12 Keys to Successful Living from the book The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant By Terry Felber
The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant is a story about a man named Antonio and his grandson Julio. Antonio has taken Julio on a journey to St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. The story is a journey through the teachings that Antonio’s mentor Allessio, gave him over a series of meetings together. Each meeting covers 1-3 principles and addresses problems and decisions that Antonio has had to face throughout his life. Many of Allessio’s principles are rooted in biblical truths and substantiated with biblical references. The principles are a great way to build and establish a spiritual foundation for your business and to learn how to be a minister in the marketplace. This book will transform the way you see work and how you approach every business opportunity.
1. Work Hard and God will prosper you
Antonio begins by teaching Julio about good old hard work and how good ideas can only be possible through the amount of time and effort put into them. Antonio emphasizes working hard despite the negative influences around you.
This is an important trait to pass down to the next generation. Learning to work hard with your mind and hands is important to becoming a skilled and productive worker. It is nearly impossible to do work without your hands. For years I worked in restaurants as a chef and worked hard with my hands every single day, chopping vegetables, rolling pizza dough, or whisking together hollandaise sauce. This experience taught me how to work hard and how to get things done quickly and efficiently. Today I type emails, draw advertising layouts and shake hands with clients to close deals, all require the use of my hands. Scripture tells us that God will bless ‘all that thou settest thine hand unto’ if we are faithful to Him. The hard work of our hands can be blessed, but it must be Holy. God will not bless the work of men’s hands if it is evil.
“The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto, and he shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Deuteronomy 28:8 KJV http://bible.com/1/deu.28.8.kjv
“Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.” Deuteronomy 28:4 KJV http://bible.com/1/deu.28.4.kjv
“The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.” Deuteronomy 28:12 KJV http://bible.com/1/deu.28.12.kjv
“For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10 KJV http://bible.com/1/2th.3.10.kjv
2. Financial prosperity is often connected to soul prosperity
Antonio tells Julio the story about his second meeting with Allessio. In the story, Allessio and Antonio attend church together. In the sermon, the pastor talks about Jesus’ teaching about how ‘it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God’. Antonio is downtrodden afterwards because he has left a life of being totally submitted to God to pursue profit. Allessio explains to him what that scripture really means. In ancient days, the eye of the needle was actually a small door into the city gates. It was possible for a camel to get through the eye of a needle but for it to happen the camel had to be on its knees…just like men of wealth. We have to humble ourselves and get down on our knees before God.
Wealth is often looked down upon, and some people even feel guilty because they are wealthy. The common misconception is that wealth is evil and that those who are wealthy are evil. Some may even incorrectly quote the Bible and say, ‘the root of all evil is money’. Timothy 6:10 says ‘For the love of money is the root of all evil’. In the scripture that the pastor was quoting, Jesus was addressing the thing that was keeping the rich man from submitting himself to God. He had made money his idol. God speaks to each of us individually and we all have certain idols in our life that keep us from surrendering ourselves to God. These idols often keep us from prospering financially.
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” 3 John 1:2 KJV http://bible.com/1/3jn.1.2.kjv
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Jeremiah 29:11 KJV http://bible.com/1/jer.29.11.kjv
“And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Luke 18:21-27 KJV http://bible.com/1/luk.18.21-27.kjv
“And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:” Deuteronomy 28:1 KJV http://bible.com/1/deu.28.1.kjv
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 KJV http://bible.com/1/mat.6.33.kjv
“Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Psalms 37:4 KJV http://bible.com/1/psa.37.4.kjv
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3. A man must do whatever he can to provide for his family
I have heard many stories about families separating because the man in the household has given up on trying to provide for his family and has become a bump on a log on the couch at home. Those who are the primary breadwinner in the home must do whatever they can to provide for their family. If that means working 2-3 part-time jobs and working 70 hours a week that is what should be done. Alessio asks Antonio how everything else is going besides business. Antonio tells Allessio about his new girlfriend Maria. Allessio takes this opportunity to teach Antonio the importance of being a provider and how he must be able to do that before he marries her.
“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” 1 Timothy 5:8 KJV http://bible.com/1/1ti.5.8.kjv
4. Trials develop your character preparing you for increased blessings
In the story, Allessio’s glass factory burns to the ground leaving his business completely gone. He is left with nothing but a box with his glassmaking secrets. After meeting with Allessio, Antonio is convinced that he can rebuild and make his business better than ever. After rebuilding his factory and overcoming more problems, Antonio grows his business to be better than ever. The trial that Antonio faces develop his character and gives him the resilience needed for his business to flourish.
Rarely growth occurs in the comfort zone. If we continue to take the path of least resistance in life, we will never have the courage, character or strength to make it through the tough times. That is why we can transform each trial into a blessing by persevering through tough times and using every obstacle as a learning experience.
“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31 KJV http://bible.com/1/rom.8.31.kjv
5. Take responsibility for problems that are the result of your own bad decisions. Don’t displace the blame.
Allessio points out to Antonio that his factory was too small to contain the furnaces necessary to process the materials to make glass. Antonio admits that he knew this and should have corrected it. Instead of blaming the devil for this, Allessio points out that it is simply the result of cause and effect. The enemy shouldn’t always get credit for bad things happening. The decisions we make often are the cause of our problems.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” 1 Peter 5:8 KJV http://bible.com/1/1pe.5.8.kjv
6. See challenges as stepping stones not as obstacles
Allessio reminds Antonio that he was planning on building a new factory anyway and that this fire just helped him speed up the process. He tells him that the factory burning down is not an obstacle but a stepping stone. If Antonio chooses to, he can take this opportunity to strengthen his business. Perception is the key to any problem. Having sound advisors around you, that can perceive different sides of issues is important. Some may fail to see the good side of things and others know that the greatest opportunities are often birthed out of the greatest devastation.
7. Be meek before God, but bold before men.
Fear is temporary. Regret is forever. Action gets rid of fear. –The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant, pg. 163
It takes courage to stand up for what you believe is true. It also takes humility to submit to God. Being assertive and confidently expressing truth to those you interact with is often looked down upon. But these are good qualities to have in business.
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5 KJV http://bible.com/1/mat.5.5.kjv
8. Live debt free and below your means
Like many other college graduates, I too have had significant student loan debt. After working hard for several years, I am very close to paying it all off and being completely debt free. Many believe that the key to building wealth is to get out of debt and stay out of debt. This is tough to do when you live above your means. People often sacrifice their internal peace to give an allusion of external peace and well-being. This leads to a person living pay check to pay check and only paying the bare minimums on their credit cards and loans. This is a trap that many get sucked into and have a hard time escaping. When the pain gets great enough, some people will decide to make a change in their spending habits. It takes laser focus and “gazelle like intensity”, as Dave Ramsey puts it, to work yourself out of debt.
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8 KJV http://bible.com/1/rom.13.8.kjv
9. Always keep to your budget
Alessio teaches Antonio several principles about the smart handling of money. This principle is the key to getting out of debt and staying out of debt. Almost once a week my wife and I have a brief meeting to discuss our budget. We take a look at where we are financially and we agree on a budget. We are always looking for ways to save money so that we can lower our spending and stay within our budget.
10. Loaning money destroys relationships
Antonio tells Julio a story about how he refused to give a loan to his brother-in-law to help him with his restaurants. Antonio knew that loaning him the money could eventually cause a strain on their relationship. The brother-in-law was initially upset with Antonio but eventually he came back to Antonio for his advice, not his money.
Loaning money to others can be helpful to them but if they don’t pay you back it can create a strained relationship. The short-term help of a loan may also enable them to continue in their ways.
11. Set aside the first 10 percent to honor God
Antonio tells Julio, “Every month I have made it a habit to give to God the first 10 percent of my income.” He lets Julio know that it is critical that he understands that everything that he has are all gifts from God.
If you think about it, God gives us 90% of our income and he only takes 10%. It is not that God needs our money, but that it is a form of worship. Giving to Him allows us to handle our money and prevents our money from handling us. This control gives perspective and discipline. When we perish our money does not go with us. What we can do is invest in building the Kingdom of God and leaving a portion behind for those we love.
“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:8-10 KJV http://bible.com/1/mal.3.8-10.kjv
12. Understand the power of partnership
During Alesio and Antonio’s last meeting, Alesio reveals that he has been providing funds to help rebuild St. Peter’s Bascillica. He tells him, “God has designed a special relationship between businessmen and leaders in the church. We, as businessmen, can provide the provision for the visions of the priests.” He tells Antonio that he has done a great job of building his empire to the glory of God but now, “it is time for you to reach up.”
Partnering with God and sowing into the Kingdom is what we were made to do. It is Gods will that Heaven would come down to earth (“on earth as it is in Heaven”). I count it a great privilege to partner with the Church to finance and build the kingdom of God.