We have a few new subscribers to this Blog who may not have read the very first blog posting from several month ago. Thank you for subscribing! I hope you are finding value here for your teaching. As always, I welcome your feedback and questions. You can email me at mcafferky [at] southern.edu.
Just to remind subscribers: The purpose of this blog is to support the efforts of other Christian management scholars who desire to bring issues of faith into their classrooms, those who have adopted my textbook and those who have not. Accordingly, the plan is to create two postings per month that contain information on selected management issues, debatable questions, current events in organizations that deserve thinking about (with students) from a biblical worldview, scriptural themes relevant to management and leadership and teaching ideas.
I realize that some Internet bloggers are prolific, blogging every day or even multiple times per day. Blogging every day is far outside the scope of what I can produce given my other academic responsibilities and publishing projects. Like many business professors who work full time at small colleges and universities that are affiliated with a religious organization, my teaching load has been pretty heavy. My postings tend to require a lot of time spent in study and thought before writing them. Add to this the fact that the past two years I have been writing other papers for publication or presentation and writing another textbook, this new one titled Business Ethics In Biblical Perspective: A Comprehensive Introduction (forthcoming in August this year from InterVarsity Press). Beginning in the Fall I will become the new Editor of the peer-reviewed Journal of Biblical Integration in Business. Thus, the discretionary time available for blogging on teaching ideas probably will not increase.
Accordingly, expect no more than two posting per month. Thanks!
This posting is a follow up on some of the “grand themes” of Scripture relevant to defining the purpose of business and the work of the manager. In a previous posting I shared with you how the themes were identified. When I looked at Bible passages that describe the character of God, and a second set of Bible passages that describe the identity of Jesus Christ and still a third set of passages that describe the conduct of the faithful follower of Jesus, several themes emerge. In a recent posting I covered the theme of Truth.
This posting focuses on the biblical theme of Wisdom. Notice what we find in Scripture:
Character of God = Wisdom
- LORD, how many are Thy works! In wisdom Thou hast made them all; The earth is full of Thy possessions. Psalm 104:24
- For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, 8 Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones. 9 Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity and every good course. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; Proverbs 2:6-9
- To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known… Ephesians 3:8-11
Identity of Jesus Christ = Wisdom
- …but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1Corinthians 1:24
- His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. 1Corinthians 1:30
Our conduct = Wisdom
- The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7
- Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom. Psalm 51:6
- How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding. Proverbs 3:13
- Buy truth, and do not sell it, Get wisdom and instruction and understanding. Proverbs 23:23
The question now is what is this idea of Wisdom all about from the Scripture point of view? At a superficial level some tend to think of wisdom as being smart or clever. A wise person is someone who knows just the right thing to say or the right thing to do in a particular situation.
The Hebrew concept of wisdom (and the related idea of prudence) means being firm and well-grounded first of all in faithfulness to God and second in the business of living life celebrating all the good that God has given for our life in community. “… it is by wisdom that God creates. Wisdom brings blessings. God’s action of redemption shows his great wisdom. Ultimately, wisdom comes from God, who continues to be active in the creative process when he creates wisdom offering it as a gift. Wisdom cannot be understood apart from its relationship to covenant relationships. In this regard wisdom is not merely a psychological trait. It is an action in the context of relationships!
Biblical wisdom is interwoven with faithfulness, justice and other dimensions of moral uprightness. Accordingly, humans on their own are limited in their ability to gather true wisdom for all of life. In this regard, the nature of wisdom is similar to the nature of shalom: it encompasses all dimensions of life envisioned in covenant relationships.” (Cafferky, 2015, p. 103) In other words, wisdom is not merely about being smart in knowing how to make money. It’s about being smart with covenant relationships and moral intelligence.
Scripture contrasts the wise person with the foolish person. The fool is the one who is destructive of covenant relationships. The fool is indiscrete and reckless. Fools ignore counsel from others who are attempting to follow the principles of a flourishing life modeled after the Ten Commandments.
From this Bible perspective we can begin to understand the purpose of management:
- To keep our own hearts with diligence.
- To help others be morally smart.
- To help our organization be a repository of insight regarding covenant relationships.
- To share not only practical wisdom but also wisdom about how life in the community can be improved.
- Offer training to employees to improve their skills, the training can range beyond just the technical dimensions to include other things represented by the biblical themes.
- Be careful! Protect yourself and those around you from being taken advantage of. There are foolish people in the marketplace that will try to take advantage of you and your organization. Minimize this risk.
- Improve your legal and ethical understanding of key business situations. Wise people are morally smart.
- Improve your own capabilities and skills regardless of what position you have. God made us with a variety of abilities. The more we develop these, the more useful we can be in service to others.
- Help subordinates to progress from uselessness to usefulness to others.
- Get counsel on the more complicated ethical issues that you encounter. Be available to others who seek your counsel.
Questions for Discussion with Students
- Who is a wise person that you know? What gives evidence that this person is wise?
- What does the word wisdom mean to most people?
- How does a person get wisdom?
- On what basis can the writer of Proverbs claim that the Ten Commandments make a person wise?
- If wisdom is primarily being smart about ethical issues, how do we gain this type of wisdom?
- Given what the Bible says about wisdom in all of its dimensions, what is the role of the faithful manager who desires to imitate Jesus Christ?
A few weeks ago near the end of the Winter Semester I asked students to write a personal essay regarding their calling.
The description of the assignment is worded like this: “Write a three- to five-page typewritten paper describing your personal calling. This paper should include a discussion about your early life experiences, choices you have made regarding your career path up to the present, feedback from family and friends regarding personal gifts, how your calling serves the greater good of society, what dimensions of your calling you are able to fulfill inside the context of your current (or recent) job, and what dimensions of your calling you are able to fulfill outside the context of paid employment.” (Cafferky, 2012, p. 509)
A section in Chapter 15 of our textbook provides students with an orientation about the issues related to calling.
Some students started their essay by saying that they are still trying to figure out their calling. Then these students continued by exploring some of the influences in their lives sharing insights about themselves they have gleaned.
Other students attempted to tie calling to a career or job. This provided the opportunity for us to have a conversation about the nature of calling and the degree to which calling needs to align with one’s work.
All in all, this was one of the richest professor-student dialogues I had during the whole semester! This provided an opportunity for an amazing conversation with students on a much deeper level than most conversations about faith and business. Students are genuinely interested in the issues. Calling and the hope that they will find and use their calling is deeply personal.
Here are some of the discussion questions that can be useful during the conversation:
- Is calling the same thing as your job?
- Is calling what you do or who you are?
- Does calling have to be used in your job?
- What should you do if you find yourself stuck in a job where your personal gifts, personality traits, temperament and abilities are not being used to their fullest?
- Can two people who have similar personalities, temperaments and abilities have the same calling?
- Does the person with a disability (and cannot work) not have a calling?
- Do you have only one calling?
- Might it be possible that your calling changes as you journey through life?
- If you make a career choice and realize that you are in a job that is not a good match for you, does this mean that you have left your calling?
- Have you had a clear sense that God has called you to a particular function so serve society (e.g., to help people learn; to advocate on behalf of the needs of others – especially those who are vulnerable; to bring harmony to social relationships; etc.)?