There is no branch of legitimate business for which the Bible does not afford an essential preparation. Its principles of diligence, honesty, thrift, temperance, and purity are the secret of true success. These principles, as set forth in the book of Proverbs, constitute a treasury of practical wisdom. Where can the merchant, the artisan, the director of men in any department of business, find better maxims for himself or for his employees than are found in these words of the wise man:
"Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men." Proverbs 22:29.
"In all labor there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury." Proverbs 14:23.
"A talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips." Proverbs 20:19.
"He that walketh with wise men shall be wise." Proverbs 13:20.
"A man that hath friends must show himself friendly." Proverbs 18:24.
The whole circle of our obligation to one another is covered by that word of Christ's, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Matthew 7:12.
How many a man might have escaped financial failure and ruin by heeding the warnings, so often repeated and emphasized in the Scriptures:
"He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent." Proverbs 28:20.
"Wealth gotten in haste shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labor shall have increase." Proverbs 13:11, R.V., margin.
"The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death." Proverbs 21:6.
"The borrower is servant to the lender." Proverbs 22:7.
"He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretyship is sure." Proverbs 11:15.
"Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless: for their Redeemer is mighty; He shall plead their cause with thee." "He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want." "Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him." Proverbs 23:10, 11; 22:16; 26:27.
These are principles with which are bound up the well-being of society, of both secular and religious associations. It is these principles that give security to property and life. For all that makes confidence and co-operation possible, the world is indebted to the law of God, as given in His word, and as still traced, in lines often obscure and well-nigh obliterated, in the hearts of men.
The psalmist's words, "The law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver" (Psalm 119:72), state that which is true from other than a religious point of view. They state an absolute truth and one that is recognized in the business world. Even in this age of passion for money getting, when competition is so sharp and methods are so unscrupulous, it is still widely acknowledged that, for a young man starting in life, integrity, diligence, temperance, purity, and thrift constitute a better capital than any amount of mere money.
Yet even of those who appreciate the value of these qualities and acknowledge the Bible as their source, there are but few who recognize the principle upon which they depend.
That which lies at the foundation of business integrity and of true success is the recognition of God's ownership. The Creator of all things, He is the original proprietor. We are His stewards. All that we have is a trust from Him, to be used according to His direction.
This is an obligation that rests upon every human being. It has to do with the whole sphere of human activity. Whether we recognize it or not, we are stewards, supplied from God with talents and facilities, and placed in the world to do a work appointed by Him. To every man is given "his work" (Mark 13:34), the work for which his capabilities adapt him, the work which will result in greatest good to himself and to his fellow men, and in greatest honor to God.
Thus our business or calling is a part of God's great plan, and, so long as it is conducted in accordance with His will, He Himself is responsible for the results. "Laborers together with God" (1 Corinthians 3:9), our part is faithful compliance with His directions. Thus there is no place for anxious care. Diligence, fidelity, caretaking, thrift, and discretion are called for. Every faculty is to be exercised to its highest capacity. But the dependence will be, not on the successful outcome of our efforts, but on the promise of God. The word that fed Israel in the desert, and sustained Elijah through the time of famine, has the same power today. "Be not therefore anxious (R.V.), saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? . . . Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:31-33.
He who gives men power to get wealth has with the gift bound up an obligation. Of all that we acquire He claims a specified portion. The tithe is the Lord's. "All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree," "the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, . . . shall be holy unto the Lord." Leviticus 27:30, 32. The pledge made by Jacob at Bethel shows the extent of the obligation. "Of all that Thou shalt give me," he said, "I will surely give the tenth unto Thee." Genesis 28:22.
"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse" (Malachi 3:10), is God's command. No appeal is made to gratitude or to generosity. This is a matter of simple honesty. The tithe is the Lord's; and He bids us return to Him that which is His own.
"It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." 1 Corinthians 4:2. If honesty is an essential principle of business life, must we not recognize our obligation to God--the obligation that underlies every other?
By the terms of our stewardship we are placed under obligation, not only to God, but to man. To the infinite love of the Redeemer every human being is indebted for the gifts of life. Food and raiment and shelter, body and mind and soul--all are the purchase of His blood. And by the obligation of gratitude and service thus imposed, Christ has bound us to our fellow men. He bids us, "By love serve one another." Galatians 5:13. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me." Matthew 25:40.
"I am debtor," Paul declares, "both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise." Romans 1:14. So also are we. By all that has blessed our life above others, we are placed under obligation to every human being whom we might benefit.
These truths are not for the closet more than for the counting room. The goods that we handle are not our own, and never can this fact safely be lost sight of. We are but stewards, and on the discharge of our obligation to God and man depend both the welfare of our fellow beings and our own destiny for this life and for the life to come.
"There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty." "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days." "The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself." Proverbs 11:24, 25; Ecclesiastes 11:1.
"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." Luke 6:38.
"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field. . . . And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land." Malachi 3:10-12.
"If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them; then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. And I will give peace in the land, . . . and none shall make you afraid." Leviticus 26:3-6.
"Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and Thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies." "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will He pay him again." Isaiah 1:17; Psalm 41:1, 2; Proverbs 19:17.
He who makes this investment lays up double treasure. Besides that which, however wisely improved, he must leave at last, he is amassing wealth for eternity,--that treasure of character which is the most valuable possession of earth or heaven.
Honest Business Dealings
"He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. . . . He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not;" "he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, . . . and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; he shall dwell on high: . . . bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off." Psalm 15:2-4; Isaiah 33:15-17.
God has given in His word a picture of a prosperous man--one whose life was in the truest sense a success, a man whom both heaven and earth delighted to honor. Of his experiences Job himself says:
"In the ripeness of my days, When the secret of God was upon my tent; When the Almighty was yet with me, And my children were about me; . . . When I went forth to the gate unto the city, When I prepared my seat in the broad place [margin], The young men saw me and hid themselves, And the aged rose up and stood; The princes refrained talking, And laid their hand on their mouth; The voice of the nobles was hushed. . . . "For when the ear heard me, then it blessed me; And when the eye saw me, it gave witness unto me; Because I delivered the poor that cried, The fatherless also, and him [margin], that had none to help him. "The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me; And I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: My justice was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, And feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the needy: And the cause of him that I knew not I searched out." "The stranger did not lodge in the street: But I opened my doors to the traveler." "Unto me men gave ear, and waited. . . . And the light of my countenance they cast not down. I chose out their way, and sat chief, And dwelt as a king in the army, As one that comforteth the mourners." Job 29:4-16, R.V.; 31:32; 29:21-25.
"The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it." Proverbs 10:22.
"Riches and honor are with Me," declares Wisdom; "yea, durable riches and righteousness." Proverbs 8:18.
The Bible shows also the result of a departure from right principles in our dealing both with God and with one another. To those who are entrusted with His gifts but indifferent to His claims, God says:
"Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. . . . Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it." "When one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty." "Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of Mine house that is waste." "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings." "Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit." Haggai 1:5-9; 2:16; Malachi 3:8; Haggai 1:10.
"Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, . . . ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them." "The Lord shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto." "Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another, . . . and thine eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day long: and there shall be no might in thine hand." Amos 5:11; Deuteronomy 28:20, 32.
"He that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool." Jeremiah 17:11.
The accounts of every business, the details of every transaction, pass the scrutiny of unseen auditors, agents of Him who never compromises with injustice, never overlooks evil, never palliates wrong.
"If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice, . . . marvel not at the matter: for He that is higher than the highest regardeth." "There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves." Ecclesiastes 5:8, Job 34:22.
"They set their mouth against the heavens. . . . And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?" "These things hast thou done," God says, "and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes," Psalms 73:9-11; 50:21.
"I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll. . . . This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for everyone that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and everyone that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it. I will bring it forth, saith the Lord of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by My name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof." Zechariah 5:1-4.
Against every evildoer God's law utters condemnation. He may disregard that voice, he may seek to drown its warning, but in vain. It follows him. It makes itself heard. It destroys his peace. If unheeded, it pursues him to the grave. It bears witness against him at the judgement. A quenchless fire, it consumes at last soul and body.
This is a question that demands consideration by every parent, every teacher, every student--by every human being, young or old. No scheme of business or plan of life can be sound or complete that embraces only the brief years of this present life and makes no provision for the unending future. Let the youth be taught to take eternity into their reckoning. Let them be taught to choose the principles and seek the possessions that are enduring--to lay up for themselves that "treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth;" to make to themselves friends "by means of the mammon of unrighteousness," that when it shall fail, these may receive them "into the eternal tabernacles." Luke 12:33; 16:9, R.V.
All who do this are making the best possible preparation for life in this world. No man can lay up treasure in heaven without finding his life on earth thereby enriched and ennobled.
"Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." 1 Timothy 4:8.