“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away” (Matthew 13:24b-25).
Bluegrass music is popular in Austria. I learned this first-hand in 1990 when I accompanied a bluegrass trio invited to Graz to represent the USA in an international folk festival (I was the fiddle player). We were guests of a local bluegrass band—Rawhide—replete with five-string banjo and mandolin, but no fiddle. We were in Graz for ten days, and we shared a lot of music and beer.
It was in Graz that I first heard Lyle Lovett’s recording of “God Will.” The lyrics impressed me then, and I recalled them again as I was flying home from Lubbock last Friday evening. In the song, Lovett asks, “Who keeps on trusting you when you’ve been cheating?” and “Who keeps on loving you when you’ve been lying?” His stinging reply is, “God does, but I don’t, God will, but I won’t, and that’s the difference between God and me.”
Serious business problems had taken me to Lubbock, and 30,000 feet in the air, fresh from reading the Scripture of Matthew 13 where God allows weeds to grow in His garden because He does not want to injure any of the wheat growing alongside it, I sat juxtaposed between God and Lyle Lovett. Weeds had been sown and were growing in my garden, and I needed to decide what to do.
Just a week earlier I had conducted a meeting with all of my employees in Lubbock, acknowledging we faced serious problems, but also informing them of my plans to redress those issues. I was positive and upbeat; I have successfully executed turnaround strategies in other situations. Although everyone (me included) had contributed in some way to the problems, I was intentionally “hospitable” to all—no one was excluded; no one was left behind.
Using a “Kentuckyism” I assured everyone that we were going to have a “do-over.” We were turning the page on the past and starting afresh.
And early last week we began to implement the plan. Over two days we offered training to every employee in the market. In addition to practical and technical training, I presented the business purpose of my company—to sow seeds of opportunity to our employees and to share the blessing of hospitality with our guests and the communities in which we do business.
My Christian values come out whenever I discuss hospitality (see Hebrews 13:2) and the importance of ethical behavior inside my Company (making godly choices in any business circumstance). I reminded my employees that what they do every day in the workplace matters in the big scheme of things.
What I kept private was that for the preceding three weeks I had earnestly and plaintively prayed to God that He would guide me and deliver our Company from evil—from anyone deliberately undermining our efforts or from thieves and malcontents whose purpose was anything but “hospitable” to my business. Experience has shown me problems like we face in Texas generally include malicious behavior from some.
Therefore, I was neither dismayed nor surprised when by Friday of last week a number of our employees had been caught stealing or otherwise flagrantly disregarding our Company policies and the training that had just taken place. Those employees lost their jobs. Other employees, perhaps sensing that a “do-over” was going to require them to “do things differently” opted to no-call, no-show, and to self-select out of our Company. And a few lost their jobs because of suspicious behavior.
Boarding the plane on Friday, a former employee texted me, pleading to be reinstated and calling on me as a “Christian man” to give them another chance.
I did not change my mind. I could not.
Recently, a pastor at church discussed some of the contradictory sayings of Jesus: do not judge, love your enemies, do not cast your pearls before swine, forgive others seventy times seven times, be innocent as doves and shrewd as snakes. His point: Christian principles are not easy to practice. Discernment is necessary.
Proverbs 4:7 says, “Wisdom is supreme, therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” And Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
I am the recipient of God’s favor. Sitting in judgment of others is difficult since I know my own failings. I care about all of my employees, but in the case at hand, I particularly care about my leaders who have exhausted themselves in a losing battle up to now. They are the wheat growing in my fields. They are struggling to find nourishment and hope. They are priceless to me.
God will deal with my former employees in love and judgment just as He will deal with me. God will treat those who have done me wrong or who have just been swallowed up in a bad situation fairly. After all, sometimes wheat and tares look the same. But as for me, I trust God to continue winnowing the weeds out of my business while I will strengthen my strong leaders and employees who need to know there is a reason for working hard and doing things ethically.
David said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
I am good with that.