Have you ever negotiated the purchase or sale of a home? Have you ever closed on an important business transaction? It is not uncommon to walk away from these situations feeling good and a bit puffed up about yourself. You may even feed your ego as you rehearse how brilliantly you were able to negotiate the deal. Or perhaps, your feelings of satisfaction are stoked because you were able to get the better end and/or take material advantage of the other party. We are all susceptible to these tactics and desires. However, Proverbs 20:14 warns us when it says, “It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer— then goes off and boasts about the purchase.” (NIV)
Have you ever been highly stressed when the stock market experiences a major correction as you realize how much of your money “you lost”? In 2008 deep into the Great Recession, my company’s stock, which represented a large part of my annual compensation and 401K retirement plan, went from $52.00 to $2.00 per share. Talk about stress. I was almost in shock and who wouldn’t be? Suddenly, by God’s grace and His Holy Spirit, I was reminded that everything I owned, including all my wealth, came from God and I am simply a steward of what He has entrusted to me. Almost immediately, I experienced what Paul references in Philippians 4:7 when he talks about a “peace beyond human understanding.” (NIV) In that moment the Lord was more than kind to me, and it served as a wonderful reminder that we need to consciously lean into our Heavenly Father when everything in us wants to stress out and panic.
Have you ever walked or driven through a neighborhood that was very poor and in disrepair? Have you ever walked or driven through a neighborhood that was unsafe and all you wanted to do was get out quickly? We are well adept at justifying these ideas by our internal mantras that say, my responsibility is to my family, I don’t have time to think about the poor, and I don’t really want my kids exposed to that anyway! Or perhaps a more sanitized version is I’d like to help but I have no idea what to do! While this may feel more charitable (and therefore, getting you off the hook), it is fraught with the same irresponsibility and laissez faire attitude that is wrapped up in the other thoughts.
If we are honest with ourselves, we have all experienced these situations. The question is do we realize the Bible speaks to each of these scenarios? Specifically, God desires our “faithful presence” in all areas of our lives including finances, business, and “social justice.” Often however, we are short-sighted and do not possess or even work at cultivating a wholistic view of our faith. We live in a me centric world and Christians are influenced by this as well and so we tend to catalogue our lives as “my money” and “my business.” And as long as I give some of it away, I am good. We have for too long worked off the premise that business and Christianity are not to be mixed much like the separation of church and state.
Integrating Faith Into Life
It is hard work to integrate my faith into all my life and this is a hardship we all share. There are two specific Biblical texts that have changed me and helped me on this journey. First in Deuteronomy 8:18 you have God, through Joshua reminding the people all their blessings including the skills and abilities resulting in wealth come from Him. This underscores the significance of our call to faithfulness in ALL matters and with ALL things. God has a much bigger claim on all my finances as well as how I use my time, talent, and treasure. This becomes clear when I recognize that God owns it all and is the source of whatever talent and time I have. The question we should be asking ourselves is, Am I being faithful in all areas of my life with all that I have and all that I am?
The second highly impactful text is Psalm 89:14 where David says, “righteousness and justice are the foundation of Christ’s throne.” Reading this text over and over has caused me to do some deep reflection and diligence to determine what that means. We all know a foundation is the ESSENTIAL part, the part upon which all else rests. In this instance we should not overlook those who are often victims of habitual injustices—the poor. While issues of social justice may be the current popular trend, justice is always trending with God. The Bible is replete with passages that call us to serve the poor. I am grateful that, by His grace, the Lord has removed the scales from my eyes, and I can no longer read the Bible without realizing the emphasis on our responsibility for the poor.
When we struggle with the issues of our day and what to do, we need to remember the words of Micah 6:8. This passage clearly explains what the Lord requires of us, “to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.” Do we pursue justice in all we do? Do we cultivate a love of mercy? Do we seek humility in how we live our lives? In some instances, it may be more fitting to consider these questions: What does justice mean in this situation? What would be the merciful action? What does it mean to be humble where God has called me?
Throughout history, faithful believers literally changed the world with their mercy and compassion, their fearlessness in the face of trials, and their commitment to battle injustice and unrighteousness. These were men and women who did not relegate their Christian activity to Sundays. They saw their faith giving meaning to and informing all aspects of their lives. By contrast, we live in peaceful and prosperous times (and in possibly the greatest country in the history of the world) and yet, injustices seem to be growing. How is this possible?
I just finished reading a historical fiction series on Rome in the time of Julius Caesar and Cesar Augustus. One of the things that struck me, was God in His sovereign wisdom chose to send His Son to come and live among the people of that day. As Tim Keller describes it in his most recent book, Hope in Times of Fear, “Christ introduced ’The great reversal’ and brought His Kingdom from heaven to earth–-not fully just yet as that will come when he returns again—but in part.” Christians in that day, just as in our day, are Christ’s representatives tasked with bringing His Kingdom to earth.
In the time of Christ and following His death and resurrection, Christians began literally to change the world. Rome was characterized by arrogance, military strength, little value for life, hoarding wealth, sexual promiscuity and the list goes on. Christians stood in stark contrast and suffered horrible persecution and death as a result. The church grew rapidly BECAUSE there was such a contrast with the world.
Opportunity & Challenge
We have that same opportunity today. My challenge to you is to take to heart and seriously consider before the Lord the following questions:
Is your life marked with such contrast with the world around you that you make an impact in further establishing Christ’s kingdom on earth?
Is the way you conduct your affairs in business distinctly different from your colleague who has no personal faith?
Do you have a life marked with care and concern for the poor—the less fortunate, the forgotten, the powerless?
If not, what better time than now to begin the transformation? Start by committing to a regular time of devotion and prayer asking God to reveal to you what steps you should be taking. Also. seek out men and women who will challenge you to engage more boldly with today’s culture while doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly. May God richly bless your efforts in this regard!
Tom Sittema is the executive chairman of Conversus (a StepStone Company) a new venture launched in 2019 with three other partners. Conversus is an investment management platform with the focus on innovation in private market investing. He is not only a leader in business but has intentionally invested charitably extended his time and talents to improving the Central Florida Community as board chair and co-founder of Lift Orlando and past board chairs of Florida Citrus Sports, the Economic Development Commission, and others. He and his wife, Jayne, have three children and ten wonderful grandchildren.