Dave Ramsey crowns the title a foreword that seems rather enthusiastic and emotional for a book that speaks of a legend of the monk and the merchant; romantic, if you will. He makes all of his staff members read within the first few months under his employ; quite the endorsement, eh?
I am no authority on Christian beliefs but dissolving the distinction between a set of codes to follow for business and another to live one’s personal life was long overdue.
It looks like they’ve got the pews in order in the boardroom!
Ramsey claims that the monk is holy and so is the merchant, violently stripping possession of wealth of its supposed evil nature.
“We should actively take possession of segments of the marketplace for Christ instead of surrendering them to the other side. We don’t claim the church as God’s turf and surrender the marketplace as Satan’s. We’re alive, active, and moving in both, and I believe God puts a call on our lives to redeem the business world for His glory. That’s been the goal of my entire career.”
He sets the stage for the legend for to unfold with his conviction that one’s spiritual beliefs permeate the workplace too. Giving purpose to one’s job and relating to how it impacts others and the satisfaction of a job well done are rewards.
Eighteen year old Julio is led by his grandfather through the story of his youth and the choices he had to make, the role his faith played in all aspects of his life, not only business. Much like Julio’s talent with numbers, Antonio had the aptitude for business.
But he could pick only one between his monastic past and the marketplace that seemed to be his future, the beginning of a long slurry of choices which, it seemed to him, would mark his life on stone: one way or the other.
As they walk through the streets of Rome, ‘the streets filled with wonder and worship. The people working hard and honoring God at the same time.’
The old man recounts over a decade’s worth of lessons he learnt and of things he grew to accept under the tutelage of his father’s old friend Alessio.
The legend is written in crisp chapters that flow back in time, following Antonio through his failures, his joy and his challenges interspersed with meetings with his mentor every three years, the details of which were succinctly summarized in a journal; they serve as the foundation for all success and sweat and blood the entrepreneur bleeds.
As Ramsey highlights in the foreword, one of the key mountains that Antonio surmounts in his youth is learning to decriminalize amassment of wealth on account of profit he earned, much to the uneasiness of priests who insisted that god wished all wealth to be surrendered to the poor.
“ So priests are supposed to serve God, and businessmen are supposed to serve the priests, right?”
“No, that’s not what I mean. You see, God has made all of us to serve Him. We are all called to hear from God and honor His Word. We are all called to live our lives in a way that glorifies Him. But God has created a special relationship between people in the marketplace and those who have committed their lives to serve God as their vocation.”
“I think I understand. God gives businessmen the resources to help fulfill the calling of the priests, who have given their own time and resources specifically to serving God and to blessing the businessmen.”
The tricky part with combining the market and ministry is this: you do not know what to believe because the texts and the sermons that your faith rests on are shaky, uneven stilts that invariably give away in light of a wrong interpretation.
What is a wrong interpretation?
Any deduction of spiritual value that will impede your growth as a whole. This is what Antonio repeatedly faces from the first time that he was lost between monastery and marketplace to when unexpected losses ate away at his peace of mind and self esteem.
So it was possible for a camel to get through the eye of the needle,” I returned. “It just meant that for it to happen, the camel had to get down on its knees . . . just like men of wealth. We’ve got to humble ourselves and get down on our knees to make it through life successfully . . . and please God.
I have several friends, men that I grew up with in the monastery. They love God and they love me. But they often tell me that God does not want me to be wealthy. They tell me that God wants me to be poor, like the monks who have made a vow of poverty.
“I see. But maybe God is trying to tell me that He is closing a door in my life. Maybe He is trying to get my attention. Maybe He wants me back at the monastery.”
Insecurity and uncertainty corrode his once steely resolve to make it big as a merchant in Venice and then the world.
While his doubts are seeded of unforgivingly confusing — he volunteers, he luckily has the experience, foresight and fatherly love of Alessio to guide him.
“Yes. We sometimes credit circumstances to God or the enemy, when really it is simple cause and effect.”
The language is simple, the story is engrossing and the author has found a brilliant expression in this device that renders it more effective than the preachy self help category. It is also interesting how it emphasizes the importance of a partnership between the merchants (businessmen) and monks (merchant) for the ‘kingdom of God’.
The book also has scripture references and a comprehensive study guide that allows small groups and even individuals to reflect deeply on the legend and what significance and meaning each of the twelve principles hold.
It quotes popular books and authorities on business and living with an approach to help the Christians understand better how the lessons would apply to their life and its people.
Me? The legend was enough.
Terry Felber has one message coded in the middle of this book: God wants your soul to prosper.