How a Missouri Farmer Saved 2 Billion Lives

How much effort and and money goes into feeding the worlds 7.7 billion people? The food industry globally is an 8 trillion dollar business (about 10% of the Global Gross Domestic Product) , but this doesn’t nearly take into account everything that goes into the global food value chain, for example fuel, fertilizer, equipment, irrigation, transportation, storage, non-food consumables, preparation, etc. How is it that with the population going up by about 150,000 daily we still manage to feed everyone?

The predictions in the 1960s that global famine would lead to population collapse and a “silent spring” never happened. This is partially due to the massive, and I mean truly massive increases in global food production. You see, we as human beings have learned better and better ways of feeding ourselves. To be more accurate, we should say due to the work of some diligent scientists who developed high yield drought resistant strains of wheat and corn, the food supply has kept pace with population growth saving the lives of billions. However there is more to the story. (for the amazing inspiring Youtube Video on this)

In 1864 a kind hearted farmer named Moses Carver took his only horse and rode out on a cold Missouri night to meet a murderous band of confederate bushwhackers. Why? To trade his prize horse as the ransom for the life of a young slave boy name George Washington who had been kidnaped along with his mother. Horseless, he walked home with the nearly frozen infant tucked inside his jacket.

Moses Carver gave the infant George his name and he and his wife Susan raised George as their son. They homeschooled him and later sent him to high school and college. George Washington Carver, a committed christian, went on to develop an amazing array of agricultural products and advancements particularly with peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes. He is credited with saving the economy of the South and serves as a shining example of a Christian leadership in education and the marketplace.

George Washington Carver was a brilliant student at Iowa State university where he had a powerful influence on the life of the child of one of his professors. This young man named Henry Wallace was inspired by Carver who would take him along as his sidekick on botanical adventures. Inspired by Carver, Wallace began his own botanical experiments by age 10. Wallace developed expertise in hybridization and went on to become the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and then Vice President of the United States under FDR.

Wallace used his influence as Vice President to create a joint project agriculture research station in Mexico for the study of hybridization of grain for arid climates. For this project he hired a man brilliant young scientist named Norman Ernest Borlaug. Borlaug is often called the father of the Green Revolution because his hybridized wheat and corn doubled wheat production in arid climates and brought food security to billions. His efforts are credited with saving over 2 billion lives from famine. For his efforts Borlaug was awarded numerous honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the Congressional Gold Medal and thePresidential Medal of Freedom.

So you see a kind hearted Missouri farmer traded his prize horse for the life of little slave boy and the lives of 2 billion people. A pretty good deal – Selah.

The KPI for Spiritual Health

In my work as a business consultant one of my foolproof, go-to tools for improving small business performance is measurement. Simply put, I have learned (as countless others have) that if you learn to measure the right things it gives you a concrete basis for decision making. Better decisions = better outcomes! Much of the time…No, more accurately most of the time, there is a gap between a business owner’s perceptions of their business performance and reality. So here it is… identify what you should measure (your Key Performance Indicators) and measure it. The results is you will learn the truth about your business!

A Biblical life principle here, that we should all scribe onto our hearts is, “the best decisions are based on truth.” This begs the question, what are the measurements of spiritual health? Here as in our businesses there can be a gap between perception and reality. Think of these passages: “Why do you call me Lord, Lord but do not do what I say?” Lk 6:46, “These people honor me with their lips but their heart is far from me” Mt 15:8. “The heart is deceitful above all things…” Jer 17:9.

Jesus said you can know a tree by its fruits! In 1Jn 4 John it says, “how can you say you love God who you have not seen if you don’t love your your brother or sister whom you have seen.” In Luke it says,

“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25-29

You can see the tricky bit. This guy wanted to justify himself. He knew where the rub was. Of course, Jesus answered this guys question with the parable of the good Samaritan*. The best KPI for measuring our Love for God is not your heartfelt sentiment towards God. One might say, “Oh how I love Him. I’m so passionate for Him…” but remember, the heart is tricky – sentiment is mushy – Jesus gives us a better KPI, a more concrete KPI.

How are you loving the unlovely?
How are you loving your historic enemies?
How are you loving the widows and orphans?
How are you loving those from other cultures?
As a business owner, how are you loving your customers (easy), employees (often harder), competitors (uggh)?

It’s easy to love those who love us. It’s easy, relatively speaking, to carry a burden for the salvation of the lost family member. But what about the others? I have often said you can know if a church has left its first love by looking at their missions expression (emphasis, budget, etc).

One of the B2B values is “steward your blessings to be a blessing.” As a follower of Christ? Are you measuring this important spiritual KPI? I hope so!

*This and all the commandments can only be satisfied through Christ this side of the cross. Only Jesus ever fulfilled this great commandment perfectly, but as we walk in the Spirit there is grace to obey.

Driven or Diligent?

In our culture we talk about someone who has high motivation as being driven. I was having a conversation with a young man the other day about the concept of being driven and he viewed it as a positive quality. So, here’s the question, is drivenness (noun) a virtue or a vice?

As a business owner who has been involved in recruiting and hiring, I love it when I see a highly motivated person. I suppose it comes down to what is motivating you. This is what James says:

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:1-4

The dictionary definition of drivenness is, “being under compulsion, as in to excel or succeed.” Is your compulsion to succeed rooted in some fear or craving or are you motivated by an earnest desire to please the Lord?

I think of the biblical virtue of diligence. In Proverbs it says, “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.” Prov 12:24

It seems to me the difference between drivenness and diligence is one of lordship and stewardship. If Jesus is Lord and He owns my life, my future and my time then I want to be diligent for Him. I’m highly motivated, but my motivation comes from a place of peace a place of rest. He’s in control, his hand is on me.

Well, you might say, this is just semantics, shouldn’t one just be driven for the Lord. Well yes, except for the fact the the Lord doesn’t drive us he leads us, He guides us. Even when the Bible does speak of a yoke, Jesus says, “take my yoke upon you…” He shares the yoke with us, He says my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Mt 11:29). Diligent or driven? Let me ask the question a different way: Is your yoke easy or hard, is your burden heavy or light?

Busyness is not Fruitfulness

The statement I don’t have enough time, is patently false. You do have enough time to do everything God wants you to do. It’s not a lack of time, it’s what you’re doing with your time – your priorities. The Bible says to redeem the time, to make the most of it (Ephesians 5:16). We each have the same amount of time, but what we do with the time today determines what we will have an opportunity to do with our time tomorrow. In general there is a kind of cumulative effect, or compounding effect of good choices.  This is true of our choices about our time as well – the excellent use of time today will help us make more of out time in the future.

“But I’m soooo Busy!” In our culture today, everybody’s busy – there’s a kind of pride associated with being busy.  However, there’s a difference between busyness and productivity. We should value productivity over busyness.  The Bible doesn’t use the word productive per se, but the Bible does speak of fruitfulness, and I like that as a way of thinking about productivity. How do busyness and productivity differ?  In so far as busyness is often a lack of thoughtfulness, prioritization and focus, it is often the enemy of productivity and fruitfulness.  Busyness is activity, but fruitfulness comes from focused, prioritized, purposeful activity.

The Bible says work while it’s the day for the night is coming with no man can work (Jn 9:4). The Bible says plant your field then build your house (Prov 24:27).  Prioritization is important.

The Men of Issachar in the Bible are described as, “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1Cron 12:32). This is interesting because it’s such a short description, why were these men from issachar even mentioned.  I think it’s because these qualities are truly rare and truly superlative.  When you have discernment about these two things, season and priority,  it’s really powerful.  A friend of mine has an interesting definition of opportunity, he says, opportunity is when preparation meets the timing of God.

So what do you do when you feel really busy? What do you do when you have more commitments then you have time? Well that’s the time for executive decision making. Every business person needs to come to grips with this fact: there will always be more to do (things making demands) than there is time to do it.  So what do you do?  You learn to be at peace with some things – some good things – being left undone.  When you realize some things just won’t get done, then you realize it’s up to you to pick the things that MUST be done, in priority of importance!

We have all seen the illustration (in case you haven’t – watch this) .  If you pour out a bucket of sand, pebbles, gravel and rocks and then try to fit them back into the bucket they will never fit, you will never get it all in, unless you PUT THE BIG ROCKS IN FIRST, then the gravel, then the pebbles and then the sand.

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!

Principles of Fruitfulness from Genesis

biblical business fruitfulness

In Genesis 1:28 God gave the mandate for man to be fruitful.  In fact he said:

“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Gen 1:28 NIV

Reading this passage I am struck by it’s relevance to business.  I could easily see a CEO standing in front of a whiteboard or projector and saying, “this quarter our goals are to increase production, expand into new markets, fulfill the potential of our new technology, and so forth.”

There is not accidental.  The first few chapters of the Bible give the account of an industrious God creating a complex and fruitful world.  He then starts a farm (Eden Inc.), puts man on that farm and tells him to work, be industrious and expand the enterprise globally.

Therefore, it makes sense that we would go to the Word of God to find principles for fruitfulness.  Let’s look at a few here.

Everything Reproduces After its Kind

“And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so.”  Gen 1:11

If you are trying to produce a certain result in your life or business you need to consider carefully the seeds you sow and/or who is birthing the thing.  We serve a rational God who designed a rational universe where cause and effect are real.  So you can expect results that are consistent with the seed you sow and the parentage of a thing.  Everything reproduces after its kind.

Another place we can apply this is to the nature and character of leadership.  Godly leaders full of gratitude, optimism and initiative will tend to reproduce these characteristics in those around them.  Likewise a critical, negative person can reproduce these things in a team.

A limiting factor in this principle is that leaders will often reproduce or gather to themselves others who are just like them. I was recently watching a show that detailed the downsides of certain dog breeds that have genetic weaknesses due to generations of inbreeding: bad eyes in Shar-peis and weak spines in dachshunds, etc.  This takes us to the next principle.

True Fruitfulness Requires Teamwork

It took a man and a woman with distinct differences to reproduce.  So wether we are talking about reproduction in mankind or in plants it takes differing and complementary faculties to reproduce.  You can’t reproduce by yourself.

God blessed them and said to THEM, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Gen 1:28 NIV [emphasis mine]

Now let’s apply this.  In life and business you will be more fruitful if you surround yourself with others who compliment you.  Who is on your team?

Big Things Do Grow from Small Seeds

This is a word of balance on our first principle as well.  We often encounter people in different stages of their journey and in different stages of their fruitfulness.  Expecting great fruitfulness from a small sprout is unrealistic.  However, that sprout might grow into the biggest producer in the orchard.

Almost all of us are like this to some extent.  We have areas of maturity and immaturity.  In Numbers 17 the Bible talks about Aaron’s rod that budded.  When Moses and Aaron’s leadership was criticized, this was a miracle affirming that Aaron was indeed chosen.  When his rod budded it had buds, blossoms and ripe olives.  I imagine that some of his critics were focusing on the parts of his life and leadership that were not mature yet.

Alternatively, sometimes you will encounter someone who has potential but they are in the wrong place, or just lacking some key element to become fruitful.  There is an interesting parable about that goes like this.

“Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-13:9 NIV

This is a parable about the value and limits of mercy and forbearance.  I hope you got that, the value and limits of forbearance.

Blessings Have a Seed in Them

Blessings have a seed in them so eat the fruit and plant the seed.

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. Gen 1:29 NIV

When something bears fruit we should always ask our self what we can do with the seed.  Of course we can make application here with regards to sowing financially into Gospel work, but I want to suggest that there is also the business question of reinvestment into Kingdom business.  What portion of your fruitfulness are you reinvesting into your business or into other businesses and being fruitful, multiplying, filling the earth and extending the Kingdom of God?


Earning or Winning Money

In Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s book Business Secrets from the Bible he has a section on the difference between earning and winning money.  According to Rabbi Lapin there is no Hebrew word for winning money.  Only for earning money.

Whereas in other languages we don’t find a word for earn.  For example in French you say gagner de l’argent for both to win and to earn money.

Lapin makes the point that what we think about money and the way it is acquired is important.  For example when someone creates a good or performs a service and then sells that good or service to another then that money is earned. Let’s take for example a construction company: a deck building business.

  1. The economy (i.e. all of us) wins/grows because value is created when the deck materials are manufactured and when the deck is installed.
  2. The deck builder wins because he/she makes a living
  3. The homeowner wins because they get to enjoy their beautiful new deck.

1Tim 5:18 ESV For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

Alternatively, imagine someone plays and wins the lottery, or plays dice and wins money. None of the valuable benefits to others are achieved.  Creating value and benefiting others with life giving goods and services is just one of the many ways that business blesses society, and does good to our neighbors.

REAL Relationships

by Jason Benedict

The Bible teaches us how to love one another!  1Cor 13 is the best description of friendship I have ever seen.  I believe our culture has a deep longing for real relationships.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1Cor 13:4-7 NIV 

Furthermore, a secret of success in life and business is the ability to build lasting authentic friendships.  If you are an introvert this will take extra effort, but it’s worth it.  I believe the correlation between friendship and success is geometric. However, there is a limit to how many true friends you can really have.

Most people can only have a handful of really close, bear your soul friends, we have another larger circle of people I will call dinner party friends and another larger circle that we are friendly with (first name basis friends).  I’m not suggesting that you categorize people – please don’t!

What i’m saying is that you can only invest in so many relationships so be prayerful, intentional and strategic! We certainly see this modeled in the life of Jesus.  He had the 3, the twelve, the 70, the 120 and the crowd.  Modern research into relationships seems to indicate that you can only have so many stable relationships (see Dunbar’s Number).

Your Inner Circle

Your closest circle will have the biggest impact on your destiny. These are those we fellowship with, those who know us well.  These relationships feed your soul.  For the believer these friends need to share your faith and values.  It’s been said, you are the average of your 5 closest friends.  Paul wrote, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV

The scriptures warn us about trying to have too many inner circle friends.  A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Prov 18:24 ESV.  I believe this is true because in this level of friendship you have a tacit agreement to walk together in life.

I have found that the Holy Spirit will show you which relationships you should invest more time and energy into.  One way I have recognized this is that when I am supposed to invest in a friendship I feel a flow.  What I mean by a flow is just a sense from the Lord that confirms to my my spirit that this person is supposed to be in my life. I like the acronym REAL to describe the kinds of relationships you need more of:

  • Righteous – based on godly motives
  • Enduring – with the long haul in view
  • Authentic – without false pretense
  • Loving – 1 cor 13

Sowing Goodwill and Collecting Fruit of Friendship

Your other circles of friends will also have a big impact on your life, so make it a point to win friends.  One way to think of these friendships is more in terms of influence and goodwill.  Whereas you are walking through life with your inner circle, you are with these other circles less often or maybe only once or twice.

When you encounter these people you make a point to be good to them, to influence them for the Lord, to bless them and enrich their lives through the encounter.  You are like someone who is walking along through life and sowing seeds of goodwill.  Proverbs puts it this way, The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life; a wise person wins friends. Prov 11:30 NLT.  You many not see that person again for a year, but when you do that seed will have grown you will be able to collect the fruit of friendships.  I don’t believe you can have too many of these kinds of friends.

However, There is a worldly counterfeit for real friendships that uses people as a means to an end.  This is short sighted and and self-serving and will yield bad fruit in your life. Much that goes in the name of networking falls under this category.  I want to be careful to note that not all networking is of this negative sort, so I’m not trying to taint the word.  I’m just saying the word has been tainted by selfish practice.  Be better than that! Imagine if you made it a personal policy to try and gain one new friend a week, by planting the seeds of goodwill.

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