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Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Pope, The Protestant and the Redemption of Capitalism

by Susan Fox

Pope Francis
“The Gospel offers us the chance to live life on a higher plane, but with no less intensity: ‘Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life the most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others.’” (The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis)

Christian Entrepreneur
"Jay" Maymi

That is the task that Evangelist and Author Jesus Maymi has undertaken in “The Entrepreneur’s Devotional: Biblical Principles for Business Success” released on Dec. 1 and available at http://www.empoweredlifeministries.org/.

While the pope is complaining about the cold indifference of an economy of exclusion and inequality, saying such an economy kills, Maymi –- a Protestant –- is doing something about it. He imbues his business life with a sense of total dependence on God.  In his free time, he visits prisons, homeless shelters, and nursing homes. After speaking about his faith, he prays one-on-one with the residents there.

“Jay is obviously a Man of Faith first,” said Estate Planner John Cornish, aka “The Money Guy,” after outlining how Maymi’s business principles are boosting his own third quarter reports.

It seems to me that Maymi, a member of the Assembly of God Church, is undertaking the mission the pope is asking Catholics to do. “When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfillment. For ‘here we discover a profound law of reality: that life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others. This certainly is what mission means. Consequently, an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!’” Pope Francis said.

The Entrepreneur’s devotional concurs. In the section on the responsibility of success, he says, “You can only go on so many vacations, and you can only spoil yourself with so much until you start to realize that true joy comes in not what you did to make your life more comfortable but in what you did to enrich the life of someone else.”

I was an investigative business reporter for 12 years, working for West Coast newspapers including the San Francisco Examiner and the San Diego Union.  My main purpose was to uncover fraud and business abuse, though I cheerfully covered the good business practices I witnessed in banking, agriculture, mining and personal finance.   

However, what I found in short supply was honesty and a sincere caring about the customer and employee. Yet I myself broke big story after big story because I used Jay Maymi’s devotional approach; I prayed before I investigated. I depended on God.  Documents indicting the actions of some crooked businessmen seemed to just drop into my lap from heaven. Obviously, that means if you ignore the 10 Commandments in your business practices, there is a Higher Power working against you through people in the Fourth Estate!

The alternative is Jay’s prayerful approach to business, which will benefit not just the entrepreneur, but the entire economy and society.  I honestly don’t think capitalism will survive without Christian men and women living their faith in the work place.  

After reminding us of Mark 14:51-52, where a young man, wearing only a linen garment, flees naked from the Garden of Gethsemane as Jesus is seized, Jay concludes: “As Godly people of self-enterprise, we must decide that we will run towards Christ and not away from Him, embrace our identity in Christ, and stand firm for Whom and what we believe in. Choosing to conserve one’s business success, market share, personal image, advancement potential, and security by abandoning our association with Christ will only leave you with a barren, empty, and naked feeling that will have nothing to do with clothing.”

Each chapter comes with a personal prayer and relevant Scripture passages. I am impressed with the depth of readings chosen. And they are appropriate to each topic he describes. This is obviously a work of deep prayer. Jay also gives you space to journal your own faith response in the book.

In discussing one of his business failures, Jay reveals that in prayer God showed him that if he had succeeded, it would have had a bad outcome for Jay and his family. This is called the gift of knowledge, one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit enumerated in Isaiah 11: 2-3.  God gives it to people who pray regularly, intensely and wait on God’s response to their individual needs and problems. “At that moment, I praised God for His Goodness in keeping that door shut!” Jay said in response to his business failure.

Make every thought “captive to the obedience of Christ,” Maymi reminds us in the section on making a plan for your enterprise. “We are instructed to chart our thoughts to ‘whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.’ (Phil 4:8)”

Jay also urges Christian businessmen to abandon lukewarm practices that lead to mediocrity. Mediocrity will not bear good fruit. “It is only through sheer passion, daily actions, and a burning desire that momentum (in your business) can be created. Sustained momentum ... has the potential to change lives and history.” Jay concluded.

I also love the second commandment in  “The Entrepreneur’s Ten Commandments.” It was “Thou Shalt Not Deceive Others for Gain.” Honesty is vitally important in all social interactions. It even comes down to paying attention to little things like returning the cash when you are given too much change in a retail transaction, or avoiding false feedback to your customers to make a sale. There are ways to tell the truth without being offensive. Or remain silent.

Behind a financial system that rules instead of serves, “lurks a rejection of ethics and rejection of God,” Pope Francis warned. “Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response, which is outside of the categories of the marketplace.”

Pope Francis among the people he loves

The Pope goes on to explain the dangers of the marketplace where ethics are abandoned: “God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement.” 

While waiting for a sale to close or a call to be returned is frustrating, Jay said, “Waiting helps create a further dependence on God.” That pretty well sums up Jay’s approach to life and business. “God is a one event at a time God. He will direct your steps from one experience to another even if that experience seems unusual, uncomfortable, and inconvenient. This pattern serves to create trust and reliance in His divine guidance and instruction. It also teaches us to wait expectantly and patiently.”

Such advice would do well for Catholics in their own spiritual walk.  If we follow the entrepreneur’s devotional, I think we would be successful in our business efforts, but we would also deepen our relationship with God, and reflect His Image to the world.  That would be a great blessing.  I recommend this little book.

Are you surprised that a Catholic would recommend a Protestant devotional? Did you expect the pope’s encyclical to browbeat a businessman like Maymi? The Catholic Church’s job is to bring you into relationship with Truth, Who is a Person, Jesus Christ. Truth is universal. God doesn’t keep it to Himself, nor does He just share it with Catholics.

Susan Fox has a Master’s in Economics, and a Master’s in International Trade and Finance from the University of Kentucky, Lexington. She quit her 12-year career in print journalism in 1991 in order to home-school her son. She is currently one of two authors at this Christian blog, www.ChristsFaithfulWitness.com. Her husband of 30 years, Lawrence Fox, is co-author.

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