As Unto Him: Crown Ministries Biblical Financial Studies Session 7

Warning: this is going to be looooong…

Mark Aranal, our instructor for this series on Crown Ministries Biblical Financial Studies, told us that in Crown’s video series (which he also presents to our class) begins with Work. In our studies, it’s Session 7. Whichever it should be, it was a revealing discussion.

What I appreciate about the Crown BFS is that they dare to confront attitudes instead of just giving how-to’s. In Debt, we had to look deep inside for why we got into debt: was it something beyond our control, like the recent global recession? Or are we really just greedy?

Same thing with Work. The underlying attitude of both employer and employee make or break relationships and atmosphere in the workplace. Consider the jaw-drop stare I gave Irl as he shared what he learned about what his attitude should be as an employee in his work as an English Trainer:

Here I am again because I’ve been asked to share what I have learned bout work. As you all know, we’ve been taught that the Bible teaches that we are really serving Jesus, not just a human boss or agency. So what have I learned about work? Well, let me first say that I am currently working as a Corporate English Trainer. Previous to that I was a Piano Teacher, and most of my students were kids. Well, one lesson that I learned came from those days, and it came from a story that I had heard. Three construction workers were asked what they were doing. The first man said, “Well, I put a brick here, put some mortar here, then I put another brick over here.” The second answered, “Well, I’m putting up a wall.” The third said with a smile, “I’m building a cathedral!” I learned that you have to see the biggest possible picture of what you were doing. I wasn’t just teaching music to those kids; I was building part of their lives. I also learned something else related to construction, but that came much later.

The next thing I learned came when I became an English trainer. I had this student who didn’t know any English. Teaching her was an INCREDIBLE test of patience. Then I remembered the story of Jesus saying, “Whatever you did to these the least of my brethren, you did to Me.” Then this question came to me: “What if Jesus was your English student?” It made me stop and think. What if Jesus WAS my English student? If God is my Boss, and His Son was assigned to be my English student, how would I treat Him? How would He want to be treated? How would His Dad, my Boss, want his Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords, to be treated? And considering that Jesus didn’t speak ANY English when He was here on earth, His English level would have been about the same as this student’s… Oh boy. Oh my. At that time, I was not familiar with the Crown principle that God is in charge of my promotion, but I can tell you that it became VERY REAL to me at that point. So what to do? Then I remembered that Jesus taught His disciples that the way to lead was to serve, and He showed this even in the way He taught. The Gospels showed more than enough examples of how Jesus dealt with slow disciples, and there was at least one instance where He showed some frustration at their slowness. However, He never lost His love and servant heart. The lesson I learned? Lead others by serving and loving them because I am serving and loving Jesus Himself. He’s not just my boss; He’s also my employee. And my student. And my client. And my associate.

Oh, and that student? She stayed with me for two years because she saw that I was willing to stick it out with her. And the last time we spoke, she said that she was hoping to continue her lessons with me.

As an English trainer, I do my best to catch all the mistakes my students make. I developed this fussiness for details as a piano student because I was taught that attention to tiny details was what made the big performance a masterpiece. I was taught how to find and refine these details, and I saw how this principle applied in other areas like painting, architecture, and even sports. This attention to detail was the other half of the first lesson of seeing the bigger picture. Again Jesus provides the best example. In a video series named That the World May Know that I watched (and hope to own someday) on Biblical archeology, Ray Van der Laan said that the original Greek word that described Jesus’ profession, carpenter, described someone who worked with STONE, not WOOD. He would shape the stone with a hammer and chisel, and then he would set the stone in its proper place in the construction area. The Bible also says that Jesus is building His church, and we are its stones, He is making sure that each individual stone is perfectly shaped because His church is to be a perfect bride. If Jesus aims for perfection in the details AND in the big picture, then I should also aim for excellence in those areas of my work. i usually fall far short of the standard I see in Him, but He keeps giving me multiple second chances to try and try again. I also notice that as I try again, my level and standard of excellence also rise.

Well, this concludes the lessons that I have learned about work, I hope this has helped you, and I also hope that it helps you pursue a higher level of excellence in your work.

Wow!

In my last blog, I said I’d talk about how I am an unaccepted and unwilling partner in my father’s rental business in this blog. I’ll try to shorten this as much as I can.

In July 2004, my parents’ house burned down, trapping and killing my mother, and sending my father to the hospital with severe burns on about 30% of his body. My brother and his wife live in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, and at that time were expecting their first child. Care for my father and his business went to me. At that time, Irl’s mom who was working in Baguio also got confined in the hospital. I remember telling Irl to go up with the kids to be with her, because there would be people there to take care of them. I couldn’t do much housework because I was running around from hospital to drug stores to get my father’s medications, and to see to the caregivers. This was tiring, but a blessing, because it would have been more expensive getting the medicine and others from the hospital. But Irl’s reply had shut me up:

“You are my wife. My place is with you, to take care of you.”

Sigh…*swoon*

My brother was supporting us at this time. The girls were just going on 4, Irl stopped piano teaching to take care of them full-time while I took care of my father’s needs. Including managing his rental business.

I made decisions that at first seemed like three steps back. My brother had requested that we stopped accepting mistresses and philandering husbands, and unmarried couples, even if both were single. Scandals are things we don’t need in our lives. So I told the tenants that I would be requiring proofs of marriage. A lot of them jumped at the town mayor’s offer of a mass wedding to legalize common-law marriages, and by the end of December, every couple presented me with their marriage certificates.

I also revamped the payment schedule. To do that, I gave them December as a rent-free month, giving them all a common payment schedule based on a 30-day month. When new tenants would come in, I would compute how much rent they would have to pay for the rest of the month, and full monthly payment would begin the following month. I gave them lee-way to pay weekly, but told them that I would be charging penalty if they fail to complete payment by the 15th of the month.

I developed the 15th night insomnia with the continuous knocking of tenants trying to beat the deadline.

And because we had cut the water-line that led to their private bathrooms (original pipes were busted), I cut down the rent.

By effect, I should start to earn less, but I actually started collecting more, and faster. I had hired a woman, the wife of one tenant, first to tend to my mother’s plants and clean the yard. Eventually, she proved very trustworthy, I started asking her to clean house for us. Her husband would help her clean up the whole property, and they kept our place neatly welcoming.

I ended up taking her on as my assistant, so Rose was the one staying up on 15th nights. Yey! When I found out that three of their five children were living with relatives, I told her to bring them over, and their stay here would be part of her pay. I have a whole family now watching over the property.

Even with her wages, the utility bills, and other expenses, I was earning quite a bit for the rental.

My system kept everybody happy. The tenants got the feeling that they were getting discounts (even if they were really just avoiding the penalty), they agreed with my brother’s moral policy (after all, it became quieter when we stopped having angry wives screaming or parents fighting about their eloping kids), and we were profiting.

Then the owner came home.

I would’ve been okay with going on with the management and just letting my 70+ year old father rest. But not he. While he approved my decisions in our conversations, I slowly discovered he was putting me down behind my back (his loud voice carries very well to our window, on top of his verandah, and through the screen door between our units…). Not only do I hear him myself, the people he would lambast me to would tell me what he said. Eventually he admitted that he wanted to be the one holding the money, and he said he would take care of the bills. So I gave up management.

After four months, he was facing disconnection. So he hurriedly “reassigned” me to “top management”. I asked him where the money for the bills had gone. He pointed to his unfinished construction, meaning he had spent it elsewhere. My brother sent money, while Rose and I faced the tenants and explained the situation. They gladly helped meet the bill, while we listed down their contributions to be deducted from their rent.

We cleared the bills, and profit started again. When he saw money coming in, he began to be abusive towards me again, until I gave him back the management.

It was a cycle that I finally put an end to in 2008. Our water got disconnected, his tenants got their electricity cut off almost every other month. Rose begged me – she still does – to take back management. Even the tenants who had experienced the different management styles would call me aside and ask the same thing.

I only stepped back in when they had discovered that the pipe to the septic tank had collapsed, and a new one needed to be installed. My father got Rose’s brother-in-law Julio, a former construction foreman, and my hired maintenance man, to work on it. Immediately conflict started. My father insisted they stop at 18 inches deep, but Julio went on working until it was about four feet deep. My father was almost hysterical with anger at being disobeyed. When it came time to install the new pipes, he forced a stop on the construction and refused to pay the wages. Rose had given to my care part of the money for the water bill. I told her we would use that to finish work on the first pipe, which went through several ground-level tenanted rooms. Then I told Julio to finish the job.

To say my father was livid is an understatement. He became abusive, and made fun of the tenants who told him they couldn’t stand the sh*t. He began to threaten Julio, to which I replied: “I told him to finish the work. You have any problem with that, you deal with me.”

He called baranggay tanod (I don’t know what their equivalent is in other countries, but they’re the lowest government unit here). I came out to explain, although the unbearable stench had unwittingly put them on my side. They were actually encouraging me to file a complaint against my father for stopping the work!

Long and short of it is, he thinks I paid for the construction, so now he told Julio to go on working and install the remaining pipes, smugly thinking he could always manipulate me to shell out for the expenses. But Rose knows the truth about where the money came from, so I gave her an action plan.

“Make a full accounting of everything, like you used to do with me: one list of payments, another list of bills and expenses. If he comes asking for money, present the expenses to show him where the money is going and supposed to go. Don’t show him the collections. After all,” I told her, “That’s how he deals with us.”

This was my recent history coming into the Crown study on Work. So many of the principles discussed just hit the present situation.

Being unequally yoked is a term most Christians use to describe a marriage between a believer and a non-believer in Jesus. It comes from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. But it actually describes being in any relationship where there will be an extreme clash of values. Cora Chan, CEO of Crown Stewardship Ministries Phils., had a similar situation with a former business partner who was of the same faith but had different work values (see my blog The Honest Truth). I’m tangled in it now with my father.

For most of my life, I worked as a volunteer. I’ve actually considered myself as unemployed but working at home. One day of the Work homework dealt with responsibilities of employers and employees. I was trying to judge myself according to the employee criteria, but when I read the employer’s responsibilities, I saw where my father and I had differed:

Serve your employees: While you might say that inviting and helping house my staffs’ families is serving them – and I hope it is – my initial motivation really was the need to delegate care for the whole property. Like Hercule Poirot says: “It is not for (me) to do something amateurishly when for a small fee it can be done professionally.”

Be a good communicator: Rose and I talk and plan everyday. Regular consultation is an understatement. She is my friend, not just my employee. Julio hardly speaks, but is very quick on the uptake, takes instructions very well, and if I ask questions, can answer and explain clearly. The only thing he won’t do for me is study electrical systems because he’d gotten zapped long ago and it’s “burned” him for life…sorta. *toink*

Hold employees accountable: Funny, I never had to do this, because Rose and Julio take the initiative to inform me of progress and problems. Maybe it’s because I…

Pay your employees a fair wage PROMPTLY: or as promptly as I can manage. They know the status of the cash flow better than me, and are so forgiving when I am late, because they know it was beyond my control. And I guess, too, that it’s because I…

Pray for godly employees: one reason that I hired Rose was I had noticed that she not only called herself a Christian, she worked like one: initiative, respect, accountability, trustworthiness. I am blessed!

I’m an employer by default, I guess, being the daughter of the owner. I know this blog sounds like I’m making myself out to be better than my father. That wasn’t my intention. I merely wanted to show how work attitudes of both employees and employers affect the workplace. But there’s nothing more vivid than actual experience, so I shared this. If anything, this actually shows what a rebel child I am, bordering on disrespect and dishonor in my relationship with my father.

I accept the judgment.

My final attitude as a worker has always been this: do not criticize another man’s servant, for by his own master he will stand or fall. In Crown, the verse that was quoted was do not slander a servant to his master, or he will curse you (Proverbs 30:10) It says to me that we are all accountable to a master somewhere, a Heavenly Master, who has assigned us our lot in life based on the gifts, skills and opportunities He has given us.

I hope, in my final evaluation, I will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant!” from Him.

I’ve quite a long way to go yet…

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