Most business leaders, whether Christians or not, are not drawn to the idea of a lawsuit. We are taught early to avoid court – sometimes at any cost! Unfortunately for the people of Israel in Micah 6, God took them to court, leveling serious charges against them. If we will pay attention to these proceedings, I think we can gain insight into His expectations of us - both as believers and as stewards of His businesses.
In Micah 6:1-5, God charges the people of Israel with forgetting all He has done for them. He lists many miracles He has wrought on their behalf. He then asks, “How have I wearied you?” Evidently, the people of Israel were showing signs of giving up on their relationship with God. Likely, they were beginning to pursue other gods. Evidently, this line of questioning convicts the people of Israel. In verses 6-7, they begin to ask what it will take to restore their relationship with God. They offer ideas ranging from sacrifices of their livestock to offerings from their abundant resources. They even mention giving up their firstborn children to satisfy the debt of their sin!
As Christian business leaders, we have had similar thoughts at times - if we give enough to the church or a particular ministry, our relationship with God will be restored! Maybe if we will pray more or study more, all will be well between us and God. Is this true? Is there more to restoring that relationship?
If the passage were to end there, it would be frustrating. We want answers. We also crave goals and challenges. We need to know what is expected of us so we can rise up and accomplish it. Fortunately, the passage continues with clear, though difficult, instructions.
These instructions are found in the next verse (v. 8), which is familiar to many Christians and appears to communicate three simple expectations. However, upon closer inspection, I think we find there are actually four expectations listed. Let’s take a look!
"Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God."Micah 6:8
The first expectation we are given is to act justly. While that sounds simple enough, I think we need to pay closer attention to get the true meaning and how it applies to the way we operate our businesses. It does not say to seek justice or enforce justice. Those are jobs for God. Instead, God says for us to act justly. That means we are instructed to hold ourselves accountable to acting with justice. The way we are instructed to handle others is addressed later.
What does the expectation to “act justly” look like in business? There are many opportunities for us to act justly. Regardless of our industry, one example is for us to price the product rather than the customer. Let me explain.
Instead of determining our profit for a certain product or service based on the intelligence, education, or negotiating skill of the customer, to act justly would mean we should seek a fair profit based on the quality of that product or service. We can find this very idea in Proverbs 20:10, “Differing weights and differing measures–the Lord detests them both.”
Another opportunity for us to act justly occurs in the process of hiring or rewarding employees. While it is tempting for us to allow our own prejudices or biases to influence who we choose to hire or reward, this cannot be! Acting justly means that these processes should be just and fair and based on objective guidelines.
An example that comes to mind for me was a time several years ago when I was in a pressure situation with a customer. In trying to resolve the issue, I broke one of the very rules I had put in place to protect our pricing process! In an attempt to act justly, I took an hour or so the next morning and went one-by-one, to every department in our company, and described the situation. I apologized for breaking the rule. I did NOT enjoy that, but I can tell you that I was overwhelmed at the positive response I received.
I think you get the idea. This mindset really should apply to all of our decision-making processes. I am sure some specifics are coming to your mind right now! While business is full of opportunities to deal or act unfairly, we are called to a higher standard. We must heed this instruction and act justly!
If you are not paying close attention, you may miss the twist coming up!
Following the first command to act justly, we are told to love mercy. While the first command (act justly) applies to our own actions, this second expectation refers to how we are to treat others.
While we are told to act justly and hold ourselves to a higher standard, we are directed to treat others in a way that is more compassionate and forgiving. This may sound simple, but it can be very difficult in action.
Based on this, as Christian business leaders we should treat those around us with mercy–whether the other person is a customer, co-worker, subordinate, or even our boss. While it is only natural for us to want to hold others to our own high standards, God makes it clear that we are to show them mercy instead.
Maybe the following examples will clarify:
- Let’s say an employee or co-worker makes a mistake that costs your company or department a sizable amount of money. Do you hold them to the “act justly” standard and take it out of their pay? Or do you “love mercy” and coach them on how to avoid that mistake in the future, chalking up the loss to on-the-job training?
- Maybe there is a customer or vendor that is late in paying on their account due to unforeseen circumstances. Are you quick to “act justly” and take legal action or do you “love mercy” and try to work out a plan for repayment over time? Maybe you even get crazy and forgive the entire debt.
All of these examples are opportunities for us to show mercy. Maybe this seems like uncommon (even weak) behavior to you, but that is part of the beauty God seeks from us as His children!
If you are finding this to be difficult, just reflect for a moment on the mercy God has shown to you. Suddenly, in this light, the challenge should become more manageable!
The third, and seemingly final, expectation given to us is to walk humbly. For some Christians, this may not be that troublesome. For the rest of us, the slippery slope leading to pride seems to be ever-present in business.
The world screams that we are to be self-promoters, needing a platform to be seen and recognized for our greatness! While the platform may not be bad in and of itself, maintaining our humility in the face of this potential fame can be near impossible.
Instead, God calls us to be servant leaders, modeling our actions after those of Jesus. We simply must remember that without Him, we can do nothing. If we will maintain a proper perspective when it comes to our true position as sinners in need of grace, acting with humility will come more easily to us.
...with your god.
Though the first three commands are fairly obvious, there is a fourth that may actually go a little unnoticed. The fourth expectation we are given is to walk with God. Seemingly simple, it is likely the most difficult. It is also the most important.
Without a close and personal relationship with God, none of the above is even possible for us to accomplish. In John 15:5, Jesus said, “…you can do nothing without Me.” Though we often possess determination and a strong will power, Jesus is clear that these qualities are irrelevant without Him.
Instead, God is calling us to an intimate relationship with Him. This relationship requires regular communication with God–through prayer, Bible study, and meditation on His Word. If we ignore this call, we are virtually guaranteeing that we will fall short of the first three expectations as well.
Being fully committed to a daily walk with Him will not only help us accomplish this fourth expectation, it will also make the first three come that much more naturally.
By: Chris Patton
Chris Patton is President of the Mike Patton Auto Family in LaGrange, Georgia. Along with his brother (and partner) Brian, Chris is a third-generation owner and grew up working in every department in the business, beginning at the age of 10. Chris also writes a blog called Christian Faith At Work (ChristianFaithAtWork.com). He is writing it to business owners and leaders who are trying to figure out how to integrate their Christian faith into their businesses. Chris and his wife Kim live in LaGrange, GA with their three children.Read More Articles by Chris Patton