When you spend time in the Bible it’s wonderful to discover all the excellent things it can teach you about how to live in God’s world. There are many principles in the Bible worth basing your life on. However, there are some things the Bible isn’t an expert authority on. For instance, if you read Jesus’ parables looking for guidance on how to succeed in business, you’re going to get in trouble. Here are Jesus’ top four tips for failing at business:
Tip One: Pay everyone the same no matter how much work they have done
In the Parable of the Vineyard Workers we see a businessman who hires workers to tend his vineyard throughout the day. He hires some at 6am, others at 9am, others at 12pm, more at 3pm and one more lot at 5pm. When it comes time to pay them he pays them all the same amount. They all get a standard day’s wage, whether they have been working for one hour or 12. This is a great deal for the people who came late, and a terrible injustice for those who have been working hard all day, not to mention that it’s also bad value for the vineyard owner.
If you want to get your employees offside, and ensure that they aren’t going to work hard, pay everyone the same thing no matter how much work they do. If you want to do the dodgy on your workers, have an inscrutable pay scale that relies on your whims as the owner rather than a clear and equitable award, commensurate with the time worked by each employee. I suspect before long, the workers who had been hired early in the day would be getting their union involved. If he’s not careful, the landowner may be dragged before the Fair Work Tribunal.
If you want to know how to pay your workers fairly, do not look at this parable.
Tip Two: If you’re about to get fired, rip off your employer
In the Parable of the Shrewd Manager a man finds out he is about to be fired, so he proceeds to track down anyone who owes his employer money and dramatically reduces their debt in an effort to make sure they’ll look after him once he has left the job. While this may seem like how politicians behave as they prepare for a life beyond politics, it is really just embezzlement.
What’s amazing is that when his master finds out what he has done, he commends him. He should report him to the police. White collar crime is still crime, it’s nothing to be commended. This parable is a terrible example for people experiencing job insecurity. If you think you’re going to lose your job the answer is not to quickly give company assets away to people who you think might like you afterward. Perhaps what would be wise is to sit down with your employer and discuss their issues with your performance and see if there is a way to salvage the situation. If you’re looking to Jesus’ parable for advice as an underperforming employee, this will make your life worse not better.
And while we’re on the topic, if you’re an employer who has been ripped off by a dishonest employee, commending them is probably not best practice.
Tip Three: Diversification is for Chumps
In the Parable of the Pearl a man finds a pearl in a market and sells everything he has to purchase said pearl. This is a terrible idea. Anyone who knows anything about investing knows that you shouldn’t put all your money into one thing. Diversification is important. What if the pearl market bottoms out? Perhaps they are living in a pearl bubble. If you find a valuable pearl in a market you should do solid research into what the future of pearls may be. You should make sure you have other solid, safe investments in a number of different commodities, gold and a stable currency are just two that come to mind. You may also like to think about owning investments that will provide cash flow, real estate and shares both are worth looking into. Your pearl investment may pay off but certainly you shouldn’t put all your pearls in one basket. Pearls look nice but they don’t put food on the table and they don’t pay the mortgage.
Tip Four: Invest in Certain Failure
In the Parable of the Sower a farmer goes out and sows seed in four different locations. One location has good soil, two have bad soil (one because it is shallow, the other because it is full of weeds), one location is a footpath. This is terrible farming practice. If you found a wheat farmer planting grain on the freeway you’d think they were insane! The farmer in the parable has committed a terrible waste of assets. Any farmer worth his crop should know where the best soil is for any particular crop and they should focus their sowing in only the soil that will yield a good return. The farmer could also undertake a soil restoration project to make the other fields suitable for farming. The farmer should even consider some crop rotation so as to have the healthiest soil possible.
There are times in business when you need to throw everything at the wall as see what sticks, but there are other times when that’s just plain dumb. For instance, you may be a venture capitalist and choose to invest small amounts in many different startups, looking for those few 10x companies who will give you billions in return. But no good investor is going to throw their money at things which are obviously going to fail. If I pitched an investor my idea for a luxury, coal powered, dial up modem, I wouldn’t get any money. Unless I pitched to the sower from the parable, then I might stand to get a quarter of all his available finance.
If you follow the business practice of the sower you might invest in Apple, Yahoo, Ansett, and your neighbour’s elderly cat. Whatever you do, don’t follow in the footsteps of the sower, put your time, money, and energy into things that at the very least might work.
Actual Tip: Don’t read the parables for business advice
As you can see, Jesus gives terrible business advice. However, Jesus didn’t come to make you loads of money, no more than the Bible is meant to be a science textbook, or a dieting handbook. Sometimes we Christians like to read the Bible as more than what it is, and by doing so we devalue the true things it does tell us, and we teach people ideas that are unhelpful at best and harmful at worst.
The parables aren’t meant to teach you about business, but they are meant to give us the secrets to the kingdom of heaven. They show us how God works in the world, and how we need to live in response to him. The Bible shows us the character of God. It tells us the story of God’s dealings with humanity over millennia. It shows us that we are loved despite the way we have chosen to live, and gives us the answer to sin and death found in Jesus Christ the Son of God. The Bible gives us hope for the future, and a way to live in the world now. This is so much more rewarding than reducing the Bible to life hacks, trite advice, or business tips. Unless of course you call being made “wise for salvation” a life hack, in which case the Bible is the best eternal life hack we’ll ever find.