Many people are under the impression that business and religion are best kept apart, but before making such a statement as this we should first ascertain what actual religion consists of. If we take all the various faiths and denominations throughout this country and sum them up, we find that every one of them teaches us to be perfectly just in all our dealings, to be absolutely honest in all our transactions, to be truthful in all our statements, and to be open and straightforward in every sense of the word; and these are the principles that should undoubtedly be most religiously carried out in our every-day business life, and no man can truthfully lay claim to the right to be considered religious who does not in all cases act strictly upon these lines, for if the above principles do not in themselves form the true essence of all religions, then we are bound to admit that no belief or faith can possibly be complete that does not include them. We are therefore forced to the conclusion that honesty, truthfulness, justice, and straightforwardness are part and parcel of true religion, and as these principles are absolutely essential to actual success in commercial life, then we have no alternative but to agree that in all cases business and religion should go hand in hand.
Hypocrisy in trade is quite unnecessary, and the less we have of it, the better we shall be as a nation, for the man who brandishes his particular faith and seeks to build up a business under the cloak of religion, is only helping to his own undoing, for hypocrisy and failure are always to be found linked together. On the other hand, when a man has once seriously decided to live strictly in accordance with God's laws, he will carry his ideas into his business, for he will know in his own mind that the All-Father did not intend that one day, and one day only, should be set aside for religion, but that every day in his life should be consecrated to God. Such a man will be continually making improvements in every branch of his business, and one of his chief objects will be to practice thoughtfulness and consideration for the general welfare of all his employees. He will cultivate genuine good feeling towards all with whom he may come in contact, and a great effort will be made, upon his part, to curb, in himself, all forms of temper and the usual jealous, spiteful, and revengeful feelings which he perhaps previously had. He will endeavor to at once dispense with ambiguity, and any form of deceit which he may have previously resorted to, he will now be ashamed to practice, and quietly and carefully, without show or ostentation, he will so alter his business methods that deception will become a thing of the past. The usual question, "will it pay?" will be put on one side, and "what is morally right" will be adopted in its stead. All outward display of religion will be most carefully avoided, but the true essence of Christianity will be found at the very root of every little transaction.
With such a man as this it will be a pleasure to do business, for there will be no humbug or hypocrisy about him; everything will be clear and straightforward, and we shall be able to place full reliance upon his honesty and truthfulness. There will be no occasion whatever for him to tell us of his faith and belief, for we shall know and feel the true genuineness of his character in everything that he does. He will not be continually talking about Christ and Christianity; he will not suddenly ask us if we are saved, or if we have found Christ; but after every conversation with such a man as this we shall have an inward desire to make some improvement in ourselves. The honest, quiet and unassuming way in which he will conduct all his business is undoubtedly bound to appeal to our admiration, and we shall have the desire to go and do likewise and this is the way in which true religion should be spread from one to another, for one example is worth a thousand precepts.
Let us therefore live the life that God intended we should live, in business and out of business, and instead of trying to crush our opponents, and rejoicing in their downfall, let us give them, when they need it, a helping hand, and so truly adopt the motto of "live and let live." A good and friendly feeling towards one and all, and a sincere wish to see everybody prosper, should really exist in our minds, and not only in our words.
These principles may seem to be totally opposed to all the generally accepted ideas of business life, but true religion teaches us that there is plenty of room for us all, and that to actually succeed in a commercial sphere, and truly enjoy our success, we must show by our actions that we have thought and consideration for others, for this is the very foundation of a really successful life.
Men may become wealthy who do not work upon right lines, but while they are piling up money with one hand, they are undoubtedly heaping up trouble with the other; and although we may not in all cases see their trouble, we may fully depend upon it being there. Strike a balance at any time in such a man's life, and we shall find that his trouble more than outweighs his riches. We should, therefore, be totally wrong in classifying this man as successful, for although in the eyes of the world he may be mistakenly called "well off," we are bound to admit that his life has been a failure. When we fully understand God's universal laws, we shall then see for ourselves that where selfishness is the actual motive power for our actions, there can be no true success. Sharp practice, deceit, untruths, misrepresentation, and general dishonesty in every form, all spring from the one source—"selfishness," and although in some cases it may appear to be profitable, if we were to watch things more closely we should certainly find that what has been apparently gained in one ' direction has been lost in another, for "like begets like," and as we deceive others so we ourselves get deceived; that is why Christ, knowing this law of God, gave us the command, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do you even so to them." The ledger of life is balanced momentarily, the debit or credit standing out boldly before God. There is no question of long terms or dating forward we get the net result, instantly, in some form of circumstance, of everything that we think, say, or, do, and we may all understand this particular law for ourselves if we will but first attend to our own faults before attempting to understand other people's.
If those people who consider themselves extremely smart in doing various forms of shady business transactions were to carefully note all the results of their actions, they would find that they were actually undoing their business instead of building it up. Such do not make a practice of connecting effect with cause in their actions; if they, for instance, charge more for an article than it is really worth, they think they have made an extra profit, and any loss in another direction at the same time is simply looked upon as "unfortunate".
Many have the impression that it is quite possible to do a little sharp practice in business without being interfered with by the overruling laws of the Universe. Such ideas are the result of conceit, smallness of mind, or a want of proper thought, for God, who has provided compensatory laws for even the fall of the little Sparrow, has not left His work unfinished. Nothing whatever escaped the Father's mind when He brought this Universe into being, and all our artfulness and deep-laid schemes to avoid in this world our just punishment will not avail. We are only putting a rope round our own necks, or, in other words, shaking the very foundation of real success when we practice anything in business or out of business that is not absolutely straightforward. Marcus Aurelius tells us that whatever is morally right is also profitable, consequently it must follow that what is not morally right is unprofitable. Then again we find in the 6th chapter of Matthew and the 33rd verse words to this effect, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and I all these (worldly) things shall be added unto you." This verse might be very properly termed the true business man's text. The mistake that many of us make is to seek first the worldly things, and the kingdom of God last, and when we do this, failure, miserable failure, must be the natural result, for although on wrong lines we may acquire great wealth, our sickness, troubles, and worries, will more than out-balance our apparent gain, and we shall not in our own minds be able to truthfully lay claim to the fact that we have been really successful business men.