Some of us own businesses. I own a small business, very small. It exists mostly so I can get paid with invoices. There is no gleaming office tower.
A few days ago I talked to a good friend who also owns a business. Well, he did own a business, until the Credit Union called in a loan. They seized his inventory, worth much more than what he owed, and auctioned it for about two hundred dollars. Now they might force the sale of his house.
I met my friend for a coffee break, and when I located him, he was at a site working with another man. The other man was friendly, but really wanted to know who I was. I learned later that he owned a successful business, and he needed to upgrade some equipment. He went to a lender that specialized in business loans, and they looked at his books carefully. Their conclusion was that they would only give him a line-of-credit for ten times what he asked for. They saw great potential in his business, and they inspired him with confidence.
He took the line-of-credit and upgraded his equipment, and then tried to return most of the loan, because he didn’t need that money. The lender refused and forced him to pay interest on a huge sum, of many unused dollars. He tried to pay the monthly interest with money from the loan, but that is a death spiral.
When he was desperate, and could not see a way out, a larger company offered to buy his small company. His counter offer was ‘Take the company for free, and also take over the unused line-of-credit.’ I suspect the lender sent the bigger company to rescue the desperate man. A few days ago, he was waiting anxiously to learn if the bigger company would accept his offer, so he could walk away with nothing. He was looking forward to that.
It’s a jungle out there, and that was a depressing coffee break. Finance companies have Rain Makers and Storm Chasers. One side will smile and make you a generous offer, and the other side will snarl and take it all back, later. My friend and I talked about a few other small businesses that are also struggling. The economy is slow, where I live, and the results are painful to see.
After the depressing coffee break, I had one big question because I am a Christian. How does God care about this? It’s easy to be spiritual in a church service, but how do spiritual things fit into the rough business of our life every day?
There are some clear answers:
Beloved, I pray that in every way you may prosper and enjoy good health, as your soul also prospers. (3 John 1:2) So yes, our health and our prosperity are important. John prayed for his brother to be more than just spiritual.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure. (Ecclesiastes 7:4) Maybe that depressing coffee break was good for me, and we all need to understand failure better.
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. (Proverbs 22:7) I saw that. The failed businesses started with the idea that they could prosper from borrowed money; they could succeed by selling themselves at a slave market.
My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have struck hands in pledge with a stranger, if you have been trapped by the words of your lips, ensnared by the words of your mouth, if you have been trapped by the words of your lips, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself, for you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go, humble yourself, and press your plea with your neighbor. Allow no sleep to your eyes or slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the fowler’s snare. (Proverbs 6: 1 to 5) That’s clear. Maybe that man was right to give away his business and escape.
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be lowly in spirit among the humble than to divide the spoil with the proud. (Proverbs 16: 18 and 19) Every failure that I saw, started from someone’s inflated ego. Humility directs us to safer places.
And here’s the big one. If you are a Christian, you are part of a failed business. Christianity is a failure, or it started that way. Jesus had a religious community in Galilee, with senior executives, disciples, and many subscribers, and His Chief Financial Officer collapsed the whole corporation one day. A man named Judas was the treasurer for Jesus Inc. and he betrayed Jesus for several thousand dollars, or enough money to buy a field, also known as thirty pieces of silver.
And that was the end. Jesus was executed on a cross, and Judas hung himself.
In that business collapse, God stepped into the picture with something better. The end only cleared away old things that were used up, and opened the way for something much greater. Disciples became apostles.
I hope, if you are confronted by failure at the beginning of this year, that you can learn the lessons, and close some doors, and find greater things.
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2: 2 to 4) … Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. (verse 43)