What a One-Dollar Bill Teaches Us About Leadership
Fighting complacency with absolute trust
This is our sixth week looking at icons, simple objects that connect us to deep Biblical truths. We started with a jar of dirt to remind us that ‘It’s All His!’ We moved on to a paddle, to remind us that He is in control, and then to an apple to help us remember we are called to bear God’s fruit not just produce our own. We then considered a mirror that helped us see ourselves as beloved children of God, and a climbing rope that reminded us that as steward leaders we are called to be co-travelers with our people.
The sixth symbol we will look at is a one-dollar bill. More specifically, the words emblazoned across the word ONE on the back side, “In God we Trust.” It’s quite remarkable that in this post-Christian, politically correct culture, these words still stand. They are a great reminder to leaders that our trust, our security does not come from the accumulation of wealth, or power or possessions. This is the mistake of the owner-leader. Driven by the need to constantly grow and expand in order to prop up their self-image and expand their kingdom, owner-leaders control resources with a spirit of scarcity. Their attitude toward finances, time, talents and even the creation itself is shaped by their own agendas. When we see resources as a means to be controlled to serve our purposes, we will lead in a spirit of bondage, always looking for the security we think they can bring but always fail to do so.
Steward leaders come at resources from an abundance mindset, because they acknowledge that all resources come from an abundant, lavish God. The key to this abundance attitude is trust. Simply put, do you really believe God will supply ALL your needs, according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus? (Philippians 4:19). If you trust God to be your Provider, you can lead with the freedom to invest His resources in His work according to His guidance for His glory. Place your security in His provision, and watch the ways He will open your heart to pursue His work in new and miraculous ways.
When God is trusted as the unfailing provider of our daily needs, we are freed to assume the responsibility given to us in Genesis 2. That is, to be caretakers of God’s creation. Here is how Barry, our mentor in The Seventh Key, explains it to Jack, the struggling executive.
“We’ve seen how we have to be stewards of our relationship to God, to ourselves, and to our neighbor. The second key challenged us to give up control in all these areas and to surrender everything back to Christ. Well, along with the understanding that God owns everything, and that we surrender everything back to him, comes a responsibility to care for what God created and continues to sustain. I’m not talking about environmentalism or starting a debate on climate change, even though these are certainly part of the discussion. But at its this key’s most basic level, we are called to be caretakers – Carl would say nurturers – of the world God created.”
Jack’s lips thinned. “Well, you can imagine that we have some struggles with the cost of all the environmental regulations in this state. We’ve embraced the green building philosophy, but I can tell you it doesn’t always pencil out so well. Is that what we’re talking about?”
From the way Jack narrowed his eyes, it was a good bet this was delicate ground. “In some ways, yes. But it is a lot more personal, at least at the start. I was challenged by this key to look at my lifestyle and ask whether the choices I made and what I consumed really were in line with God’s call for me to care for his creation. I realized I had separated caring for the environment from my faith. And boy, was I dead wrong in doing that. The two couldn’t be more closely tied. So, this sixth key unlocks the chain of what might best be called complacency. That chain puts us in a bondage we hardly even acknowledge. And that bondage carries over into the way we view our money and all our possessions. If we’re complacent about our responsibility for creation, then it’s easy to build that second kingdom and to want to have control and ownership over all the other stuff in our life. Does that make sense?”
Jack heard Barry’s question, but he was distracted by the memory of a conversation he had had with his daughter Amy just a few weeks ago. She had come home from school excited about a project they were doing to clean up a section of a small creek running through their neighborhood. Jack’s response was a sarcastic quip: “Just don’t become one of those wacko environmentalists.” Thinking back on that, and hearing Barry’s words, Jack winced.
“That’s a tough one, Barry. I grew up in a pretty conservative home where anything having to do with caring about the environment meant you were a left-wing, liberal tree-hugger. There’s so much cultural and political baggage with this whole issue, I’m not sure how to cut through that to be able to really consider what you’re saying.”
“I’m with you there, Jack. Same upbringing, same attitudes, and the same challenge. What I’ve found is that Scripture doesn’t give us much of an out. Somehow, we have to set aside all the politics and just do what God calls us to do: care for his creation, whatever that means for you. But the more I’ve looked at it, the more I realize that complacency is the enemy. So, as a family and a company, we made some pretty strong commitments to simple living and doing everything we can to be creation-friendly. It’s expensive – like you say, it doesn’t always pencil out – and it’s caused a lot of habits to change. But I just don’t believe our Christian faith can be genuine with anything less. Why don’t you think about that for a while and maybe we can talk about it later.”
“No, that’s okay. I know it makes sense, and I’m sure you’re right, it’s probably biblical and all. If we can really get away from all the political stuff, I don’t have any problem with changing things to take better care of God’s creation. I guess I just never made it a priority.”
Barry nodded. “Complacency, that’s the chain. And the freedom that comes from unlocking that chain with this sixth key is exactly what you said. It’s the freedom not to be influenced by all the cultural and political baggage around this issue, and just focus on what God requires you to do. It’s freedom to be a steward of God’s creation just like he called us to. But it goes well beyond that. It’s also freedom in relationship to our money and our possessions. Wow, listen to the language I’m still using. Our money. Our possessions. That shows that I still have a way to go on this journey as well.”
“So, is there more, another step in addition to what Rachel and I did when we prayed around our kitchen table with all that stuff piled on it?”
“Yes, a very important step. Once we surrender control back to God, we then have to ask how he would have us manage and invest his resources. That’s why that third key is so critical, drawing us into a more intimate relationship with God. It’s in that relationship that we can hear his voice and understand what he would have us do with all that he’s entrusted to us.”
“So again, these keys really do build on each other, I can see that.”
“Right, that’s really critical. You remember the story of the talents from Scripture. Remember the third servant buried his money in the ground out of fear. He was the one that was condemned by the master. It’s one thing to believe that God owns everything, but we have to add to that a real commitment to seek his guidance for what he would have us do with what he’s given us. We can’t do that if we’re chained with complacency. We’ll just naturally fall back into that owner’s mindset. Pretty soon all talk of being a faithful steward fades away.”
“So how do you know what God wants you to do? He hasn’t spoken directly to me at any time in my life. How do you know?”
“Well, you pray, you study his word, you discuss it with Christian colleagues, and in the end, you trust that decisions you make have been guided by him. There’s an old adage that says, ‘You can’t steer a parked car.’ God expects us to be busy and active doing his work, and if we really are seeking a closer relationship with him and keeping our spirit open, we have to believe that he’s guiding us in our daily decisions. It’s less about hearing God’s voice directly than it is about letting him influence our hearts, our attitudes, and our decisions. Does that make sense?”
“Maybe. I guess I’ve never thought about it that way. It’s actually pretty comforting. You know, I think I’ve sensed some of that these past few months as we’ve walked through this process. I know I’m seeing almost everything around me differently. I’m asking different questions, challenging some old assumptions, and I’m even breaking some old habits that are in conflict with what it means to be a steward. God didn’t speak to me audibly in any of these, but I really do believe he’s guided me all along the way.”
Barry was nodding. “That’s it, Jack. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. And you can expect, actually you can be confident, that God will continue to do that as long as you seek after him. And when it comes to decisions about our money–how we make it, spend it, invest it, and give it away–all of that comes under that same daily guidance of the Spirit. That’s the freedom we have once that chain of complacency gets tossed off.”
Is your leadership built on an absolute trust in God as your Provider? Are you leading with an abundance mentality and placing you full security in Him? My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will cultivate in you just such a heart, and empower you daily to lead and live in true freedom!
 R. Scott Rodin, The Seventh Key. Kingdom Life Publishing, 2015, pp. 117-121.