Godly ambition or greed?
“I have a business question for you,” said Rajiv (not his real name) as I sat in his kitchen. “How ambitious is it OK to be?”
Rajiv has been growing his business steadily. God has blessed it in remarkable ways. The business how has assets of about $10 million USD, generating revenue of $1 million. And Rajiv has the chance to take on a new piece of land that would grow his assets to about $15 million and take his revenues up to over $1.4 million.
But there’s a catch.
Rajiv would have to take on debt. His wife, Kim, is not as enthusiastic about the debt as Rajiv is.
Every marketplace Christian wants to see their enterprise flourish. But at what cost?
What does Scripture say about this tension between ambition and greed?
Toil or tranquility?
Ecclesiastes 4:6 says, “Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.”
As business leaders, God has already provided a handful; sometimes, He wants to provide us with another handful. But the question is whether reaching for that second handful will bring tranquility or mere toil.
Be wary when you’re weary
“Don’t wear yourself out to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit.” (Proverbs 23:4)
In one season of life, Rajiv may have the energy and bandwidth to take on this expansion in his business. If he were a father to young children, it may not be the right time.
In addition to the financial risk, there’s risk to another of Rajiv’s most precious resources: his time.
How much more time will it take for him to manage his business if it expands? Could he use the earnings to hire someone to reduce his personal workload?
Fear or faith?
“Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23, NIV)
As Paul writes to the Romans, he’s instructing them on whether it’s OK to eat food sacrificed to idols. Rather than focusing solely on the issue of “whether it’s OK,” Paul turns to the deeper issue: where is your heart?
If you’re eating that food out of faith in God, and giving thanks for it, it’s great. But if you doubt that it’s OK, then you’re not operating from faith.
This is an essential heart check. Is Rajiv expanding his business because he’s afraid? Or because he is filled with faith?
Before expanding your business: Four steps to consider
1. The Spiritual Check
In your heart, why do you want to expand? Perhaps it’s because God made you awesome at business and He’s built you to love the thrill of the deal.
Perhaps you want to grow your business to employ more people, to have a bigger impact on your community, to be able to give more to the Kingdom. Great!
But often it’s fear or greed.
Greed to accumulate all you can.
Fear of losing your first-mover advantage if you pass on an opportunity. In consulting, it’s tempting to accept horrible projects out of fear that, next time, that client won’t give you another chance to serve them.
Be honest with yourself: what’s your motive for wanting a larger business?
2. The Family Check
Imagine that your family is your board of directors. You present this expansion opportunity to them, and explain the opportunities and risks. You explain how many more nights a month you’ll be away.
How would your board vote?
Are you in a season in which they need more of your personal time and attention? Are you getting enough time with your husband or wife?
Conversely, perhaps your family is excited about the newfound financial stability that the expansion could bring. Perhaps they’ll be excited that, with just a bit more effort, your family could become much more generous.
3. The Personal Check
What joys and burdens will expansion bring to your soul? Can you handle a bit more stress? What will be lost—in your devotional life, in your church involvement, in your neighborhood, in your ability to have a Sabbath? Do you have the personal margin to take this on?
If your heart is at peace, that’s a great sign. God may be inviting Rajiv into an opportunity. God may want to bless Rajiv, and allow Rajiv’s generosity to grow. After all, Paul told the Corinthians that “you will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion” (2 Cor. 9:11).
As Rajiv prays, he can ask “God, is this about me expanding my Kingdom, or you expanding yours?”
4. The Business Check
After counting the cost in other ways, it’s time for the business analysis. And that’s the part that you’re already great at!
May God give you His passions, His protection, and His ambitions.
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