According to Wikipedia “The Apprentice is a British reality television series in which a group of aspiring businessmen and women compete for the chance to work with the British business magnate Alan Sugar. In series one to six, the prize was a £100,000-a-year job as an “apprentice” to Sugar, and winners went on to work at Amstrad, an electronics manufacturing company founded by Sugar…” The series runs for a little over two months every year and it is now in its tenth year, each episode these days attracting between 7-8 million TV viewers.
The concept is simple: the candidates, all aspiring and ambitious young men and women with an interest in a business career, are divided into two teams and each week they are set a variety of entrepreneurial task, where the teams are in competition as to which makes the most money. The person on the losing team deemed by Lord Sugar, helped by his two lieutenants, to have contributed most to his/her team’s loss is fired, until eventually there is one person left, who is then hired as Lord Sugar’s apprentice.
Given it sometimes seems a rather cut throat and overtly money oriented world in which the candidates operate, this makes Lord Sugar’s world of enterprise far removed from my own, and the behaviour of many of the candidates sometimes seems to be a lot to be desired, especially when they are faced with the prospect of getting fired. Despite this, I along with many of the other viewers find the shows great entertainment value and not a little revealing concerning the facts of business life, and since it started I have watched with fascinated anticipation several of the episodes.
Strangely enough though, if it wasn’t for a posting I recently came across on Facebook, I wouldn’t have realised the current series had started. The posting referred to an article that had the intriguing title: “Five reasons Lord Sugar would fire Jesus” – relating some of the things Jesus did that would not have fitted the criteria expected of a wannabe apprentice to Lord Sugar. It was perhaps unfair to make such a statement although the article had more than a tongue in cheek element. But it got me thinking what would Jesus have done, or encouraged us to do, when faced with an enterprise / money making opportunity. It also got me thinking about another of Jesus’ lesser known and neglected parables that has the underlying text: “And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations” – Luke 16:9.
I was reminded that some of the great Christian preachers of the past were surprisingly realistic about the subject of money and speak a great deal of wisdom into today’s money dilemmas. For example, John Wesley, who preached on this very text, made the call “gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can”. What Wesley practiced and preached on enterprise and money is on par with and better than the sum total of what the best of today’s entrepreneurs and preachers might say on this subject, and does so in the context of our doing the will of God. The point is that enterprise, making the best use of money and living close to God, rather than being mutually exclusive notions, could and should be complementary.
I have already written about this relationship in my writings, available on this website. As I continue to write to encourage the next generation of community activists, in particular those that do so as part and parcel of their service to God, I often think of what message I would want to pass on. I would of course encourage living a life that is close to God and in accordance with His will (i.e. to be holy) as well as being engaged in regular prayer and reading of the Bible but, perhaps surprising to some, I would want to reiterate the exhortation of John Wesley. I still have not found a way to make money to live on from being a “no strings attached” community activist, despite its importance, and while money should never be an end in itself, realising our real treasure is in heaven, I have come to see that making money through enterprise is perhaps the surest way to provide a platform for doing those things that really matter.