I’m afraid I may ruffle some feathers here. If I do, that’s ok with me. I hope it will start a conversation, and we can agree, or disagree, but either way, we’ll all be challenged. I’ve been wrestling with thoughts on this issue for a while, and to be honest, I’m still wrestling. But I can’t not talk about it any longer, because I think it’s an issue that really needs to be discussed: the issue of Christians in direct sales.
It’s a fine line. We want to be women of purpose, and we want to accomplish. We want to help provide for our families, and we want to impact our world. If you’re a Christian, you may also be challenging yourself with the description of the Proverbs 31 woman, who ran her business and her household with equal success and drive. There’s so much pressure on women to do it all and be “it” all. And there’s beauty excitement in being able to bring income into our homes, and in doing and sharing something we love while we’re at it.
But I’m seeing a disturbing trend, and it concerns me. It’s a confusing trend of selling ourselves to make a profit.
By that, I mean that often, mamas I know discover the “magic” of direct sales, through multi-level companies. Sometimes these opportunities are a blessing because they allow flexibility and the opportunity to work from home. But what seems to happen is that building those businesses on the fast-growing-pace often advertised, relies largely on “selling” the seller. That means, in some cases, lots of before-and-after pics of thinning bodies. It means zealous promotion of the product, the program, the lifestyle. Soon, they’re adding me as a friend and offering me discounted product to review. They’re posting scripture and they’re posting links to group info calls. I’m never sure whether I’m reading a devotional thought, or a promo for a new shake deal. And that’s where, for me, the confusion comes in.
First of all, is the product and/or lifestyle we sell really what God promised, or desires for His followers? Of course, He may choose to lavish us with worldly riches. But more often than not, biblical examples and real-world stories show us that He may just as well allow us to suffer physical poverty, struggle, or brokenness, for our good and for His glory. So if we use His name to promise, with the purchase of our product, that buyers will get worldly wealth, we aren’t being truthful.
One of the biggest concerns I have in this is the area of selling self-help programs and products, and using our bodies to do it. Photo after photo pops up in my stream of sexy abs and plump cleavage, of bikini bottom before-and-afters, and the complements and “likes” build to a frenzy as we imagine the perfection we think we can achieve. But aren’t we just using a way-scaled-back form of selling our bodies when we have to show parts of us we wouldn’t want our sons staring at to show off the power of a smoothie? And is it possible there’s a way we can advocate for health and wellness without baring our bikini lines for the internet to appreciate? Even further, are we advocating a double standard when we teach our daughters modesty, but then bare our bodies (or someone else’s) on our Facebook page?
Now let me make this clear, I know modesty is a very fine line and it varies greatly based on culture, and I (as a wife and a mother of four sons) am very passionate about men taking responsibility for their own eyes and minds. So I’m not trying to heap on my sisters the sole responsibility for guarding men from what they see. But, deep breath here… for anyone of us who’s starting from the assumption that our first priority is to honor our Creator by doing what He asks of us, we actually do have a responsibility to be concerned for them and to show it in how we dress. Hear me clearly, sister. What they do isn’t my responsibility, and I’m not saying it’s yours. But whether I choose to help them, well, that is. I just can’t escape it. So it is important that I think about whether what I’m wearing (and posting) is for their good. Will it help them think honoring thoughts about me and other women? Or will it make it harder for them to honor their wives (or future wives, or others’ wives)? Is what I share, in my sales and marketing, pointing to God, or is it pointing to a god?
Sometimes, when I look at the stream of a fellow entrepreneur, I wonder, is she promoting her God, or is she promoting (her), a god?
I ask this question with a humble heart, because it’s a question I ask myself often, and I’m ever-fearful of an answer that would hurt my Papa’s heart. I have this blog and another, Sal et Lux, where I share home decor ideas, recipes, and DIY tips, with the hope to encourage gospel living through hospitality. I often do public appearances in the food industry, and I LOVE being on camera. I’m a professional photographer, and for ten years, I ran a business that grew to support my family (with the hard work of my husband when he joined and helped it take off). I studied hard to learn the skills to be an artist, but also to be a good businesswoman. I learned about creating a “tribe,” and making myself my own “mascot,” so that my clients would trust the brand, because they know and trust the woman behind the brand, and I ADORE the stuff! I learned how important it is for people to see the best “me,” because then they believe I have something good to offer.
Currently, I’m in the process of writing my first book. I’m writing it because I believe I have something to offer that others need. I believe what I write will glorify God. And I want to sell that book, because I believe I can add to our family’s provision. To that end, I’m promoting myself in many areas, and I step back over and over and ask the hard question of what I’m promoting for.
For me, every step I take needs to lead back to the heart of my Savior. I want to use the gifts He’s given me, and I do hope to contribute financially to my family. But more important than any of that, I want to give Him glory. I pray hard (and sometimes, with a lump in my throat, I’ve received the answer in the form of personal challenge from a friend who dared to say good-hard things) that I will be willingly accountable to make this my first goal, and the only one that really matters.
My life exists for one purpose: to glorify God and lead others to Him.
I want to run with joy in the experiences I’m given, but I always, always, want the path to Him to be clear and primary. There’s a little restless feeling that grows, though, when the lines become blurred between my identity and my image. I am in danger of being trapped behind that image, and I’m tempted to tweak that image, when I don’t think it will “win” those I want to “influence.”
If you are pursuing a business and promoting, I want to challenge you, especially if you are a Christian, to consider the message you’re sending, and the product you’re selling.
Is your product something that will truly benefit others, also pointing them directly to Him, or is there a muddle of confusion about what exactly is up for purchase? If your customer buys what you’re selling, will it draw them closer to the call God has for them, or will it primarily add to your bottom line?
If you’re walking this path with intention and thought towards these questions, I want to hear your thoughts on how you keep “first things first.” How do you make sure there’s no confusion in your message, and that all roads lead directly to the glory of God?
Disclaimer: This article is a daring one, and it’s written to sisters who want to be challenged to live more deeply, more bravely. For me, bravely has meant, in part, learning to be willing to let go of some of my “rights,” for the sake of love. It’s going to rub some people the wrong way and that’s ok… I want to open the door for purposeful conversation. I know some who read don’t begin with the same assumptions I do that God authored our lives and that His word is our guidebook, so if you’re there, it’s ok, too. If you’re here though, and if you’re reading, comment below and let me know your thoughts. It’s through thoughtful debate that we stretch and grow, and it’s the whole reason I write.
I’m asking myself these questions, too, so I’m still thinking on this one with you…