This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 5:1-11 ; it is about Jesus calling Simon, a small business owner into ministry.
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
The apostle Simon was a small business owner, in this case a fisherman. The world is full of people that operate and own a small business. Drive down any street in a fairly prosperous area, and you will see all kinds of commercial establishments- most of them small businesses. Go into any office building, there are thousands of them in every city, and they are jammed pack full of them. Small businesses are those that employ fewer than 500 people, and according to the Small Business Administration they:
• Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
• Employ half of all private sector employees.
• Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
• Generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17 years.
• Create more than half of the non-farm private GDP.
• Hire 43 percent of high tech workers ( scientists, engineers, computer programmers, and others).
• Are 52 percent home-based and 2 percent franchises.
• Made up 97.5 percent of all identified exporters and produced 31 percent of export value in FY 2008.
• Produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms.
Many people think that huge companies like General Motors and General Electric employ the majority of people, but in reality they only employ about 1/2. Not only do small companies employ a lot of people, the value they generate to our economy in terms of output in goods and services, patents, exports and new jobs is enormous.
At times the media and politics is negative towards business, blaming their greed for many of the ills of society, and wanting to increase their taxes to solve our country’s problems for everything from health-care to bailing out government pension plans. However, the owner of a small company is under tremendous stress. Everyday he or she fights to stay profitable, increase sales, and combat increasing expenses. Christian business owners toil quietly, and constantly cry out to God to help them stay in business.
Jesus pictured in this verse isn’t preaching to the media and politician it seems, but to the common man on the street, many of which are business owners, like Simon. Simon had a really successful day of fishing; finally after catching nothing, fishing all day. Jesus told them to go back out once again, and where to fish- and they caught so many they needed help from others to haul it in. Business owners dream of having successful days like that; landing the big account, making the big sale, or harvesting a bounty crop.
Simon did what Jesus told him to do, and he was successful. Following Jesus in business is no promise for business success, sometimes Jesus leads us in a direction that is more about our spiritual growth and less about making us rich. However, praying for business success and prosperity and personal growth is a great idea. Success is only part of the mission of business owners. They are an excellent witness when they produce a good product that helps people, and treat employees and customers well. They also bless society when they employ people, provide good benefits, pay taxes and pump money into the local economy.
It is interesting that Jesus choose small business owners like Simon to be some of his apostles. People that own businesses are often very hard-working, industrious, smart, multi-talented and results driven people. They are perfect people to work in ministry, when the hours can be long, the work difficult, pay modest, all with unknown success.
Jesus spoke Simon’s language when he demonstrated his power through Simon’s trade, and an abundant harvest. Sometimes Jesus calls successful people out of large companies and self employment, even at the height of their financial success into full time or volunteer ministry. Sometimes he calls people to start businesses too, leaving the security of regular employment, to stretch individuals and to bless society. Small businesses and owners need our prayer and support, we need and value their contribution to society, and for ministry.
*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the thirty fourth post in this series.