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Business and the Christian

When it comes to Christians doing business there inevitably, at some time or another, arises a conflict of interests, things that disturb the conscience, is this right or is it wrong. The conscience interrogates itself, tearing the Christian apart with inner turmoil. There is always the lingering doubts, did I do it God’s way? Am I being true to my faith? How will I be judged as a result of my actions? Will others see me as a hypocrite?

In today’s cut-throat world of business where the line between right and wrong is thinly drawn, one wonders if it is at all possible for a Christian to be a good businessperson without the compromising of faith and morals. The tactics employed by the world make almost anything legal, but for the Christian this has only made decision-making more difficult. What was dishonest and dirty and unacceptable only a few years ago has become praiseworthy today. Just take a look at the language being used today and the movies being shown, what was distasteful and improper has now become the norm and it is in this world that we as Christians have to make a living without compromising our values.

A young man just entering the business world once said to me that he could not do business without taking of his Christian jacket. The implication in these words was that he could not do business without cheating, lying or stealing. If, during the course of your life, you have seen a mentor or someone you respect doing business (and I use the word with reservation here) by cheating, or lying, or stealing, then the natural thing is for you to think it is quite alright to use the same methods. I used the word ‘business’ with reservation in the previous sentence because I do not believe cheating, lying and stealing is business. These things are an affront to the majority of businesspeople, these things are sin. I want to clarify here, that making a profit is not sin for it is written:

Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go. (Isa 48:17)

The Lord will not teach us to sin. The bible is full of people, holy and righteous people of God who earned their keep doing business and making a profit. Abraham was a successful farmer, soldier and businessman. So too was Job. Solomon sent ships to trade and barter in foreign lands even importing chariots from Egypt, Israel’s traditional enemy. Business should not be left in the hands of the ungodly few, but all can, and should, participate.

When Elisha multiplied the oil of the widow and all the containers were full we read what he said to her:

Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.(2Kings 4:7)

In other words make money and retire.

In the New Testament we read of Matthew and Zacchaeus both successful tax collectors and Paul a maker and seller of tents. Then there is also Lydia a seller of purple cloth.

Tax collecting was a type of franchise purchased from the Roman authorities but most tax collectors in Jesus’ time were viewed as dishonest ‘cheats’ by the public at large, but this had more to do with the way in which the business of tax collecting was conducted rather than the business itself. Jesus who spoke to and visited with tax collectors had no condemnation for their business, in fact He commended Zacchaeus for his decision to be honest in his dealings. Tax collecting was a necessary occupation, much as soldiering and politicking was.

If we read Proverbs 31, one of the things that make a wife virtuous is her ability to do business.

She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. (Pro.31:16)

And again:

She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. (Pro.31:24)

When it comes to business and profit, it is not so much the ‘what’ (yes, there are certain businesses that have to be avoided) but the ‘how’ that causes concern. Living in the grey area between right and wrong is not good enough, we need to be firm in our choice to be a Christian irrespective of the implications it may have for business. God, in His wisdom, has given us guidelines in His Word, on how we are to do business, what businesses need to be avoided and what the consequences will be if we transgress His law.

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal.5:19-21)

Anything that encourages any of the above must be avoided at all costs. In his prayer for a successful life, Jabez prayed:

And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that You would bless me indeed, and make my border larger, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, so that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he asked. (1Chron.4:10)

Jabez asked that God keep him from evil so that he would not cause grief to others, and God did what he asked.

And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! (Mat.18:5-7)

In your business dealings let no harm come to any child or any person for that matter, for you will be held accountable.

In Habakkuk there is a list of things that could get in the way of a godly business, things that need to be avoided, even if it means passing up a good deal.

Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people. (Hab.2:5)

No greater trap exists for a businessman than pride. Pride led to the downfall of the prince of angels. It led to the downfall of King Saul and Nebuchadnezzar, it clouds judgment and smothers wisdom, leaving you vulnerable and at the mercy of the enemy.

Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! how long? and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay!(Hab.2:6)

Alongside pride, we can place unpaid debts as another reason for the downfall of businesspeople. ‘Clay’ refers to pledges or promises to pay debts and I.o.u.’s which in those days were written on clay, and ‘thick clay’ refers to an abundance of debts that pile up and are not paid.

Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil! (Hab.2:9)

Next to unpaid debts comes greed, a drive to gain as much as possible so that one may, through wealth, gain a position of power. Wealth becomes the source of security, as Proverbs 18:11 says: Wealth becomes his city behind the walls of which he will feel safe. As Christian businesspeople, our security is in the Lord.

The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. (Prov.18:10)

Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity! (Hab.2:12)

After greed comes disregard for others. Building a business on the blood of others will have consequences. Your methods will determine your outcome. Jesus warned:

Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. (Matt.26:52)

There is always somebody stronger or more ruthless than you. Your approach to business will determine their approach to you.

Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness! (Hab.2:15)

To mislead and to cheat speaks of thievery not business. To force people into situations, whether by alcohol or coercion or blackmail, speaks of one who is unable to do what is right, unable to be a businessperson. ‘Help one another’ we are told by Paul the apostle, and He will help you.

Opportunities abound, we must just be on the lookout for them. Do your business within God’s parameters, and He will send people to you, those needing your help and those who can help you. Certainly within most congregations are people who can and will help you. Just keep your focus on God. He is the one who ‘teaches us to profit’, who blesses and rewards.

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Gal. 6:7)

The rewards you reap will depend on you.

Doing business is not the problem. As Christians we must remember that we are subject to a law higher than that of the world. We carry a name higher than our own. That said, we must not to be na├»ve in our dealings. The world will quite easily and without a second thought take advantage of any unwary, unprepared ‘do-gooder’. Business is business and that means making a profit. Take heed of Jesus’ words:

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. (Mat.10:16)

Brainstorming To Start A Small Business – Questions To Answer

Hello readers and potential future entrepreneurs. I understand the feeling; desire to create, operate, and succeed. Throughout my professional career, I have learned that there are numerous steps that must be taken in order to organize opening and operating a small business. I have put together a few questions which aspiring entrepreneurs should, at the very least, consider reading over. There are many questions that may arise with opening a small business, and I will address a few of those questions briefly in the following list of questions one may ask while brainstorming.

What type of business do you want to open? There are various business endeavors an entrepreneur could involve themselves in. It all comes down to what knowledge one has, or is willing to obtain. Are you a restaurateur? Repairman? Plumber? Home health / assistance? Do you have experience managing or working at such establishments? Do you need formal education from an institution? Will you work as a sole proprietor, or a partner / member? Research limited liability corporations (LLCs) in addition to sole proprietorships and partnerships. S corporations are another option, but they are for business with stockholders, and may not be right for your particular business application.

What kinds of licensing and/or permits are required? Each business will have different licensing requirements; it all comes down to what the entrepreneur ultimately chooses to do. A restaurant would need food safety licensing in addition to basic business licensing, and if alcohol is on the menu – there is another permit the entrepreneur would need to legally sell alcohol on the premises. Repair oriented businesses would need at least the business license to repair, but if they sell parts as well, they would need to have “retail” listed on their business license in addition to “repair”. Health care services require at least formal education and licensing as an LPN, RN, or one of several other health care related licenses. Be sure to check your state’s laws to ensure what is necessary to operate your type of business.

What training / education / certifications are required to legally run this business? We touched upon this in licensing / permits, however there is much more involved than the required licensing. For example, one cannot operate a vehicle collision repair business without the knowledge of performing those types of repairs. There are schools that can be attended to learn what must be learned to effectively operate nearly any kind of business. However, there are also businesses where experience is enough to operate effectively without needing any formal education (lawn care, house cleaning just to name a couple). Also, there are certifications for training in nearly, if not all, care industries.

Does this business require a storefront? Retail establishments will undoubtedly need a storefront. Bear in mind, retail business will have a much larger initial investment than a service based operation. That initial investment is inventory. Some service businesses may not need a storefront to operate, as much of the service performed could very well be on-site. If a storefront is necessary, be sure to consider delivery or on-site service if it is feasible for your operation.

How much will it cost? This number will vary wildly based on the type and size of business you are planning. For smaller businesses, this number could be as low as $200 for a license and/or permit, or as high as a million dollars or more. Obviously, inventory is very expensive, and so are specialized tools for performing extremely precise work. Calculate the expected opening and operating expenses. Determine what size storefront is needed (if applicable), and research local commercial realty properties, locations, and prices. It is absolutely cheaper to rent in the short-term, although the thought of owning property that is paid off is very tempting. Prices on most things will vary based on your location. Employees are another cost, if your business warrants employees. When employees come into the equation as opposed to sole proprietors or partnerships, one must add extra insurance for the business (unemployment insurance comes to mind). Check with your selected insurance company for which types of additional coverage are required, and if offering health insurance can be done reasonably. Those employees will also need to have taxes paid on their wages – part from the employee’s paycheck and part from the company. Another potential cost is repayment of loans, if you don’t already have the capital needed to open your business. Basic operating expenses are not to be forgotten, as heating/cooling, Internet connectivity, and utilities will be regular expenditures for any storefront. On-site service operations cost very little when compared to a physical storefront.

How can an individual pay for this? If you do not have the funds available, which is very common, applying for loans is a way to attain funding. Be sure to have a business plan with projected expenses and revenues. There are other ways to gain funds for a business. Look into grants. While they are not very common, they are a potential source for assistance nonetheless. If many people believe in your dream, one could possibly acquire donations from those individuals.

What about accounting? Bookkeeping is a necessity – research which accounting/bookkeeping software would work best for the type of business you are planning. Point-of-sale (POS) systems are needed for “ringing up” and selling inventory or goods to the customer. POS systems keep track of sales, sales taxes, employee labor dollars spent, and many other items. If you are apt at creating spreadsheets, you may be able to keep track of your own inventory depending on your particular business model.

I hope this brief listing of questions and potential answers has been of assistance to aspiring entrepreneurs. Although there are countless successful entrepreneurs who have little or no formal education in business, it is never a bad idea to research courses regarding administration and management. Be sure to take a look at the Small Business Administration’s website at http://www.SBA.gov for more helpful information.

Ten Important Things To Keep In Mind Before Starting An Online Business

These ten factors may not necessarily appear in the same order as listed below but certainly, they are vital for the issue at hand.

HERE ARE THE TEN QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:

1. What type of online business do I want to engage in?
2. What do I have on offer that will be better than my Competitors in my niche?
3. Do I need to prepare a business plan for my business?
4. How much will it cost to set up my business?
5. Is my business online based or BOTH online and offline?
6. Do I need a dedicated website for my business and how much will it cost?
7. How will I market my business whether online or offline?
8. What is the right strategy to use to market my business?
9. Am I getting value for money in advertising my business?
10. Am I reaching the right audience with my advertising?

Having a positive answer for all these questions can only lead you to the next stage of your pursuit of running an online business.

Engage yourself in research into the business you want to get involve in and have a go at it. Take for instance, the Mobile Phone Industry. Statistics have shown the total number of mobile phone users worldwide from 2013 to 2019. For 2017 the number of mobile phone users is forecast to reach 4.77 billion. Customers and potential customers use their mobile phones to browse the internet for Products and Services more than a Laptop or Desktop computer, so it make sense for business owners to utilize this piece of technology for marketing their products and services. This could suggest that there is an opportunity to tap into the mobile app industry to meet the needs of these businesses requiring mobile apps.

Millions of apps for almost anything you can think of, are now in circulation whether for free download or at a cost. You might ask, why don’t I have a slice of the pie and start a mobile app business? The excitement kicks in, but one has to have some kind of knowledge about the whole App design process. This will probably force you to dig deeper into your research on the whole aspect of mobile app development. With this being established, my first question is answered; through study and research, you have made an informed decision to get involved in Mobile App Design and Development. But, what will you be offering that will be better than your Competitors? This is not a simple question to answer, but to say the least, strive to offer quality products and services to customers, and simply make your Products and Services more affordable while maintaining quality.

Starting a business without some kind of a business plan is like driving onto a very long motorway with 1/4 tank of fuel, with the hope that it will take you to the next service exit. The business plan will give you a breakdown of what you need for the business even though success is not guaranteed, as there are a number of opposing factors along the way.

There are a lot of businesses with little or no startup cost as opposed to other businesses with huge startup cost. It also depends on whether your business will both be online and offline. You have to decide if the business you want to indulge in, has minimal startup cost.

To setup an online business, does not have to cost an arm and a leg, if you take the time to do extensive research into the business you want to get into.

If your business is online based, advertising it to the right audience can be a huge task. Finding the right sources to advertise your business, can be quite challenging and risky as this is where you can spend huge sums of money to advertise, but yet get little return on investment if the advertising strategy is wrong.

Advertising a business to a targeted audience involves a number of factors like;

1. Google Indexing
2. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
3. Domain Authority (DA)
4. Page Ranking (PR)
5. Back links
6. Social Media
7. Joining Forums
8. Blogging
9. Google AdWords
10. Google Analytics
11. Keywords Research

To do all of these stuff can be demanding and boring, but if you need success in any business, you just have to get on with the task at hand.

Handing over this challenging task to an SEO Expert can be quite expensive. If you put the time and effort in and do your research and utilize the available SEO tools on the Market, believe me, you can bring your online business to life without ‘breaking the bank’.