Christian Businessman Loves Jesus
February 19th 2008 07:10
“I’m sorry to be so late, Sir.” It was the new accountant that I had hired about a week earlier to help me set up books and begin recording the financial activities of my new business. “The roads are so bad, traffic so heavy and all. I don’t know why the government doesn’t fix the roads and put in detours around those pesky areas where traffic has to stop for so long.”
“It’s all right, Sheila,” I consoled. “I haven’t been back in my homeland for very long, but I soon learned to become more patient concerning schedules, especially when travel is involved.”
“Well, I looked over the information that you gave me last week, your financial records. They all look fine to me,” began Sheila. “Now, I have a sample of how to record your income and your expenses. Look at this, please.”
I looked at her sample. Not knowing a lot about accounting, I assumed that all was quite acceptable. “I see no problem, Sheila. It looks like I can follow the pattern you have begun here for my business.”
“Lord, help me to be helpful to her, especially in spiritual areas of life.”
Sheila continued, “May I ask you something, Sir?”
“Of course. We need open communication in order to have accurate books,” I answered. “What do you want to know?”
She began telling me that she found that my prices are too low, especially when considering what I am paying for the products that I sell. She said that I will lose money unless I either raise the prices or report less sales than I actually make.
“This looks like a problem area, Lord Jesus. Help me with my words to her.”
“I can’t raise the prices much. I want people to be able to afford my products,” I responded. “I’m sure that some of the department stores price their products similarly to the prices I’m charging now.”
“That’s quite good, Sir,” Sheila seemed to be agreeable. “So, I will plan to adjust your figures each month so that your income taxes will not be so high. I’m glad that we agreed on that issue.”
“Help me, Lord. Guide my words.”
I smiled, trying to be pleasant while holding my ground. “No Sheila, that’s not right. We will report the exact amounts of my sales and my expenses. That’s the only Christian way to do business.”
She winked at me. “Of course, Sir. We want to do the Christian thing.”
I did not understand that situation at all. Why the wink? Why so suddenly in full agreement?
Sheila dismissed herself after a few more words and promised to return at the beginning of next month.
I hired three young workers to clerk and stock shelves and receive payment for merchandise. Hal was 27 years old, a college graduate from a local college. His English was just so-so, not really great. Leo had a look about him that I felt uncomfortable about, but I needed someone with his availability so I hired him. His English was better than Hal’s. I felt I should have a female worker, too, so I finally decided to bring in Anna. She, too, was a college graduate and not married so I felt she may be a good worker for me.
A fair amount of my customers speak English rather than the local languages and dialects. I had concerns about how well Hal would function with them. I gave him time to work on his English skills.
“Lord, you can help Hal if he really wants to learn English. I know that you are able to help him.”
Within a few days, I had to consider Leo’s future with my business. I felt sure that I smelled alcohol on his breath once. His cash drawer seemed to come up short rather often. His choice of shirt gave me some discomfort; I did not like the slogan he wore on it.
“How do I handle Leo, Lord Jesus? Help me, please. I don’t want to fire him so quickly. Still, I don’t want anyone to think that I have any appreciation for alcohol or alcoholics. Give me wisdom.”
I fired Leo in a few days.
Since my business is not frequented by great crowds, at least not yet, I understand when my workers have little to do at times. Still, when I am paying them, I expect them to represent me and my company well when on duty. I was very surprised when I found a stranger in the back stock room one evening. It was during Anna’s shift. Apparently, she did not expect me to be coming into the store so late. When I entered, I saw no clerk anywhere in the showroom of the store. I looked around and wandered into the stock room. That’s when I saw him. Actually, I saw them, Anna and the strange young man. Trying to give Anna the benefit of any doubts, I assumed that she was trying to find some product for him. However, when she finally noticed my presence, she began buttoning her blouse and arranging her hair. The young man quickly went outside. I gave her two weeks of advance pay and dismissed her immediately.
“I really did not expect this, Jesus. I need your help and wisdom.”
For a few days, I had to fill in for Anna’s shift as well as Leo’s. Of course, Hal maintained faithful attitudes during that time.
Just after the first of the month, Sheila came back to go over my records. I had been recording my expenses and income every day and taking those figures home with me as backup records. Sheila spent several hours adding and recording data.
Toward the end of the day, she finally said, “Sir, here are the forms for you to sign for your monthly income tax reports.”
“I will go over them at home and call you if I have questions,” I answered.
“Well, OK, I guess,” Sheila responded. “Shall I come back tomorrow for the papers and take them to the proper office?”
“No, just tell me where to take them,” I answered.
She gave me addresses of offices to receive my reports and tax payments. Then, she left.
At home, shock set in as I compared her figures with my own. Hers reported much less income than I actually had for the month. This lowered my tax obligations considerably. Of course, I was tempted to accept this, thinking that she made an error that favored me. My conscience, though, would not accept this point of view. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. There is no in-between ground when it comes to honesty.
“Lord Jesus, You came to make it possible to live honest lives. This is clearly not honesty, this situation with Sheila. Help me when I talk to her.”
I telephoned Sheila and asked her to come the next day to my store.
Sheila entered the store with a big smile, saying, “I was hoping that you would let me do this business for you. All my clients have me turn in their reports and take their checks for taxes.”
“No, Sheila. I still want to take the reports and tax payments myself. My reason for calling you is that my own figures are not in agreement with yours.”
“I thought we agreed, Sir. Remember when we talked about this a few weeks ago? You said something about the ‘Christian’ way of doing business. I’m a Christian, and I’ve been doing my bookkeeping in this way for several years now. This is what everyone in this country must do to stay in business.”
“The ‘Christian’ way is the honest way, Sheila. That is what I meant when I said we will do it the ‘Christian’ way.” I began. “I have been outside of this country for a few years. When I decided to come back home, I decided to prove that a Christian can be in business and remain a Christian.”
“Your profit is smaller than your tax liability, Sir,” she countered.
“If that is the case, then I must increase my profit even more so that I will be able to pay my taxes.”
Sheila tried to remain calm, but her displeasure at being countered was clear. “I know of no business anywhere in this city which reports all of their income. If they did, they would go out of business quickly. The local government knows about this. They even condone it.”
“But Jesus does not condone it, Sheila.”
“You need to wait until your deathbed to talk about Jesus and His values,” Sheila contended, losing her calm composure. “For now, you must make some profit, as much profit as possible. That’s the name of the game.”
“Give me words, Lord.”
“Let me show you something, Sheila.” I put small dot on a large piece of paper. “This dot equals our earthly life, our seventy or eighty years.”
She nodded, a bit impatient but also curious as to where I was going with my object lesson.
I drew a long line, equal to several hundred of the dots in size. “This line is merely a part of eternity. Which is longer?”
She pointed to the line.
“I’m living for the line, not the dot,” I told her.
“You can do that, Sir, but not me. My priest says that my family can pay money to get me out of purgatory, if that is where I will go. I gotta live for the present time and worry about the future whenever the time comes.”
“As I read the Bible, I find no reference to any purgatory,” I began. “It was invented by your church to raise funds. Jesus told a rich man in Hell that there is a great gulf between Heaven and Hell, a gulf which no man can cross.”
Sheila clearly did not like my message. I was not trying to win a debate or embarrass her. I want her to see that the love of income is such a small reason to give up Christian values.
“Besides,” I went on. “Even if purgatory existed, who do you know who loves you enough to pay the large amounts of money that your priest demands to release you? Frankly, for most of us, the family and friends grieve a few weeks and then begin to forget us.”
“I don’t know.” Clearly, Sheila wanted to get away from me and my points of view.
“One last thought about that, Sheila,” I commenced again. “Adolf Hitler could go to Heaven, right? If someone had enough money to pay for his escape from a purgatory, he would be in Heaven. It would not be Heaven, would it, with him there?”
“Find yourself a new accountant, Sir.” Sheila left.
“I hope I did the right thing, Jesus, and said the right words.”
I quickly signed up for accounting classes. I do my own records now, praying the last few verses of Psalm 19 as I work.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”
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