We’re Called Not To Reflect, But To Refract Him In The Marketplace
At our weekly Men In Adventure meeting, visiting Pastor Rob Cupp’s theme for the week came from 1 Peter 3:8-4:19, “I am Called SO I am different!” Compared with secular businesses, we’re to be productive, but not perfect, and visibly different in both our faith and our works, so our light shines by doing good. One of the men during the meeting prayed this, “Let us reflect You to others in the world.” His use of the word “reflect” struck me because words and their meanings are becoming more relevant to me these days.
In physics, the world reflection means to “to cast back (light, heat, sound, etc.) from a surface. Like a mirror, reflecting the image or images back to their origination or in a different direction. When we think of a mirror, we see it when women look at how their potential new dress will fit, or their new hairdo will look on them. In astronomy, the light in a reflecting telescope concentrates the light into shorter distances. Refraction, on the other hand, means the sun goes through something, and the light’s path is altered, like a stained glass window, depending on the material it goes through. Light is good, God said so.
Gen 1:3-4 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
When I hear of refracting, I’m reminded about Alfredo Moser: Bottle light inventor proud to be poor and how he turned a one-liter plastic bottle into a solar light bulb because of refraction. His invention and story have become the “Liter of Light” movement, turning trash into treasure in third world countries. Take a discarded one-liter plastic bottle, fill it with water and a capful of bleach, then seal it up. Then cut a hole in a third world shanty’s tin roof and place one-third of the bottle above the roof and two thirds inside the home. You now have a 50 watt solar light bulb because the water refracts a ordinary beam of light into a light bulb, scattering light in all directions within a family’s shanty home.
This solar light bulb negates the various health, safety, and productivity problems which come from having a fire for light inside their home. It allows homeowners to bring their work inside and out of the elements and offers more protection and higher productivity with one’s efforts, resources, and their small amount of property.
But the difference between reflecting and refracting is why I’m commenting here. Reflected light bounces the light off a surface, i.e., a mirror, and in a different direction. Refracted light passes through, and spreads the light in all directions, like Moser’s “Liter of Light.” God’s Word lights our way.
Psa 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
If we reflect God’s light, His Light has bounced off of us and implies we’re not impacted by His Light. When we refract God’s Light, His Light is to change our own lives positively and when passed through us positively impacts those in the marketplace (“My word shall not return empty,” Isaiah 55:11). Allowing God’s Light and the prism of His Character and the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22-23) to influence our lives means we’ll hopefully and positively influence those around us in business. It is God’s desire for us that we are all “face to face” in full fellowship with Jesus and reflecting his glory for all the world to see.
2 Cor 3:18 And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.
Just as light is refracted when it passes through a substance, the same goes when it comes to what God has blessed us with. Our money, talents, and resources are to be passed through to our customers via products and services or invested in others, i.e., in both cases, we add value to what we have been given. Hoarding or hiding money, talents, skills, and assets are like putting a light under a basket (Matt 5:15, Luke 8:16), it does nothing for us or others if it is never put to good use.
1 Pet 4:10 AMP Just as each one of you has received a special gift [a spiritual talent, an ability graciously given by God], employ it in serving one another as [is appropriate for] good stewards of God’s multi-faceted grace [faithfully using the diverse, varied gifts and abilities granted to Christians by God’s unmerited favor].
In it seems like some Christians are more reflective than refractive of His Character and their God-given talents and resources. Having breakfast with a pastor recently, we discussed the issue of creating wealth, or not, within the church. He mentioned some within the church are so afraid of earning more or creating wealth that they’d rather “be safe than sorry” when it comes to the issue of becoming more prosperous. In their eyes, being rich means they’re too close to the “love of money” sin’s cliff’s edge. They’d prefer to be vast distances away from this “sin’s” edge to prevent or even to have the slightest chance to succumb to it.
At the same time, in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-31) Jesus describes two slaves who were entrusted with millions of dollars (See II.B.iii), “each according to their abilities,” and because they listened to their master’s good disciplines (Matt 25:14-15, 19-23, 26) they took appropriate actions and were promoted and given more to handle. With over 2,000 Bible verses concerning money and the marketplace, God has already given us valuable advice on how He wants wealth creation disciplines to be done regarding what He has entrusted us with. If we’re not refractive of His Biblical and business guidance, then we’re only reflective and have become less effective for Him and His Kingdom.
In essence, when someone sees our pivoted path toward Biblical financial and business actions and hear our words, they might come to ask us, “Why do you do that?” Then we can give them the Bible’s answer because we strive to be different than secular businesses. Read the below article and compare George Westinghouse’s Christian business habits versus the worldly practices of Andrew Carnegie or Thomas Edison.
When others compared our business actions with secular ones, they’ll ask us, “Why can you do that, because business is business?” This open door allows us to share with them that we operate in God’s economy and business, not the world’s economy and the marketplace. I have just begun to learn these new habits to refract His Will, but this a journey, not a destination, I’ve got much to learn and swap out the world’s view of business and the economy with God’s.
When we refract Him and His Light doing His actions in the marketplace, we’re saying to Him and the world, “Here I am, Lord!”
Originally published on Townhall Finance.
Kevin Cullis is owner of Startups On Main Street, LLC and the author of “HWJDB How Would Jesus Do Business?” and “How to Start a Business: Mac Version.” You can read more of his writings at HWJDB.com and StartupsOnMainStreet.com or attend one of his Bible-based Fish Tank Startups Workshops designed for individuals looking to start and grow Christ-centered businesses.