Hello and welcome to the Emerging Business Bible Blog. I am honored that Chuck would ask me to write a monthly blog post and I hope I can meet his expectations. This blog will focus on real Biblical people providing real Biblical business lessons. This month is about Gideon.
As the story begins, Gideon is a shy and perhaps cowardly individual. He is threshing wheat in the dangerous low country winepress, rather than the higher elevation threshing floor. That is where the Midianites and Amalekites are ravishing land and keeping the Israelites in deficiency. The Israelites finally recognize their need for a leader. They begin to genuinely cry out for God, and take the message of a prophet to heart. God calls on Gideon for the challenge through a visiting “angel of the Lord” (some scholars believe this was Jesus Himself).
Gideon begins his leadership with religious reform in his own household by destroying idols worshipped by his own family and the local community. A brave act at the time, requiring the cover of darkness.
The most memorable part of Gideon’s story is his “putting out the fleece,” seeking validation of God’s direction prior to proceeding into battle. Once Gideon is assured, God pares his army down from 32,000 to a mere 300. God again gives Gideon confidence by allowing him to overhear a conversation expressing fear in the Midianite camp. The attack ensues with a victory for God through Gideon’s leadership. Gideon leads many more successful battles, freeing Israel from the nomad invasion. The Israelites desire to give Gideon and his family a royal appointment over the nation. Gideon refuses saying, “the Lord will rule over you” (Judges 8:23).
Now if the story had ended here, Gideon would go down in history as a flawless leader. However, truth prevails in God’s Word and the rest of Gideon’s story is less praiseworthy.
Here are the business lessons I take away from this story:
Ordinary people can do extraordinary things when we follow God’s lead
I know I am preaching to the choir when I say that, “with God, anything is possible.” We know that the statement, “without God, success is impossible” is false. And we likely know non-believers who accomplish great things. Gideon was an ordinary guy. In fact, prior to his encounter with God he could have been named the least “most likely to succeed”. Yet look at his accomplishments! When we walk with God and follow His path, our chance of success is enhanced without the gift of genius.
We need to enter the battlefield with a pure heart
After Gideon’s initial encounter with the Lord, he builds an altar to God, (Judges 6:24). He also destroys pagan altars his family builds that are worshipped by the community. Also, shortly before going into battle with his minute force, Gideon bowed down and worshipped (Judges 7:15).
There are people in my church who say, “All war is bad and we should never go to war”. Well, as long as we have fallen man and as long as evil exists in our world, war is inevitable. The challenge for our soldiers is to enter the battlefield with love (Christ) in their hearts rather than hate. We are already in a spiritual war. I love Chuck’s analogy stating our churches should be battleships rather than cruise ships. Similarly, business strategy is like entering the battlefield. There are forces against us and many obstacles to overcome. Every day presents new challenges. A pure heart can “lift the fog”, allowing the Holy Spirit to provide the wisdom needed to navigate.
God gives us assurance and encouragement when we need and ask for them
God gives assurance to Gideon at least four times in the story. The Lord tells Gideon face-to-face (Judges 6:23). He provides through Gideon’s fleece not once, but twice (Judges 6:36-40). He also assures Gideon, just prior to battle, through the interpretation of the enemy’s dream (Judges 7:9-15).
Several years ago, after being promised a large contract with a current client and hiring staff to accomplish the work, the client cancelled at the last minute. Shortly after receiving the call, I panicked, thinking the company may have to close. I stopped and prayed. While praying, the sun broke through the clouds and shined in my eyes through the basement window. Here was an instant assurance of my prayer; the company was going to be okay! We are still in business to this day.
Gideon begins showing his “dark side” in Judges 8 when he brutalizes the elders of Sukkoth and kills the men of the town (vs. 16). Suddenly the hero of the story becomes a bully instead of a Godly leader.
Success and power can do that. There are those who start out as credible leaders, but stray from the path when wealth and power come their way (read “Capitol Punishment” by Jack Abramoff).
God favors one wife for us; concubines not allowed
Gideon has many wives and 71 sons, including one by a concubine. There are many examples of plural marriages and concubines in the Old Testament, and yet nowhere does God promote this behavior. Many of us are blessed with attractive females working in our companies, and there are lines that cannot be crossed. Enough said.
Our legacy is not dependent on battles won today, but rather living life with integrity and going the distance with God
Gideon may have won the battles and kept Israel at peace for a time, but his legacy with the people is short-lived. The people revert back to false worship and disobedience, after Gideon dies. Although Gideon himself rejects offers to be made king, his illegitimate son Abimelek has visions of grandeur, and seizes the power described in chapter 9.
It is possible to build a successful (by world standards) company and amass great wealth, yet still be irrelevant for God’s Kingdom. Our role as marketplace ministers is not about what we accomplish today or in the short term, it is about what we do for God and how we use the talents he has given us for His glory.
Gideon is a complex man with both good and bad traits we can learn from. Running a business is complex. Running a business with integrity should be easy (with God’s help).