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Practicing Jubilee Through Entrepreneurship

by Stu Minshew

Last week, I shared how Michael Rhodes and Robby Holt’s new book, Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give, challenges readers to consider ways to provide employment opportunities for those on the margins of society. Throughout the world, we are surrounded by those in need. Many individuals, and even entire groups of people, live on the margins of our society, including racial or ethnic minorities, low-income communities, single moms, the elderly, and those who have served time in jail.

As Christians in business, we are called to provide opportunities for those on the margins to build equity and take part in Christ’s abundant provision for His people.

My last post discussed shifting from a soup kitchen mentality to a potluck mentality, equipping us to more effectively walk alongside those on the margins.

Today, I want to explore another concept from Practicing the King’s Economy, unpacking what the Bible says about equity and the concept of Jubilee. As Christians in business, we are called to provide opportunities for those on the margins to build equity and take part in Christ’s abundant provision for His people. I’ll also discuss specific ways that entrepreneurship can create pathways to equity for those on the margins.

Jubilee and Restoration

To show God’s plan for everyone to have an equity stake in His economy, Rhodes and Holt go to the Book of Exodus. When the Israelites disobey and are sent to wander the desert for forty years, God uses this time, not only to discipline them, but also to show them what His economy should look like. As He provides manna, God shows them that He is a God of abundance and provides enough for everyone. At the same time, those who try to store up more than they need find it rotten and full of maggots the following day. 

As the Israelites enter the promised land, God continues to show them His desire for everyone to be included in His economy. Rhodes and Holt point out that God commanded them to divide the land in roughly equal parts (Numbers 33:54). Then God instructed them to do something that many of us would see as countercultural, God outlawed the permanent sale of family lands and declared the Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25).

In the Year of Jubilee, the Israelites threw a big party, they rested and let the land rest, and everyone returned to their original plot of land. It didn’t matter the reason they lost it. Maybe they sold it or lost it due to unpaid debts. It didn’t matter. God hit the reset button and returned everyone to where they started. This kept some people from building up more than they needed, creating earthly Kingdoms. And it kept others from suffering the effects of generational poverty brought about by bad financial decisions. This gave every family an equal footing every 50 years from which to grow their wealth, maintain what they had, or potentially lose the family farm.

As the Israelites enter the promised land, God continues to show them His desire for everyone to be included in His economy.

Rhodes and Holt remind readers that the Israelites turned their back on God again and again and would eventually reject the command of the Year of Jubilee. Yet, Jesus declared Himself the fulfillment of the Year of Jubilee and inspired the early church to create a form of Jubilee. In Acts, we see financially prosperous Christ-followers helping those with less move towards becoming productive and contributing members of the body of Christ. The Early Church was not people sitting around and living off the proceeds of the rich, but a sharing of equity to come alongside those who needed help getting back to an equal footing.

What do these principles mean for entrepreneurs and others with the ability to create equity, not only for ourselves, but for others as well?

Entrepreneurship and Jubilee

As entrepreneurs, we are uniquely positioned within our communities. We have access to a higher level of equity than we often realize. Most of the time we don’t see it because it doesn’t always translate to high levels of revenue. That equity is stored up in our social capital and experience. It is found in our employees, clients, and vendors. We also have equity through the ownership of our businesses.

One way we can share the equity we’ve built through experience is by training and mentoring minority or marginalized entrepreneurs. We have a wealth of experience to share with those who want to start businesses, especially those lacking the resources available to other entrepreneurs. During my time in Kenya, I was connected to many low-income entrepreneurs. I was able to share my experience growing my business and raising funds, while they taught me about all sorts of local industries that I knew little about. Today, I continue to engage entrepreneurs in my community by facilitating a CO.STARTERS entrepreneurship training program and mentoring for a nonprofit business accelerator. It doesn’t require a huge commitment on my part, but I believe investing in entrepreneurs, especially those from minority or marginalized communities, is one of the most significant ways that I can leverage my skills to  help heal financial and social brokenness in my community.

As entrepreneurs, we are uniquely positioned within our communities. We have access to a higher level of equity than we often realize.

Another way we can share our equity is by sourcing goods or services from minority entrepreneurs. What products or services does your business use that you could purchase from a minority owned business? This may mean doing business with someone who doesn’t have the  lowest prices or is not as convenient as going to a larger, better known company. I’ll admit that this is an area where I need to grow. Join me in this process by thinking about one or two areas of your business where you can hire a local, minority-owned business. Not only will it provide the goods or services you need, it will create opportunities to build a relationship with the owner and spread equity to disadvantaged parts of your community.

Lastly, how can you share equity inside your business? In my last article, I challenged you to consider how you can hire marginalized job seekers. Now, I want to challenge you to take it a step further. Are you willing to share the profits of your business? Maybe each month, quarter, or year you can divide a percentage of the profits among all of your staff. Or can you share equity by creating ways for your employees to gain stock ownership in your company? For more ideas on what this can look like, I’ll refer you to Practicing the King’s Economy, where Rhodes and Holt discuss it in more detail.

Not of This World

These ideas won’t make sense to the people around us: Giving up your free time to help others start businesses, especially those who lacking a “proper” education and background. Paying more for goods and services in order to use a smaller, local company operated by someone on the margins of society. Giving away your company to your employees to allow them to build wealth instead of building your own. These ideas sound crazy.

Rhodes and Holt remind us that Christ isn’t concerned with our ever-expanding profits, but with setting a table where a diverse group of people have the opportunity to bring the fruits of their productive, God-honoring work.

Fortunately, the world does not determine what success looks like for Christian entrepreneurs and business owners. Christ has already provided His forgiveness and clothed us in His righteousness. Rhodes and Holt remind us that Christ isn’t concerned with our ever-expanding profits, but with setting a table where a diverse group of people have the opportunity to bring the fruits of their productive, God-honoring work. This gives us the freedom to do radical things with our businesses to show our employees, vendors, clients, and the world that there are far greater riches in Christ than those that this world has to offer.

 

Read Part 1: A Potluck Approach: Engaging the Marginalized with Meaningful Work

 

Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give

Through This Book, You’ll Learn:

Why the economy of this world leaves us feeling anxious, depressed, and dissatisfied.

Six keys to Jesus’ economy—and practical, innovative ways you can live them out in your work, church, family, and home.

Principles and practices that will move your heart away from materialism—and toward a richer understanding of your place in God’s Kingdom.

How to experience deeper meaning in purpose as you live out your faith in new ways.

For more information about Practicing the King’s Economy, visit website.


stu-minshew

Stu Minshew is the Vice President of Operations for The Chalmers Center, an organization that equips churches to walk alongside people who are poor, breaking the spiritual, social, and material bonds of poverty. He is a facilitator for CO.STARTERS, where he equips aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their passions into a sustainable and thriving endeavor. A serial entrepreneur, Stu has started three businesses, two in East Africa and one in the United States. You can connect with him online at UnleashedStartup.com, where he mentors, trains, and consults with entrepreneurs and startups across the globe.

Read more by Stu:

Get Started Growing

Understanding Your Customer

How Startup Success Starts with You

A Potluck Approach: Engaging the Marginalized with Meaningful Work