This article presents a Christian view of sales as a profession and will look to the scriptures to help formulate a basis for this view. Salespeople are often viewed as untrustworthy, greedy, and contemptible. I have been a salesman for six years now, and, like most people I know, my blood pressure rises when I must make a purchase from a salesman. Despite the unenviable reputation and the constant competition, I have found a way to be successful yet ethical in sales. As I explore my experiences in this field, I urge you to test what I am presenting by comparing it to the Scriptures. I define success in sales as pleasing the Lord, my employer, and my customer. All three are obtainable through God’s empowering, loving presence – the Holy Spirit!
Sacred and Secular
One of the first issues that must be addressed is the idea that there are sacred and secular activities for the Christian. It is a misunderstanding to believe that work is secular but that taking your family to a church BBQ after work is a sacred activity. The truth is that God desires His image-bearers to reflect Him perpetually. God desires to see Himself in me when I show a customer why a third rack in a dishwasher is helpful just as much as He desires to see Himself when a pastor is ministering to a hurting person.
Since the Kingdom of heaven is already here (but not fully) God has begun to take back what was lost to the devil through the fall of man (Mark 3:27). Under the old covenant, the presence of God was primarily restricted to the holy of holies. However, when Jesus died the veil into the holy of holies was torn from top to bottom. God is now actively causing the holy of holies, His presence, to spread across the earth and reign over everything. We see in Zechariah’s vision that the impact of the Kingdom of heaven arriving with our Lord Jesus included the transformation of even mundane objects to things of glory and worship (Zechariah 14:20).
I want to paint a picture of what is continually happening for the Christian. The New Testament teaches that you are in the temple as a priest right now (1 Peter 2:4-10). It would be good and true to always imagine that you are in the temple, robed in priestly garments, even while reading this article. When you drive to work you don’t exit the holy of holies and place your priestly work on pause. Since you are a priest as a result of being in Christ, who is the true temple, every word you utter during an interaction with a customer should be an offering that is pleasing to God (Romans 12:1). Everything is sacred activity for the Christian.
Theological Basis for Loving Customers Through God
So how do I sell as a Christian? I have stated that it is by the Spirit that we are to function in sales. If someone had told me this years ago it would have just sounded like religious jargon to me. As I’ve walked with Him, I’ve learned that I am desperately dependent on the Spirit to help me accomplish anything true and lasting (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). This great need for the Spirit is because it is only through the Spirit that you can love people, and of course customers, with God’s very own love.
People who are not Christians cannot love with God’s very own love (1 John 4:8). Christians are capable of loving people with God’s love through God’s Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7). I am talking about divine love—the love that exists between the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit. Many pillars within church history such as Augustine and Jonathan Edwards have written on the idea that the Holy Spirit is the Love of God. It is through the Spirit that the Father pours out His infinite affections on the Son. As image bearers we also love through the same means: the Spirit. Love is not merely a feeling or an action, but a person. God Himself is love, He is our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14). In the Gospel of Luke we read, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13). The greatest gift God can give is Himself and He is love.
Scripture strongly supports the idea of loving people with the love of God through the Spirit. In Romans 5:5 we see that “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”. Here, the Spirit is at minimum a channel of God’s love. Romans 15:30: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” Paul is asking that the love that belongs to the Spirit (God’s love) would motivate the Romans to pray for him. Love is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), it is not a fruit of mankind. In Galatians Chapter 5, Paul describes living a life of love by the Spirit instead of living by the law. He urges believers to “Love your neighbor as yourself” … So I say, walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:14-16). Colossians 1:8 references “Epaphras … who also told us of your love in the Spirit.”. Here, “In the Spirit” is best translated as “through the Spirit”. These are just a few of the references to loving through the Spirit that can be found in the Word.
Not only are we to love through the Spirit, we are to accomplish all things through the Spirit. Here Jesus is our example. He was born by the Spirit (and so are we: John 1:13; 3:5-8), His words were the result of the Spirit (John 3:34), He was joyful through the Spirit (Luke 10:21), and He was raised from the dead by the Spirit (Romans 1:4). Jesus “through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God” (Hebrews 9:14). Jesus, being fully man, functioned second by second through the power of the Spirit and so should we. We are to worship by the Spirit (John 4:23-24), we are to serve through the Spirit (Philippians 3:3), we are to “pray in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18; Romans 8:26), and we are to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). Importantly, the idea of living through the Spirit is connected to loving through the Spirit. We are to “do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14). As Zechariah 4:6 tells us, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty”. If all things are to be accomplished in the Spirit and all things are sacred, all secular work is essentially a process of being guided by God’s Spirit to be fruitful and loving in our work.
Selling Through the Spirit
Having established that all work can be a holy work of love through the Spirit, I want to talk about sales more specifically. While there isn’t a direct parallel in the Word, there is a general principle that can be taken from Acts 6:1-5, which details a problem of distribution of food among widows in the church. The Apostles chose men “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” to resolve the problem. This is because people filled with the Spirit exhibit “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). When customers see these qualities in a salesperson it builds trust and generates confidence. God cares about the customer, your boss and your income because all these people bear God’s own image. God’s image bearers are valuable and deserve love and respect. When I am filled with the Spirit I can listen attentively, genuinely desire to meet my customer’s needs, and show respect and compassion that have nothing to do with my own desire to make a sale. All of this comes across very clearly to my customers. Of course, I am a sinner and I sometimes want to function on my own rather than in dependence on the Spirit. However, when I am filled with the Spirit everything goes better and a deeper connection happens between the customer and I. My dependence on God glorifies Him, faithfully serves the needs of the customer, and blesses me and the company I work for.
You might be wondering how I came to the realization that I need the Spirit’s love to sell effectively. Several years ago, during a review, my manager said that if I could find a way to gain more confidence, I could be a better salesman. I knew he was right, and I had known this about myself for years. For weeks after the review I analyzed what was happening in my heart and mind during my interactions with customers, however, it didn’t help. I then spent months going through as many product knowledge resources as I could find. It helped a little but not enough to really boost my confidence. One day I decided to forget about all the sales videos I was watching and go with the most basic commandment I knew of – love your neighbor as yourself. This changed everything. As soon as I set my mind on what was best for the customer, I noticed that I appeared more confident. Instead of focusing on sales strategies I focused entirely on my customer and in a way I disappeared. I became so fixated on the customer that thoughts about myself, namely closing the sale and my appearance were not in my mind. As I began to grow in this, I began to experience an empowerment. I physically felt a Spiritual empowerment that took me past myself (Philippians 1:8). I then looked up ‘love’ and ‘Spirit’ in the New Testament and everything in this article began to come together.
While I am selling a refrigerator, I am obligated to love the customer. However, I cannot love them without the Spirit because love is a fruit of the Spirit. “Love comes from God” not from mankind (1 John 4:7). The Spirit of God cares deeply about the customer spending their money wisely. When I am focused on loving the customer through the Spirit, I genuinely feel the Spirit empower me to think clearer and I am even able to communicate more effectively. I feel empowered to love with profound depth. The Spirits presence brings divine joy and serving them becomes a rich blessing. The customer can sense this and enjoys the interaction and feels more comfortable to buy. The portion of scripture I mentioned above (Acts 6:1-5) describes how the church was told “to choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit.” This means that being filled with the Spirit is something that people can see! People filled with the Spirit are strengthened to deal with sensitive (sinful) matters: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently” (Galatians 6:1). Now, I hope I will not be accused of echoing the prosperity gospel which teaches that if you are Christian you will be more successful in life. I believe that to be heresy and a distortion of the true gospel! However, if a customer walks up to you and you are loving them with God’s love through the Spirit, full of joy and patience—more people are going to buy than when I am not filled with God’s love. I see this happen all the time. I’m not telling you that you will close every sale, but this will transform your day and your work environment. The customer can see the fruit of the Spirit and it generates a peaceful experience.
How to Be Filled with God’s Spirit
As I’ve explored, there are numerous verses encouraging believers to be filled with and live by the Spirit. The Word makes it clear that the Father gives His Spirit to those who genuinely want it. If you honestly want to be filled with God’s Spirit and you ask the Father for His Spirit, believing in His goodness, He will give you His Spirit (Luke 11:13). I believe that the Father loves filling His children with Himself. In Ephesians 1:13 we are told that when we believed the gospel we were sealed with the Holy Spirit. But later in Ephesians 5:18-19, Paul encourages believers to “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.”. Sam Storms writes that “[t]he verb is present tense, indicating that Paul envisions a continuous, on-going experience.” So, we are commanded to continually seek to be filled with God through His Spirit, yet Paul does not explain exactly how to do this.
To describe how to be filled with the Spirit I must speak from my own experiences rather than relying on the Word. Even so, I feel that these experiences are consistent with the scriptural principles I’ve mentioned above. When I deeply desire to love someone with God’s love and I’m completely dependent upon God to supply me with the ability to care for someone, I find that God fills me with Himself. The depth of my desire to love someone seems to impact the measure to which I am filled with the Spirit. Rather than trying to love someone in my own strength, I simply rely on the One who is love. As I analyze what is happening in my heart and mind as I pray for the Spirit, I can feel God filling me with the qualities of the Spirit. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “the Spirit God gave us … gives us power, love and self-discipline”. This can be felt. If you are full of the Spirit you will know! There is a confidence, ease, joy, and compassion that is experienced internally. This flow of love and peace is described by Jesus in John: “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive” (John 7:38-39). I have found that being filled with the Spirit requires a deep dependence on the Father, a sincere desire to love through the Spirit, and is experienced as an almost tangible and joyful source of life, empathy, and assurance.
When a customer comes in, I can look to the Father and ask Him for the ability to love the customer with the Spirit and depending on my sincerity and desire my glorious loving Father may give me His Spirit. In my heart, if I really desire to love the customer with divine love, I immediately feel empowered to do so. I genuinely become focused on their needs. If my heart and mind are concerned with the same things that God is concerned with, I believe He will empower me with Himself. In contrast, if a customer walks in and in my heart, I am mocking them or jealous of the car they pulled up in I have never felt empowerment to love in those times.
If you want to be filled with the Spirit you understand that God desires to see Himself in us. God does not want to see us in our flesh because no good thing dwells in us (Romans 7:18). To this end we are being transformed into the image of the Son (Romans 8:29). It is also essential to recognize that the customer is an image bearer of God who deserves to be loved. Loving them is based on who they resemble – God. Apart from God and His Spirit we can do nothing for the Kingdom. If we continually seek the Spirit for empowerment, relying on the Father, as Paul exhorts us to do, He will give the Spirit so that we can look more like His Son and reveal Him to the world.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains,
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
The Maker of heaven and earth.Psalm 121:1-2
Joe Humphries is married to the most wonderful woman in the world: Jennifer Humphries. He has two children – Adylen (8) and Seth (7 months). He absolutely love snowboarding although he hasn’t been in 17 years. He really do not like reading however he loves learning so he reads a lot. His favorite TV show is the office of course. He loves music more than anyone. The most influential writers for Joe have been Marcus Peter Johnson, Sam Storms and Gregory Beale. He is not affiliated with Logos Bible software however it has been, hands down, the greatest tool he could ever dream of for studying divine revelation