When Jesus wanted to teach his followers a lesson, he usually told a parable.
Now author and ministry leader Geoff Peters has written an engaging book, The Family Business: A Parable about Stepping Into the Life You Were Made For, to teach Christians about participating in the work of the kingdom.
The main characters are Jesse, an aging widower and the founder of Jesse’s Hardware stores, his five adult children, and Holly, a housekeeper who’s become like a member of the family.
To get the most out of this contemporary parable, you should note that the name “Jesse” bears a striking resemblance to the name of our savior, who, of course, was a carpenter.
Jesse calls his children together over Memorial Day weekend to invite them to get involved in the family business, which has a reputation for being something more than a chain of hardware stores—a reputation for doing good and serving others.
He wants to make Jesse’s Hardware a household name: “A place folks can turn to when they need help with the basics of living. A brand people can trust for good tools and trusted advice.”
Wrestling with dad
Holly tells the children that although Jesse desperately wants them to join the business, he wants them to make their own decisions. Peters writes a chapter about each of the children, describing how they struggle with their decisions.
Becca, a teacher, worries about the public scrutiny she will face if she decides to become part of Jesse’s Hardware. She tells her husband, “We are forever at the risk of being judged, and even targeted, by those who either wish to see us fail or want to dull the sheen of the company’s reputation by pointing out our personal flaws. I don’t think I can take it.”
Dave, a psychologist who got his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, liked it so much he got his graduate degree there and stayed there to set up his practice. “Altering routines wasn’t something that was attractive to Dave; in fact, he avoided it at all costs.”
Evie, a hard driver, feels reluctant to give up a successful career in Chicago, yet wonders what God’s purpose is for her life. “Since she had been a teenager, she was never really able to fully put her fate—and faith—in God. It’s not as if she questioned His existence or felt comfortable disappointing Him. But she had always felt sure that her plan was the best plan; that she was smart and strong enough to figure her life out.”
Mo and his wife operate a food truck and have a passion for feeding the hungry. He tells her, “I don’t know what to do about my dad’s invitation to join the family business. I mean, I really don’t want to do it and, if I’m being honest, I’m actually kind of mad that he asked. It feels like an infringement on my life—on our life—and everything we’ve worked so hard to achieve.”
Zach, who works for a marketing agency, talks to his girlfriend about the decision: “Dad basically just gave us all an open invitation to join the business, without telling us what we would be doing or what kind of benefits he will offer. I tried bringing it up while I was there over Memorial Day weekend, but he didn’t respond. I get the sense that he just wants us to trust him.”
Nevertheless, Zach decides to join the family business and informs his father in an email: “I think it would be a great opportunity, and I think I could make some really significant contributions toward your expansion plans.”
Jesse responds, “You referenced making ‘significant contributions.’ I want to put your mind at ease and let you know that your performance will not be judged by the results you generate. I know that’s counterintuitive, Son, but it has worked for me. . . . So as you think about your transition to the family business, remember that I don’t measure success like your marketing agency does.”
When the family meets Labor Day weekend, the other children share their decisions. Without giving too much away, let’s just say the ending reveals more lessons about the nature of God and our role in his work.
And that makes The Family Business well worth reading.