August 20, 2010

The Real “Secret”

By Katryna Starks

I recently watched a documentary called “The Secret”. It claimed that people could “harness the power of the universe” and have it deliver whatever they wanted. In one scene, a young boy supposedly wished for a bike – and got it. In another, a man used the power of The Secret to get a red sportscar, a big house, and a beautiful woman.

I was bothered by this documentary. Not because they told people that they could wish for what they wanted, but because it was so shallow. If I actually believed that I could snap my fingers and the power of the universe would be at my command, why would I wish for a car? I don’t need the power of the universe to get a car. I just need a job. Why not encourage the use of that power to end war? Simultaneous worldwide nuclear disarmament? End poverty? End sickness? Clean the ocean? Pretty much anything that serves humanity rather than . . . a car?

And herein lies the dilemma of The Secret and other Get-Rich-Quick schemes. They promote spiritual principles for shallow purposes.

The Bible says “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” (Mark 11:24) but it also says “and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.” (1 John 3:22) which means that there is an expectation that we have behaved in ways that are pleasing.

But here is where The Secret really gets it wrong. First, one needs to ask God, not “the universe”, but even so, here is what God says about what we ask for: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3). This is exactly what I’m talking about. If the people who believe the secret actually believe they have that much power, why spend it only on themselves? What a waste.

There is a story in the Bible about someone who follows God and asks him for the right things, things that will help others. His name is Solomon, and this is what he asked God for, and how God answered him: “Now, LORD God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, riches or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, riches and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.” (2 Chron: 9-12)

That is The Secret for Christians. Follow God and share His concern for His people and you won’t get left out of the blessings that follow. Matthew said it best: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)

February 16, 2010

Which Businessman Am I?

Filed under: Loving Thy Neighbor,Yours, God's and Caesar's — Katryna Starks @ 11:23 am

© Copyright 2001, By Jan Wallen

Two businessmen each had a small grocery store. The first businessman only had five workers, and the second businessman had twenty. Although there was always a great deal of work to be done, the first businessman’s employees worked more happily and effectively than the second businessman’s workers. The twenty workers constantly fumbled and grumbled as they went along with their daily tasks. The first businessman was more successful, and his business more profitable, than the second businessman. The reason? The first businessman led his workers using the “Jesus management” style while the second businessman led his workers using the “carrot and stick” style.

The first businessman, who had a good relationship with his employees, looked upon himself as a servant too –

“But Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. And whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.'” – Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV)

The first businessman was owner and head, and yet, he treated his workers as if he were their servant. And because he led by good example, his workers worked out of genuine love for the tasks given to them.

The second businessman’s “carrot or stick” style showed a measure of effectiveness in the beginning — Every time he dangled a monetary benefit (the carrot) for a job well done and issued a threat to fire them (the stick) if they didn’t work well, his workers worked diligently. But only for a short time. After a while, the workers realized how their employer was abusing the authority he held over them. With the threat of being fired constantly looming above their heads, they were forced to work, but not out of love for the work they did.

As Christian employers, we are given a huge responsibility on how we are to manage our employees. We cannot be called Christian employers by mistreating and abusing our exercise of authority over our workers. There is nothing Christ-like about having a relationship with our workers that is driven by abuse of power and authority. Nor is it Christ-like to be driven by profit while ignoring the needs of our employees. Are they over worked? Are we paying them much less than what they should receive? Are they safe while they do their work?

It will serve us well to remember that there is more to making profits and keeping the pockets of stockholders fat. True success is achieved when our workers give us their full commitment and loyalty because they believe we have and are treating them fairly. We are also responsible for giving our employees equal treatment. Thus, there is no reason for us to show that we favor one worker over the other just because he or she is a relative or a member of the same organization.

“And masters, treat your servants considerately. Be fair with them. Don’t forget for a minute that you, too, serve a master – God in heaven.” – Colossians 4:1 (The Message)

As Christian employers, our responsibility to our workers goes beyond paying fair wages and providing good working conditions. We also have the responsibility of leading by demonstrating good examples every day. It is the principle of leading by serving.

To go back to the story of the two businessmen, the first businessman with the five happy and content employees created a daily schedule of putting one person in charge of opening and closing the store, sweeping the floor and cleaning the toilet. Instead of excluding himself from the schedule because he owned the business, he listed his name too. When it was his turn, he did the tasks just as all his other workers did. In the process, he was able to communicate with his workers that he was “one of them.” That simple act reinforced a positive working environment for his workers because they felt at ease knowing he did not resort to using his authority over them.

This is the essence of what the first businessman in our story did for his workers:

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” – 1 Peter 5:2-3

As Christian employers, it is also our responsibility to care for our employees – to train them, to be sensitive to their needs, and to develop their skills so that they may be better workers and individuals. Not only are we morally responsible for our workers, we are also mentally and spiritually responsible for them. True, fair wages and good working conditions are essential, but we should also provide more. Allowing workers to initiate and organize Bible studies during free hours and encouraging them to practice their religious beliefs in the workplace without letting it interfere with their work are some ways we can promote a sense of openness and trust among our workers.

As a Christian employer, examine yourself and your relationship with your employees. Ask yourself one simple question: Which businessman am I?


Jan Wallen is the owner of a site dedicated to helping Christian business people conduct their businesses based on Christian principles. Her free bi-monthly newsletter, the Straight Paths Ezine, is filled with sensible, practical advice to help you in the work place. Subscriptions are available by visiting her website or you may send a blank e-mail to

October 24, 2007

The Economy of Grace

As many of you know, there have been about 12 fires in Southern California over the past few days.  The San Diego area was hit really hard, and almost a million people have been evacuated from their homes.  As a compassionate gesture, several San Diego area hotels have offered discount rates to evacuees.  That’s great, right?  According to an economics professor, it’s horrific. Mark Steckbeck, economics professor at Hillsdale College, laments the fact that hotels offered discounted rates to fire evacuees in San Diego on this post of his blog, The Liberal Order.  According to Steckbeck, who doesn’t sound very liberal despite his blog title, the hotels made a bad thing worse by not charging full market rates or more for the rooms because higher prices would have insured that only the most desperate used the hotel rooms while others would have opted for shelters or family homes. Steckbeck says “It was a nice gesture on the part of the hotels, but I’d rather see compassion administered through the invisible hand of market prices.” Technically he is correct regarding the economics, but he is completely wrong concerning compassion.  Market prices are passive.  They do what they do, like a machine.  Compassion, on the other hand, is active.  It cannot be administered by the invisible hand of market prices.  It cannot be administered by any passive force.  Compassion means to suffer with, and market economics don’t suffer.  They don’t feel.  They cannot administer justice or mercy.  They just are.  Compassion is the realm of people. So how does human compassion reconcile itself with market forces?  This IS the market. The owners get to charge what they want, and the owners decided to be compassionate. That’s the great thing about the economy and the market. If one is fortunate enough to make one’s riches and own something, one is able to be merciful at will. As for the people who may have been willing to pay more for a room, it doesn’t matter.  When almost a million people need to be evacuated, the rooms would have filled up anyway and the compassionate gesture of reducing prices didn’t do any harm at all.  What did happen, and what will happen, is that when the fires are over, those who still have homes will return to them and those who need the hotels for longer than a few days because they no longer have homes, will have locked in reduced rates while they look for other semi-permanent housing. The hotels are still more expensive than rent, so some people will rent apartments until the insurance company, FEMA or whoever comes through with money to either buy elsewhere or rebuild. Either way, the hotels in the area were only half booked before this happened and now they are all full, so the hotel owners were able to be compassionate while still making a profit.  Isn’t that the best sort of economics?