I want to say upfront that I believe in God and that there is design to the world and the people in it. For those of you who don’t believe this, I am asking you to allow me to hold these assumptions temporarily for specific reasons that will hopefully become clear. The purpose of this article is not to convert anyone; it is to build some logic into why, for me, the Bible is the best business book I have read.
Suppose it were actually true that God existed and sent his Son to us. If it were, then it would likely follow that the guidance He gave to us would help us deal effectively with people since people are part of His design. The biblical story is that God sent His son Jesus with a mission and message of reconciliation to mankind. If it is true that God created us, then looking at the invitation that He gives through Jesus tells us a lot about what people will respond to, and gives us a model for effective relationships.
Since working with people is most important in business, then, a by-product of following the Bible would be becoming more successful in working with others. Like the law of gravity, there would be basic things that work or do not work with people. For example, when dealing with customers who cheat us, if our first move is to punish the customers in some even small way, on average that would yield a set of outcomes. Rather, if our first move is to forgive the customers, that would also probably have a different set of outcomes.
When Peter cut off the ear of one of the soldiers who attempted to capture Christ, Jesus admonished Peter. (John 18:11). If we go about our daily lives judging people in a harsh way, then this would likely come through in some intangible way in how we are perceived by others. As much as we try, it is difficult to hide who we really are over a long period of time. In the Bible, when the mob was about to stone the woman convicted of adultery, Jesus asked that the person guilty of no sin come forth to cast the first stone (John 8:7). If we align our goals with those of a power much greater than ours, we are swimming with the current, not against it. I also believe it helps with leadership since people end up following, not really individuals, but the ideas those individuals stand for.
The best business book I have read is the Bible. Specifically, the New Testament contains rich instruction on relationships, both descriptively (how Jesus treats us) and prescriptively (how we treat each other in response). Ideals such as directly confronting people over offenses, working without garnering praise, and acknowledging that we have a limited ability to change people, are all emphasized in the context of His teaching. If you follow the guidance in it, I believe that, while your worldly success is not guaranteed, your chance of success will be higher. (For those of you reading this who are Christians, my intent is not to convey at all that we follow these principles for an outcome: it is to state what I have seen in my business life. God does not promise us any earthly reward for our submission to His principles).
Now, to end where I began, I want to say a few other things. I realize there are people who are very “successful” in business who do not believe in God or in a design, perhaps do not give it much thought, and have discarded these things. However, if you look closely at the majority of them, they were or are more or less following the guiding principles of the New Testament. Also, there are probably some very successful “bad” people who just go about and do as they wish with no reverence for anything other than themselves; however, I believe this case is much rarer than the popular media would make us believe.
I realize that not everyone shares these views and thoughts, and I, of course, respect people’s right to disagree. However, I am trying to convey what has been helpful to me– and in my professional life, I’ve found that the best lessons, whether they’re spiritual or related to business, have come from scripture.