Hustle is a word that has long made me cringe. It’s only after several years at Simpson that I have finally come to terms with allowing my fallen views of hustling to shine in the presence of God rather than seeing money as a necessary evil. This process is still continuing. With no destination in mind (or in sight) this journey of discovering the hustling of God’s kingdom is near and dear not only to my heart but that of many other believers as well. Experiencing the Biblical principles of hustle has been formative in my education. As I press forward, deeper into faith, I realize that the Bible aptly addresses all of these needs for the community of Christ’s body, but a firm grasp of what is permissible and what is not is necessary to move in the grace of Heaven’s hustle.
This choice of vocabulary may differ from contemporary rhetoric about business. “Hustle” and “business” can in many ways be used interchangeably. According to Urban Dictionary, a source for user regulated slang definitions, displays the top rated definition for the term “hustle” as, “Anythin you need to do to make money… be it sellin cars, drugs, ya body. If you makin money, you hustlin.” The top definition, which can change any given day, becomes the temporary standard to pop culture. Hustle was a word that intimidated me before I went to jail. Why would I ever hustle? Hustling sounds like rushing good work. Eventually, I would learn that despite my sheltered middle-class upbringing, jail had a lot to teach me and I didn’t understand business or hustling as well as I thought I did.
It was easier for me to adopt a new way of life when I was essentially at rock bottom than it would have been before or after being put in jail. The foundation for a life-long relationship with Christ was the only thing in my life for a while. While that belief was forming, I did not have the things that can get in the way of making the right ethical choices like money or a career to protect. The decision to give everything up and follow Christ meant giving up much more emotionally than physically. Choosing to do the right thing at such a low point economically didn’t mean sacrificing anything; I had nothing to sacrifice. This ended up being an opportunity to learn to hustle the right way, on God’s terms.
The term “hustle” came to be of significant importance to me because while I was in jail I was thrust into the foreign vernacular of the common criminal; coming in touch with the economy of the prison system I learned that everyone has a hustle, meaning everyone has a business. I was confronted with the question myself, “What is your hustle?” To this day, that question still carries a weight in a way that only can be understood in the context of living 16 hours a day in about 70 square feet surrounded by concrete. In other words, it is the question of “what do you do with all the time in the world?” In the confines of my cell, I struggled, I worked, and I hustled to understand that question. As a result, I developed some principles.
The Bible tells us an imperative narrative beyond the promise of salvation. We are called to steward God’s creation as good hustlers:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'” NIV Genesis 1:26-28.
Being created in God’s image we are not only given a special place in creation, according to scripture, but we are also called to rule over all of it. What makes us the exception to the rest of creation also makes us susceptible to failure. Where other critters share no weight of our burden to carry out this command, humanity can succumb to ruling itself as well, in rejection of God’s rule. We are called to hustle higher and above all living creatures as human beings in God’s kingdom, though not above God.
In the Old Testament account of King Solomon, the son of King David, God appears to Solomon in a dream and asks him what he wants from God:
“So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours? The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” NIV 1 Kings 3:9-14.
Solomon was the richest king of New and Old Testaments. His kingdom’s wealth was measured by the thousands of horses, chariots, wives and concubines he had. Biblically the principle in the story of Solomon is simple, the wisdom of God, respecting his laws and honoring his Lordship, is part of hustling bountifully. Solomon would go on to erect temples to false gods later in his career as king of Israel. This temple was met sternly by God’s disappointment and during the reign of his son, King Rehoboam, the kingdom split into two. It’s not God’s judgment that tears the kingdom apart; it is the vanity of the human heart when it succumbs to meeting its own ends rather than God’s.
The story of Solomon demonstrates the need for discerning God’s will in matters of hustling. Understanding how God intended life to function is key. Looking to scripture for God’s view on right and wrong is part of this, but not only for what is right but also for God’s character in the presence of wrong:
“Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.” NIV Isaiah 61:7-8.
Not only does God uphold the possession of property, abhor theft and love justice, he also restores the broken. The principle that God blesses us throughout our lives and with everlasting life for hustling for him is consistent with scripture. To follow him is creating points of break-through for his kingdom on earth and to do this in hustling is not only wise, but also a Christian act of love.
After Jesus blesses the infamous Zachias, the tax collector, for unburdening from his corrupt policies, Jesus tells a parable about a master who gives money to his servants:
“The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ ‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” NIV Luke 19:17-26.
As Christians we are called to be the servant of ten cities, using all our gifts in continued faithfulness to God. The servant who failed to accumulate interest in this way was guilty of idleness and for this his master rebukes him. This principle of guarding against idleness echoes the story of Genesis that calls humanity to steward God’s creation. Zachias was a dirty hustler, but Jesus was not concerned with this because in Zachias he saw a human with potential, as he sees all of us. Rather than rebuking Zachias in this story, Jesus uses the parable to inspire, calling listeners to go and earn, to make double on what God has given them. For a tax collector this is important because they are public servants. Jesus is laying down a principle for the hustling of honorable servants, rather than just collecting money from their masters (the people), they are to increase it, repaying with interest.
Protecting Christian values will mean hustling with nonbelievers. However, God does not expect or call Christians to hustle towards evil ends:
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” NIV 2 Corinthians 6:14.
Meeting the world with preparedness for matters of hustling is diligent work that involves preparation. Undoubtedly, resistance to Christian efforts confronts all believers. What makes the difference for the Kingdom is acknowledging the wisdom of God by living in the Word, by reading it, as well as living it out. Christians are called to be faithful and steward God’s creation honorably. By reading Scripture and preparing for the Kingdom of God, it brings new life into reality.
Knowing what is right is not enough, we must experience the peace that God calls us to, in business and all aspects of life. Through my stewardship in his kingdom, I receive much from God, hustling for his glory. I redeem more of my desires and efforts for success as I clarify more deeply what the Kingdom of God looks like. As servants, we reap the blessings of God’s kingdom, but life with the Lord is lived not by hustling and taking for ourselves but by giving of our lives to God while he sustains us with more than we deserve.
The final principles of hustling that came out of my time in jail with the Bible are found in Deuteronomy 5:7-21:
“You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below….
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you…
Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
These laws by themselves will fall short of true goodness. It’s only through Christ’s sacrifice that they accomplish their true purpose to restore our relationship with God. Wayne Grudem effectively testifies to what these laws mean for us as hustlers. When he says, “When God gave the command, ‘You shall not steal’ (Ex. 20:15), he affirmed the validity of personal ownership of possessions,” Grudem is effectively pointing out that we are called to acquire possessions in our stewardship of the Kingdom. Similarly, when Jesus says in Matthew 5:39,
“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also,” We are called to resist not our enemy, whom we are called to love, but their actions against life by loving them. By giving the command not to murder, God affirms the validity of self-preservation. When I was in jail, I had to struggle with this when my cellmate tried to drown me in our toilet. Since he had insisted on biting me after surprising me from behind with a chokehold, I had figured out he was not insulting me, but murderously trying to end me. My conclusion on the subject was simply that one cannot turn the other cheek if they are dead.
Hustling outside of jail, for me, became much more complicated than trading items off a lunch tray or selling my ramen soup for religious drawings and my hustle began to include more than trading simple commodities. I began to tell my story about how I drew near to Jesus in jail to my teammates at the gym and bring them to church with me. All the things I had done showed my humanity to them, and because I was able to talk about it, I had an impact. I realized the power of being open about my history was far more than what I could do by remaining mysterious. I was able to put down some of the methods I had employed before learning how to hustle in the Kingdom that had kept me closed off to revealing the things that most influence people for better. As I reflect on what it means to do the right thing, be just and honor God, I am reminded that my testimony is also a possession, something that I steward with my decisions in life. As Matthew 6:33 puts it, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well,” my testimony is my hustle and like everything else in life, it needs to honor God and at my expense whenever necessary.
- Bible, New International Version.
- Kris Vallotton and Bill Johnson, The Supernatural Ways of Royalty, Destiny Image, 2006.
- Craig L. Blomberg, Interpreting The Parables, Intervarsity Press, 1990.
- Danny Silk, Keep Your Love On, Red Arrow Media, 2013.
- Wayne Grudem. “Business for the Glory of God.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/Uf12v.l