God’s Bottom Line
Mentoring with the Spiritual Challenges in Business
(A fictional adventure)
By Tim Bock & Jon Trott
Jacob put his hand over his eyes, which without warning had filled with tears. “Sorry,” he muttered, holding a hand up as a half-apology, half blocking maneuver.
Tim said nothing, but Jacob couldn’t regather himself. Again, he waved his hand ineffectually.
“It’s okay,” Tim offered, quietly, as the passing Zatha pretended not to notice the minor drama. Jacob, glancing at Tim through his fingers, saw the other was quietly praying. Still his own emotions wouldn’t let him speak.
After his brief, silent prayer, Tim called out, “ Zatha. Would you mind giving us some more coffee? And maybe some of that carrot cake… one for each of us?” Obligingly, Zatha came toward the duo and refilled their thick mugs.
Tim waited, but as Zatha withdrew he leaned forward. “I’m not here to judge you, Jacob. I’m here to be your friend.”
“This has nothing to do with business,” Jacob snapped, his emotions startling even himself. “I came here for help in understanding my business.”
Tim nodded. “And that’s fine, Jacob.” Tim’s gentle tone started to calm him. “As a Christ-follower – and I’m that before I’m a businessman – I have to tell you that life can’t be snapped off into neat little boxes. Everything is related to everything else. What happened to your marriage… you indicated that how you handled your business might be connected to what happened with your marriage.”
Jacob felt the agitation flow out of him, leaving him wrung out emotionally. “Yes, I see that. But – “
“Jacob, I wonder if maybe instead of talking about your business, we should start by talking about your marriage. It is up to you. If you don’t want to do that, we won’t. And I’ll follow your lead. But I have to tell you…” Tim’s voice trailed off.
Jacob began, haltingly, to explain, even while writhing inwardly at the cliché way it sounded. Business…. busyness. Doreen hung on for 17 years as he drilled deeper and deeper into a passion that became obsession. “I knew I was losing her,” he remembered. “But I didn’t understand why… or maybe I didn’t stop to really ask why. Doreen found someone else.”
“I was going to tell her about my new life in Christ,” and Jacob’s voice shook slightly. “But I was afraid to do it, because within a day or so of my becoming a Christian I also realized I was married to my business. I was…” Jacob shrugged. He couldn’t find a word.
“Condemned? Found guilty by your own heart?”
Jacob nodded. “I was ashamed. I thought instead of making a big deal out of the past, I’d just try to do better. So I started buying her flowers, offering to take her out. And she looked at me like I was from outer space. The end came soon after these attempts. Doreen told me about her lover, a guy who’d recently left my company to work for a competitor.”
“She moved out, divorced me. We share custody of our 11 year old boy, but that’s a mess. He’s angry at me when he’s with me, angry at her when he’s with her. And me? I’m angry at myself for my failure.” Jacob clenched his right hand into a fist. “What does my business mean to me now?” And again he had to stop speaking or risk emotional melt-down.
“Where do you see God in this situation?”
Jacob turned his inward eye away from himself and toward this other man who now knew his deepest secrets. It was more than irritation; he felt an irrational fear, a need to leap up and walk (or run!) out the front door of Everybody’s Coffee.
“Where do I see God? I don’t know. Okay?”
“Okay. If that’s really true. That you don’t know, I mean…” Again, Tim’s tone softened his words.
“I see God in the fact that I can get up in the morning, go to work, and not just start smashing things. I see God in the fact that I don’t go to a bar and pick up whatever woman, young or old, I find there. I see God in the fact that I even go to church and sing worship songs and pray the Lord’s Prayer and listen to a sermon that just leaves me emptier than I was when I walked in the door.” Jacob’s voice offered this in an icy whisper.
“Good.” Tim paused, seemingly unsure himself what to say. He nibbled at the cake, angling for time.
“I don’t think God’s listening.”
Tim looked at Jacob’s face, which had settled into a hopeless blank. “But are you listening, Jacob? I mean,” he hurried on, realizing Jacob’s patience had limits, “are you willing to take everything – your business, your personal life, especially your guilt and self-condemnation – and give it to God?”
“But I am guilty! I destroyed my marriage! I failed my wife and son!”
Tim slowly shook his head. “The failure of success is that there is always the next moment to succeed in.” Jacob shook his head at what had sounded like a motivational speaker’s catch phrase.
“No, Jacob. Listen. The issue isn’t failure or success. These questions remain. What is it you want, and how far are you willing to go to get it? Jesus not only talked about building a tower and counting the cost before you start. He also talked about a pearl of great price.” This time, Tim pulled a small Bible from his computer bag, began flipping through it. Jacob nervously sucked down more caffeine, though he knew he’d already had enough to get him feeling shaky.
“Okay, Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of heaven. And in Matthew’s account he tells a few parables. ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.’ So Jacob, here’s this entrepreneur who sees a fabulous business opportunity; buys a field and gets a complete treasure along with it for no extra cost! But… what does he pay?”
Jacob raised his eyebrows, not quite understanding the question. “Um, he pays all he has.”
“Okay, but what is the field worth? Way more, right? I mean, there’s a treasure buried there, like a chest of pirate booty or something!” Tim laughed. “So the field is like a super-bargain. Kind of like buying a box of Cracker-Jack and getting the Hope Diamond inside. I mean, there’s no comparison between what you paid and what it is worth. Right?”
Jacob nodded to the rhetorical question as Tim again looked down at the pages.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls.” Tim looked up at Jacob before continuing. “On finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
“Okay, Jacob. Jesus is talking about that one thing – that one, precious, unique thing – and he’s talking to us as businessmen as well as human beings. What is that pearl of great value?”
Jacob sighed, knowing he was on the receiving end of a Sunday School lesson. “I suppose… Jesus, I guess.”
“Are you sure?” Tim looked at him directly, intensely.
“Yes. I mean… yes. Jesus is the pearl. Or maybe the Kingdom of God is the pearl. Salvation, so that when I die I will be in God’s Kingdom. But I have the pearl, Tim. I’ve …–“
“You mean you’re a real Christian. You believed the gospel and you’ve accepted Christ’s death and resurrection as having to do with your sin and need of redemption?”
“I have Jesus. Yes, I have Jesus.”
Tim paused. “But Jacob, does Jesus have you?” Before he could stop himself, Jacob rolled his eyes.
“No, really. Think about this. Jesus says something that we gloss over in that parable. What did that businessman do? When he found that pearl, that special one-of-a-kind pearl, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Tim paused while Jacob processed. “So, Jacob, what did you sell to get that pearl of great price?”
Jacob held up a hand, then dropped it. “I… I think I’m hearing you. Go on.”
“No, I need you to tell me what you think you sold… what you traded, if you want to put it that way.”
“I gave God my life. I mean, my old life. My sins. My porn… I threw away my collection of porn mags and a few videos.” Jacob blushed. “I scaled back on the recreational drinking.” Unsure of his answers, suspecting he was being judged by the other and found wanting, Jacob stopped.
“That’s OK! Seriously. But Jacob, let me put this a different way. Are there things you are still holding onto that you haven’t given to God?”
Jacob’s anxiety spilled out. “Honestly, Tim. I think you are judging me. I know I’m not all that spiritual, I know I failed in my family and that’s the big measure of a man – even more than my work is. So you don’t need to rub it in. I failed. I get it. I’m a failure as a Christian. I’m here to say you can tell me what to do, but you don’t need to tell me I’m a failure because I know that.”
Tim’s face was a mixture of wonder and confusion. “Is that what you hear me saying? That you are a spiritual dud?” Tim’s voice was a mix of horror and astonishment. “Listen, Jacob. If I’m going to talk about human failure, I would start with myself. This is a level playing field! I’m with you, not above you. I’m your fellow struggler. I’m hoping to become your friend. But judging you? Dear Lord, I am the last person on this planet to have that right. What we’re talking about aren’t your failures in marriage, business, or parenting. Remember what you told me when we first started meeting?”
Jacob’s head was swimming; he honestly couldn’t remember. And his heart grasped at Tim’s words about friendship; tears nearly threatened him again. He was so terribly lonely.
“You wanted to know how your faith could impact your business. You weren’t content to just be a Christian who had a business; you wanted to see your faith transform your business. Or am I wrong?”
Jacob gave an unhappy chuckle. “Yes, I mean, no. You are right. But – I’m sorry, I’m feeling multiple levels of stuff here. Kind of bewildering, you know?” Tim nodded. “You know, Scripture says there is NO condemnation in Christ. It is possible that I was too intense – and I’m sorry about that. But I think you may be hearing me through the static of your own sense that you’ve blown it. Or maybe you think you are forgiven, but that you feel you are disgusting and – really – God can hardly stand you.
I’ve got news for you, though. That is a stinking lie from the pit of hell.”
“You are loved. Your life is hidden in Christ. This isn’t some game we’re involved in here; pretend people doing pretend Jesus stuff because pretend is nicer than reality. We’re struggling to love God as much as he already loves us. He’s not ticked at you. He’s not disgusted with you.” Tim reached across the table and touched Jacob’s arm. “He loves you like you love your son, Jacob. Like you want to be with your son, like you are sad when your son’s not with you and so glad when he is with you…. Even when it hurts because he’s angry with you. Think about how much you love your son.”
Jacob blinked his eyes, trying to hold on to his emotions.
Tim’s hand squeezed Jacob’s arm. “Now think about God feeling a sense of anticipation just like when you anticipate your son coming to be with you… think about him looking at you the way you look into your son’s face. That’s your son, Jacob. He’s totally special, one of a kind. God loves you like that, except times infinity.”
Though it did sound kinda cheesy, it didn’t matter. Jacob felt an unseen weight that had been there for months suddenly lift from his shoulders. His eyes rose toward Tim’s. “I accept that,” he said, slowly. “And thank you.”
A free chapter will be released online roughly once or twice a month until the end of the book, but if you would like to read the whole book right away, the complete digital version is now only $0.99.
Be sure to join the Nehemiah Challenge Facebook Group!