Can Business Be Spiritual?

I’ve been told – sometimes rudely, sometimes with kind intent – that “spiritual” matters and business don’t mix.

Hogwash.

You ALWAYS bring your spiritual beliefs with you into whatever you do.

Here’s a question worth considering: did Jesus bring his “spirituality” to work with him? I suspect the answer is yes, don’t you?

Jesus only spent 3 years in “full-time ministry”.

Up until about age 30, he worked for a living as a carpenter. He had to deal with clients, customers, competitors, and co-workers. He had to deal with a boss (his adoptive father).

Do you suppose Jesus went to the shop each day thinking, “I’m not going to bring that spiritual stuff to work with me…”?

No, I don’t think so either.

This does not mean you have to hop up on your desk at the office and start preaching. And it doesn’t mean you need to make the radical shift in your own business that I have made in mine – just because that is what I’m called to do doesn’t mean you are.

Unless it does.

In any event, I think it’s impossible to not bring your spirituality into your business – because real spirituality is not something you do. It’s who you are.

What do you think? Please share below.

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Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at RayEdwards.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.jasonleister.com Jason Leister

    I think if more people brought WHO THEY ARE to WHAT THEY DO, this world would be a very, very different place.

    To separate the spiritual from the rest of your life is, in my opinion, not being fully alive.

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      Dang! That right there is a quotable line. Thanks, Jason!

  • http://lisasuttora.com LisaSuttora

    Yes! You said it exactly Ray: “Real spirituality is not something you do. It’s who you are.”

    It feels like more people are bringing themselves into what they do now, than 10 years ago when I started my business. But maybe that’s just because over the years I’ve naturally gravitated to people who do bring themselves into what they do.

    And I agree with Jason, ” the world would be a very different place if people brought who they are to what they do.”

    Thanks for a great post on a Saturday morning!

    -Lisa

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VB23W7T4YNFA5HQ6CGF4YOVJEU Kirstyn Sierra

    Agreed, Ray. When you intimately walk with Christ, as we are called to do, Christ becomes a part of us, which overflows into our businesses.

    Working with women who are trying to conceive gives me a unique opportunity to share God’s love with them. I find that most of them believe in some form of God and they’ve likely come to that place because they feel so powerless to bring a child into their lives.

    This gives me a unique opportunity to share the Lord with them and I am honored to have been chosen to serve these couples.

    Kirstyn Sierra,
    Pregnancy Consultant

  • Douglas

    It is impossible NOT to be who you are. Changing what you do does not change who you are. You can act like a dog by barking but you are just someone who is acting like a dog. You are not a dog nor can you become one by barking. You may fool a blind person with your barking but fooling people doesn’t change who you are either.

    If you behave in a spiritual manner but only in certain situations — it is a manifestation of who you are. If you try to separate parts of yourself — that is you being who you are. You are someone who is trying to separate parts of yourself. The real question is why are you doing that?

    While I don’t think it is inherently wrong for someone to share their spirituality — I don’t think it is necessary to proselytize their spirituality in order to convey an empowering spiritual message.

    Anyone who tries to convert people’s spirituality by using non-spiritual approaches such as guilt manipulation or fear — is going to alienate people — and not in a productive or honorable way. This is true no matter how noble a would be evangelists intentions are.

    If your spirituality has integrity and power then it will naturally attract, appeal to, and empower people who want that. If your spirituality produces compassion, mercy, and wisdom in you, then it will be obvious and energizing to those you influence.

    Personally I get cautious about people who I’m thinking of doing business with and they start spouting religious or spiritual ideals long before they’ve established the business relationship. In many cases I wonder why they scheduled a business meeting with me to evangelize me. If you want to preach to me don’t disguise it as a business meeting. Just tell me you want to meet socially to discuss spirituality and let me decide whether I want that.

    I don’t give a rip how much someone can talk scriptures or debate religious ideas until I see whether they keep their agreements, pay their bills, return phone calls they agree to return, and how they otherwise treat people when they think nobody is looking. In short — are they getting me results or wasting my time?

    Do you notice how someone takes responsibility for and corrects their errors? I do. In fact I think we all do. Nobody is perfect but everyone has their way of dealing with both their own errors and those of others. IMO this is the true measure of someone’s spirituality — including my own. Spirituality that does not get results is not worth having.

  • Anonymous

    Good stuff, Ray, it’s right on.

    It seems that in our culture, most people are focused on what they and others do, rather than who they are. Think about when you meet people for the first time, one of the primary questions asked is, “So, what do you do?” Most will go on to answer by defining themselves by what they do: “I’m an accountant”, “I’m a doctor”, “I’m a plumber”, etc. Nobody ever asks, “So, who are you?”, and if they did we’d probably be shocked and not know how to answer!

    I’ve always said that it’s not what we do that determines who we are, it’s who we are that determines what we do. Who we are reflects in what we do. For better or worse. May it always be for the better.

  • http://www.ClarkeEchols.com Clarke Echols

    I’ll stir it up a bit…

    People bring who they are to what they do. The problem is “what they are”. Thus their criticism that business and belief don’t mix.

    An ancient prophet-king said, “When you are in the service of your fellow beings, you are only in the service of your God.”

    The trouble is, too many “go to work” to collect a paycheck. They don’t go to help contribute to their employer’s success or to improve the life of their employer’s customers. “What they are” shows up in the small-minded empire builders who create their little fiefdoms inside the company so they can feel important and make more money — rather than selling their service to the company for the fee the company pays them to do the work (called “wages” or “salary”).

    The money you earn is a reflection on the value your client/customer/employer places on the service you render to them. They control that value. If you want to make more, you have to do more of what is more valuable.

    This isn’t taught in MBA school. It’s not widely understood in Corporate America where I worked for 30 years. By focusing on what customers needed, and finding better ways to do things better and more efficiently, I was able to keep my “on the job” hours under 30/week for 20 years, yet I produced more and at higher quality than the vast majority of my peers.

    Because I don’t suffer fools gladly and have little patience with the political games people play, I was sometimes viewed as a “poor team player” — especially when I exposed mismanagement of company resources in a less than private way.

    But on one project transfer I was replaced by 10 engineers who couldn’t meet schedule (remember I did it for 4 years working 30 hours per week and never missed a deadline). When I retired at an earlier than expected age, it took three full-time people to replace me, and a year later they were asking if I’d like to come back. One boss challenged me: “Come on — you’ve got a price. What would it cost us to bring you back in here?”

    Why? Because I took what I am with me to work. And set a high standard for others to envy or emulate. Most settled for envy and the political attacks that go with it. But my bosses never complained. I got the fastest new computers, the nicest chair so I could be efficient, and I always
    produced high quality, fast, on schedule.

    And went to work every day willing to be fired.

    Success is about *attitude”. Not an attitude of “how great I art”, but an attitude of I am known and loved by my Creator who holds me accoutable for what I do with my time, talents, and resources, who also wants a return on His investment in me, regardless of what others around me think about the latest football score, who’s having an affair with whom, or any of the other garbage that too often infests commercial enterprises.

    Fortunately, in my department, such problems rarely existed — except from other sites within the company. And when one boss, brought in from one of those sites, set about to be able to fire me, it bit him back, and cost him his job when I caught his hands in the cookie jar and blew the whistle to his boss’s boss.

    It’s about integrity. Competence. Admitting mistakes. One mistake I made had customers howling on the Internet (Usenet News). I jumped into the fray, admitted I was the one who screwed up, and told them what I was doing to prevent it in the future by changing the product and how it was delivered. I became a hero, gained valuable customer contacts that benefitted me for years, and put literally millions of dollars of new profit on the company’s bottom line.

    If that’s being a poor team player, I’ll take the criticism and keep going.

    I landed a new client because of that attitude after the previous “marketer” had a blow-up with the client and embezzled tens of thousands of dollars on his way out.

    You take what you are to work every day, like it or not.

    So control what you are and remember you’re accountable to a Higher Power. Serve others, make the world a better place, and let the complainers whine.

    Clarke

  • ChrisHoward

    Your belief system is really who you are and why you live your life the way you do. It can also influence others to make better and sounder choices.

    It’s too often that people set aside their beliefs for personal gain or to avoid being unpopular. Standing up for what you believe, especially when your ideas are unpopular can be difficult.

    As a matter of fact, it can be one of the most trying things you’ll ever do, but staying true to who you are will help you fulfill the destiny that you were put on this earth to do.

  • Jim Legington

    THANK YOU! Its Really True. God Is Good PSALM 24:1, PSALM 100:1-5
    Be Blessed Always…Peace!

  • Stephen Luc

    Thumbs up on this post Ray. I do not believe one can separate business and spiritual either because it’s who you are first. If the two were separated, one would be lying to themselves as to who they really are and denying God at the same time. As in Ecclesiastes, Everything in life is meaningless unless God is in it, including your business.

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      Thanks Stephen – and great insight from Ecclesiastes!

      Sent from my iPad

  • Carol Bremner

    This is a topic I’ve struggled with over the years. I don’t want to use my being a Christian as a selling feature, but I don’t want to hide what I am either. I would like people to want to do business with me because my living is a testimony of Christ, not because I say I’m a Christian. Does that make sense?

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      That makes great sense to me. I would never want to use Christ as a selling feature, either. I am in a weird position because I am called to teach, both in the marketplace and in the church (I’ll be officially ordained next week), so my situation is a little different.

      I love the way you put it: “I would like people to want to do business with me because my living is a testimony of Christ, not because I say I’m a Christian.”

      Thanks for your contribution!

      Sent from my iPad

    • Diane Eble

      I too love what you say, Carol. It matches exactly what I feel about my business. And Ray, I too have been led in a new direction that is more spiritual (as a Certified Healing Codes coach/practitioner, helping people heal their “heart issues”), yet there’s a business side to it too (or else nobody would know about me and I wouldn’t be able to help anyone). I think it’s the WAY you go about whatever it is that you do that can be the testimony Carol speaks of. Those who go about business in a selfish way are doing business according to that spiritual orientation. It’s not business that’s good or bad, but how we go about it that results in good or bad “fruit.”

      • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

        Great distinction Diane! We shall “know them by their fruit.”

        Sent from my iPad

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jay-Greathouse/100000045213009 Jay Greathouse

    Ray, you have a business, you do business, and then there is business.

    Business sold people houses they really could not afford through a plethoria of deceptive practices, business created international securities fraud that threatens the stability of nations, business has the Fed monetizing the United States debt and debasing the dollar, business blows speculative bubbles on Wall Street that raises the price of basic (required for life) commodities, business reopened the Afghastan poppy fields, business had Congress allow for business to contribute to political campaigns virtually without restrictions (including the source of the money), business took United States jobs offshore to sweat shops, business took United States jobs offshore to avoid environmental responsibity … this is business for the vast majority of people both in the United States and in the “made safe for democracy and American business” nations of the world.

    Your “spiritual matters” do not “belong” there, cannot go there, are presently excluded there, not wanted or desired there, will not “mix” there, and in fact are diametrically opposed there.

    If spiritually is not something you do but rather who you are, and it’s impossible to not bring your spirituality into your business, then who are these business people we read so much about in the world press? Their spirituality seems to include something similar to throwing babies into the burning jaws of molock. That is what business spirituality looks like to a lot of people.

    I’ve recently read that among the top businesses in the world, trafficing in human slavery is no longer in the top three along with the arms trade and drug trade. Trafficing in human slavery has been bumped down to number four by the trafficing in “biologicals” such as endangered animal (parts), rare plants and such, and is threatened to be bumped down again soon to number five by the rising market in human body parts. Just business.

    Frankly, I cannot understand why those spirituality incined would desire to become engaged with business. It seems like a big step down into a bad pit, IMHO. I often think that too many disillusioned attorneys that were once bright eyed evangelists eager to change the system from within have all been turned into grist for the mill and nothing has changed for the better. What can business do but taint all the practitioners of business equally regardless of professed intent?

    I fear for you Ray. I will pray for you. You propose to flirt with business, thinking that your faith alone will protect you. Perhaps it can protect your soul, perhaps. Sadly, I have witnessed the effects of business proving detrimental to many a soul, many with good intentions and professing a faith as strong as you profess yours.

    Take care, Ray. My prayers go out for you.

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      Jay,

      I appreciate your concern and I welcome your prayers. I am thankful for both.

      I am not afraid, though, because The One I follow has overcome the forces of darkness, and The One (Jesus) is greater than he (satan) “who is in the world”.

      And as Paul said to Timothy, we “have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”

      Jesus called us to “make disciples of all nations”, and to be salt and light. We can’t do those things if we are cowering in fear. And we can’t help people if we withdraw from them.

      The harvest is ready, the workers are few, and the Lord has sent us out to bring the Kingdom. He would not send us into a situation He did not also equip us to handle.

      Be blessed!

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      Jay,

      I appreciate your concern and I welcome your prayers. I am thankful for both.

      I am not afraid, though, because The One I follow has overcome the forces of darkness, and The One (Jesus) is greater than he (satan) “who is in the world”.

      And as Paul said to Timothy, we “have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”

      Jesus called us to “make disciples of all nations”, and to be salt and light. We can’t do those things if we are cowering in fear. And we can’t help people if we withdraw from them.

      The harvest is ready, the workers are few, and the Lord has sent us out to bring the Kingdom. He would not send us into a situation He did not also equip us to handle.

      Be blessed!

  • Philip Dale Smith

    You’re absolutely right, Ray. If you don’t bring your spirituality
    with you wherever you go, I would question whether you actially
    have it. It would be like saying you don’t bring your brain, your
    heart, your breath, your emotions. All are a part of you and can
    be neglected, minimized, enhanced, or maximized. But not
    left like a discarded shirt to be put on again when you choose.

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      Well-said, Philip!

      Sent from my iPad

  • http://www.pick-a-course.com Vern

    Whoa Ray, this stuff would make a great ‘book’ . . . Which one of us is willing and able to take it on?? And you can tell – the comments are from the heart!!

    Thanks to all!

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      Thanks Vern – yes, this subject obviously is close to the heart of many.

      Sent from my iPad

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=842864520 David R. Newby

      Guys, I’ve been reading lots of Christian marketplace books lately- a few great ones are “The Seven Mountain Prophecy” by Johnny Enlow on understanding our calling to impact culture, “The Upside of Adversity” by Os Hillman about God’s purposes in our lives related to setbacks, and “God in the Marketplace” by Henry Blackaby about questions to ask yourself re: reflecting Christ in your business environment.

      Check them out and let me know what you think!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=842864520 David R. Newby

      Guys, I’ve been reading lots of Christian marketplace books lately- a few great ones are “The Seven Mountain Prophecy” by Johnny Enlow on understanding our calling to impact culture, “The Upside of Adversity” by Os Hillman about God’s purposes in our lives related to setbacks, and “God in the Marketplace” by Henry Blackaby about questions to ask yourself re: reflecting Christ in your business environment.

      Check them out and let me know what you think!

      • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

        David,

        I’m very familiar with Johnny Enlow’s work and like it a lot. I am checking out Hillman and Blackaby based on your recommendation. Thanks!

      • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

        David,

        I’m very familiar with Johnny Enlow’s work and like it a lot. I am checking out Hillman and Blackaby based on your recommendation. Thanks!

  • Cardmanrod

    The Golden Rule is an integral part (and stated in) every major religion on this planet. If everyone adopted and adhered to it in business, we would all benefit.

  • http://www.IMpressReleaseGenerator.com Justin Mandel

    First define spirituality.

    Next try to think of what “type” of person best represents spirituality?

    Personally for me a “saint” comes to mind.

    Think now of business and consider what it’s primary objective is – generate profit.

    Now name one single recognized “saint” that has purposely generated as much profit as possible…

    Can’t name any, can you?

    Business and spirituality in essence exist on 2 ends of the spectrum.

    Business is material and spirituality is immaterial.

    CEO’s work to generate as much profit as possible.

    And saints work to alleviate human suffering.

    Is there a happy medium?

    Perhaps.

    But purely spiritually oriented people won’t soley work to seek profit.

    And purely business oriented people won’t solely work to alleviate human suffering.

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      That’s precisely why we need a new paradigm (your last two sentences).

      I am proposing that the very wall we have constructed between the sacred and the secular is a false dualism – which leads to people being enslaved by either Poverty or Greed. There is a better, more excellent way.

      That is what I’m suggesting we pursue.

  • http://www.AnmariMedia.com Marshall Bone

    Such a good word Ray, you’re a great example of how to do this effectively. In Ephesians 6:7-9 scripture reminds us that the spiritual is also practical and good for business.

  • zzdiana

    Yes, yes, and YES! Unless something (business), anything is spiritual, it’s out of kilter; and that includes all of us beautiful people..

    Your business, Ray, is an outstanding example . You truly walk the talk.
    Thanks to you and your Team.

  • http://www.ilenesaidel.com Ilene

    I no longer know how to not be in business and be spiritual. Isn’t God a business man as well??!!!

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      Amen to that!

  • http://empowernetwork Rahul

    Business build on spirituality always thrives and survives, That’s the reason even though I am an immigrant, I still respect and regard our country”AMERICA” as one of the true land where the freedom fighters have written strong values of constitution. If you make wealthy to other people and other country,that nation which is America will never fail in their beliefs and values. And that is “A Land Of Opportunity” for a common man or woman !

  • Bee Johnson

    This post will not leave me alone. I can’t stop thinking about it and reading it over and the comments too. I have never hid the fact that I am a committed Christian. It’s just what I am. We just need to remember that little song we taught our children. “Oh be careful little mouth what you say…for the Father up above is looking down in love”. And so on.

  • George Hendley

    Wow Ray, what an unusual man you are. Bringing that which is truly us, that which is our greatest ‘us’ into the picture of business no less. WOW…what a concept. Thank you for being brave, bold, forthright, honest, open, direct, conscientious, sincere and more, much more. So few have the love and courage to do that in today’s ‘politically’ but unscripturally (probably not a good word, but says what I wanted to say) crazy world. Six months ago I started a networking group called Marketplace Solutions with the vision statement of: “become a trusted resource in developing professionals who seek to apply biblical principles in business.” It is growing at a snails pace, because for too many Christians they don’t see or believe that spirituality (God’s kind) can coexist within the business place and have vitality. We shall see. So, thank you for your transparency and courage to ‘let your light shine’. It appears you are doing well while doing good. Blessings to you and may you continue to prosper for Him and the kingdom.