ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN THE BIBLE
Recently (early 2016) Kenya’s Attorney General proposed that religious organizations in Kenya should be regulated and this caused an uproar across the religious divide. One of the reasons leading to the desire by the government to regulate religious bodies is the mushrooming of churches some with pastors who seem to employ unique “entrepreneurial” approaches in their teachings and soliciting monetary contributions from their congregations. A common phrase used by the said pastors and preachers is “panda mbegu” which literary means “grow seeds”. The said pastors have literary been asking followers to plant by donating money and expect to harvest.
The pastors seem to borrow from the teachings of the bible. For example in Mathew 13 there is the parable of the Sower told by Jesus. “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
And in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 it reads “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building”.
In Matthew 25:1-46 there is a story of ten virgins who went to wait for a bridegroom. While five carried lamps with extra oil foreseeing that it may take long and their lamps could run out of oil, another five did not carry extra oil and when their lamps extinguished they left to fetch for more oil and while they were away the bridegroom came and they missed an opportunity. This parable teaches about the entrepreneurship doctrines of having a vision and strategic planning.
In Matthew 25:14-30 there is a parable of the Talents where a man with three servants went on a journey and as he did so he entrusted each of his three servants with five talents. On return he received the same five talents from one of the servant while the next one gave back double what he received and the third one gave back triple the amount he received. The one who never multiplied the talents was rebuked and what he had was given to the one who tripled the talents. Some of the entrepreneurship teachings in this parable are productivity and creative value addition. Entrepreneurs are expected to do ordinary things in extraordinary ways and/or extraordinary things in ordinary ways.
The above verses and parables seem to be in direct conflict with Luke 18:25, which reads, “Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God" all depending on the interpretation. A direct interpretation of the verse would de-motivate those wishing to engage in entrepreneurship to become rich for fear of not entering the kingdom of God.
The reason why Luke 18: 25 should not be literary interpreted is that the bible itself has very rich characters. Genesis 13 outlines Abram as very wealthy in livestock, gold, and silver. The Bible tells us Solomon was extremely wealthy. We are told that Solomon generated wealth by bringing peace to the kingdom, which allowed him to use his resources for production, rather than protection. In addition, he encouraged trade and is said to have been the only Jewish king with a trading fleet (1 Kings 9). Women are not left out. It is known that Roman women were allowed to own property and conduct business. There is Lydia, a dealer of purple cloth in Thyratira.
The message here is that indeed the bible encourages entrepreneurship. The question is - could it be that the “panda mbegu” pastors and preachers do over-entrepreneurialize the bible?
An anonymous researcher once wrote that one stereotypical image that sometimes hovers around the concept of the "entrepreneur" is the conniving, step-on-anyone-to-get-ahead, wheeler-dealer who cares for no one but himself and nothing but his own advancement. Indeed the business world is not short of such people. Very often we hear the term "entrepreneur" applied to scam artists who rip off unsuspecting people, to dealers in illegal trades who prey on the weaknesses of others, and to white-collar criminals who try to cheat the system. Applying the term "entrepreneur" to people doing these transactions implies that the term has no basis in values and morals.
But entrepreneurship is not a values-free, amoral process. The very act of starting and building something of significance should require a consideration of values -- of combining what is done with how it is done. When a pastor puts potassium permanganate in water to turn the water into the colour of blood and washes with it a believer’s wound telling the believer that the believer is being washed by the blood of Jesus and goes on to ask the believer to “panda mbegu” for the healing to take place then the honesty value of entrepreneurship is lost.
It comes as little surprise that the right thinking Kenyan public has become weary of “panda mbegu” pastors and has complained loudly as can be filtered from the following sources which are only a few of the many:
“'panda mbegu' pastors with agriculture ministry - tuko.co.ke:tuko.co.ke › local news; jarunda exposing panda mbegu pastors... - gor ...https://www.facebook.com; ktn jicho pevu to expose panda mbegu pastor ...https://krazyinsidekenya.wordpress.com/.../ktn-jicho-pevu-to-expose-pan...; top 10 panda mbegu pastors | kenyatalk www.kenyatalk.com › forums › main category › general; this “panda mbegu” madness is too much… - kenyan ... www.jobskenyasite.com/panda-mbegu-madness-muchhave-ever-given-e.; topic: kenyan – pastors and money?? mwm panda mbegu ... kenya.rcbowen.com/.../kenyan-pastors-and-money-mwm-panda-mbegu/; don't go to these churches - capital radio - capital fm www.capitalfm.co.ke/radio/dont-go-to-these-churches/; exposed: ten ways of how the fake pastors extort from ... nairobiexposed.blogspot.com › expose”
Entrepreneurship can be a creative act made possible by the creative impulse that God gave most, if not all, of us. It requires certain personal traits that God desires us to have. The Bible provides many examples of entrepreneurs. The scripture contains several cases of entrepreneurship, but we must first make sure that we are using the proper definition of the word. Entrepreneurship is a creative act that brings higher levels of satisfaction to people, results in more order, and finds ways to create greater value than existed before. The “panda mbegu” pastors may not be practicing the entrepreneurship in the bible.
Prof. Henry M. Bwisa
Full professor of entrepreneurship – JKUAT