that our businesses are realy of the right kingdom.  I believe this two trees paradigm is essential to getting our motivations right.  As I talk to people that are a part of the Kingdom business movement, I realize that we have some work to do in this area.

From a spiritual warfare perspective we need to make sure we are not ignorant of the enemy’s devices.  Missiologists are concerned with animistic syncretism and witchcraft in African, Asian and LatinAmericanChurches, and they should be.  Yet, North Americans should be just as concerned about the rampant syncretism in our churches.  We have mixed biblical truth with our own brand of materialism and this is just as idolatrous.

It is interesting that in animist, totemistic and polytheistic belief systems there are deities and powers associated with the branches of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  In these religions you find false gods of knowledge, pleasure, materialism, etc.  I believe this stems from man’s fallen desire to place his trust in substitutes to a simple relationship with God.

Finally, I think getting this right is key to the Church being able to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Transformation Paradigm

Several years ago I wrote an article form Momentum Magazine called Transformation Paradigm.  The essence is that the great commission is not only quantitative – preach the Gospel to every creature, but also qualitative – the extension of the  Kingdom of God should bring transformation.

In Luke 4 when Jesus reads from the Isaiah scroll he is linking the coming of His Kingdom to the messianic vision of Isaiah – So what should the coming of his Kingdom look like?

MomentumArticle_TransformationParadigm (click here and follow links)

The 5th Commandment and Hard Knocks U

By Jason Benedict

The idea of mentorship is extremely powerful.  We see many biblical examples Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and The Twelve, Paul and Timothy.

In these stories we see the pattern that it is God’s intention for us to stand on the shoulders of our fathers and for us to start-off in leadership where they left-off.

The self-made man or woman is a myth.  Anyone who reaches their potential and enters their destiny has a list of people to thank.  You can’t enter your promised land alone!

We see this principle in the 5th commandment.

Deut 5:16 NIV “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Honor is key here because it is the posture of the student to the teacher.  The reality is that you can receive from people if you don’t honor them.  What this scripture is saying, is that if you are willing to posture yourself to learn from the previous generation you can avoid learning the lessons of life the hard way.

This is the first commandment with promise.  The promise here is long life and living well.  Those who fail to learn from others, and particularly from those who have gone before them condemn themselves to the hardship of Hard Knocks University.

See the diagram – Everyone goes to hard knocks U – it’s and inevitable part of life. Nevertheless, peoples outcomes are very different.  If you are diligent to gather wise godly mentors and learn from them you can have full ride scholarship and get the learning without paying the price of failure.  Others pay the full price, but at least they learn from their failures.  Others either drop out because they can’t stomach the price or flunk out (a miserable outcome) by paying the price of failure over and over but all the time failing to learn.

The Word of God is a rich repository of wisdom learn from it and from those who have gone before you, so that it may go well with you and that you may live long upon the Earth.

Copyright (c) 2017 – All rights reserve – Jason Benedict

The 4 Barriers

This is an article published in Momentum Magazine back in Sept 2007

The four barriers are:

  • The Spiritual Barrier – Supernatural Resistance to the Gospel
  • The Sociopolitical Barrier – Organized Resistance to the Gospel
  • The Logistical Barrier – Logistical Challenges (E.g. Lack of Mobilization)
  • The Cultural Barrier – Barriers to Understanding and Acceptance

MomentumArticle_4Barriers (click here and follow links to pdf)

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