THINKING LIKE JEWS
(c) Morris E. Ruddick
Our exploration of Jewish business secrets has observed that Jews think differently than most of their worldly counterparts. This different way that Jews have of thinking is reinforced from one generation to another, within Jewish culture.
Creativity is at the core of the way Jews think. God indeed is the Creator. God’s nature is to create, innovate, build and multiply. The sequence of these factors — to create, innovate, build and multiply — also represent the core components of entrepreneurship. It should not be surprising then that Jews have become known as the people of business and discovery. It is the fruit of this different way of thinking. It is where Jewish business success begins.
The FBI sets a high selection standard for potential agents they train. They draw heavily from backgrounds in law, accounting and military leaders, because experience in these disciplines tends to produce a different, more systematic way of thinking. Jewish thinking tends to be more systematic, disciplined and proactive.
I’ve heard Peter Wagner comment that what distinguishes Jews in their thinking is that they think like God. I’d modify that by saying their way of thinking has been designed by God and reflects a process that aligns with His thoughts. The principles of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, are the foundation for this alignment, engrained across generations in Jewish culture. It is what differentiates Jewish thinking from the rest of the world.
Stephen Pease’s extensive research compiling “The Golden Years of Jewish Achievement” has observed that Jews are disproportionate achievers and contributors to civilization as we define it today. Caroline Leaf in her comparison of biblical truths and her own neuroscientific research has concluded that science is just catching up with what the Bible has espoused all along. In other words, Dr. Leaf affirms the dynamic observed by Mr. Pease that these disproportionate results have their root in the fundamentals guiding the way Jews think.
In the early 70s, after leaving a career in the Marines at mid-course and then spending a year at Oral Roberts University studying the Word of God, “retooling” my lifestyle and preparing for the call of God I was pursuing, the Lord led me then to get a masters degree at Oklahoma State University.
I wound up in a program that had a focus on research designs — which I was surprised was part of the studies I had elected to pursue. I initially struggled with these additional courses, thinking I might have missed God. Then in the midst of my challenges with my graduate program, God unexpectedly and sovereignly gave me a gift in understanding research designs and statistics — and told me He was changing my way of my thinking. It represented a systematic, disciplined and proactive way of problem solving.
How basic that has proved to be in the way I simply looked at things. Yet how profound everything else has flowed from that. This approach to my thinking became the basis of my role over the years as a consultant, in problem solving, in creatively finding solutions and strategies to dilemmas being faced by the global clients I served. Yet, with this approach to problem-solving has been a discipline of daily Bible reading and annual scripture memorization.
What this parallels is the multi-faceted spiritual maintenance observed by the Jewish community. As it is written: “Tell the children of Israel, surely my Sabbaths you will keep. For it will be a sign between Me and you throughout your generations that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.”
A well-known rabbi whose books have drawn great appeal to both Jewish and Christian audiences tells the story about several very successful Jewish entrepreneurs, who have become millionaires and more, and then well known as philanthropists. All were holocaust survivors, many losing most of their families to this travesty. Yet they were not crippled by their horrid experiences. With a culture that refuses to be broken and communities that support the gifts of their participants, they thought differently and overcame their toxic memories.
My wife, who spent many years in practice as a licensed psychotherapist is one of the more gifted counselors I’ve ever known. Her gift has helped many people, many of whom were brought out of the muck of their thinking. Part of Dr. Pease’s observations is that we need to reprogram and bring under control the toxic input that shapes our standard, 21st Century way of thinking.
Contrary to many current medical conclusions that the brain cannot regenerate, Dr. Pease concludes that our thinking is the means by which we can regenerate our minds and even restore health. As it is written, it is by “the renewing of our minds.” Abraham shaped his destiny and that of his descendants for the centuries to follow by believing what God spoke to him, in essence, embracing that which was not as though it were. Such thinking is the basis of faith.
While there are few who genuinely can presume to know how God thinks, as His ways are always higher than our ways, it is vital to understand and embrace the ways God has given to His people. Jewish wisdom states: “Listen well to my words, tune your ears to my voice. Keep my truth in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart. Those who discover these words live, really live body and soul. Be vigilant to watch over your heart. That is where life starts.”
Definers of Jewish Thinking
So, there are reasons that Jews think differently than most other people. The definers of what characterize Jews as a people begin within, in the way that Jewish community is designed.
The dramatic choice and the foundations are spelled out in the words of Moses. Speaking prophetically for God, Moses described the bottom line to the alternatives: “I set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. So choose life that both you and your descendants may live.” The choice of life begins with the thinking. Thinking determines the attitudes. Attitudes then guide behavior and the actions we take.
Jesus explained that what Dr. Leaf calls toxic thoughts will pollute the process. Undisciplined thinking is like a cancer that devours the true potential in not just an individual but the community and will affect the generations that follow.
Identity and Responsibility. Trans-generational community identity is the first differentiator affecting the uniqueness of Jewish thinking. Engrained within the Jewish mind-set is how success is viewed as one’s role and responsibility as a part of the community. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the community plays a key role in meeting the lower level needs of the physiological, safety, love and belonging.
This shared identity and responsibility functionally translates into a complete social system, a safe place, whereby the needs of its members are met in such a way that within the community there are no homeless, none who are left alone. Holocaust survivors and the elderly are honored and are cared for.
This functional community identity is more highly developed in Jewish culture than in most other cultures around the world. It reflects an assumed community responsibility. In the words of Moses: “If there is a poor man among your people, do not be hard-hearted but give generously to those in need.” The significance of the community responsibility for the poor and needy among its members was also expressed as being tied to the heart of God by Isaiah. While there are many expressions of Judaism, all passionately come together in a shared identity by agreeing on: “Worshipping the God of Israel and helping the poor.”
Cultural Moral Traditions and Protection. The instructions Moses gave on keeping the Sabbath represents a tradition that protects and sanctifies. To sanctify means to be cleansed from something that can impact or influence you in a negative way. It is a means of protection against the toxic described by Dr. Leaf. With that protection there comes a peace of mind.
A few years ago, during a working visit to Israel, I was having Shabbat dinner with a family of Jewish believers. I was sitting on a couch that looked out over the neighborhood and a fairly busy road. As the sun was setting and the Shabbat began there was an awesome conscious stillness in the environment around us. Hardly any cars were on the road. Most people were in their homes preparing for this weekly Shabbat meal with family and friends. These are traditions that honor God. Not only does the process strengthen the foundations for the community’s faith in God, it provides a shield of protection that impacts both the attitudes and thinking of those who are a part.
Righteous Standards and Trust Society. At the core of any community will be shared beliefs and priorities. In a world in which compromise is defined by the degree at which it operates, higher standards represents a choice upheld by the community and those comprising it. A righteous standard determines how people in a community relate to one another. Without a righteous standard, there can be no trust society. A trust society is a safe place, whereby its members contribute to and foster the welfare of others, knowing that when you cast your bread upon the waters, it will return to you.
In previous sessions, we’ve noted the research done by Francis Fukuyama on trust societies. Dr. Fukuyama’s conclusions are that high-trust societies do much better entrepreneurially than low-trust societies. It follows that creativity, innovation and bringing about increase are ways of thinking that will excel to a much higher degree in high-trust communities.
Gifts, Opportunity Enablers and Honor. Within Jewish trust communities is a system of mentoring. It incorporates identifying and nurturing the gifts of its members and enabling opportunity. This process begins early with the rites of passage of its young people, the bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs. Within the community, its members are blessed in order to be a blessing. This was the mandate God gave to Abraham. It begins with this shared identity, moral traditions and righteous standards. It involves the community’s role in the final two steps of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs whereby esteem and self-actualization become entwined with one’s identity in the community.
When these factors function as they were designed in the writings of Moses they become a system of honor that combines the enhancement of the destinies of its members into the destiny of the community. These are the foundations of how Jewish thinking is designed to be cultivated within the community, from one generation to another.
The Impact of Jewish Thinking
However, with their identity entwined in the mandate God gave their forebear Abraham, the destiny of these people of God is designed to have an impact on the rest of the world. God told Abraham that through his descendents all the peoples of the earth would be blessed. Whether it has been liked or not, whether it has been embraced or not, Jewish thinking is shaped by this destiny. To the degree that this destiny has manifested to the outside world reflects the degree by which Jews have been described by Mr. Pease as disproportionate achievers and contributors to society.
God-Dependency and Self-Sufficiency. The process within the community of being a people who operate with God so much at the center, that they become God-dependent, results in a community self-sufficiency. The challenge over the centuries has been the urge to assimilate, to be like the societies around them. However, when the God-dependency and self-sufficiency is functioning according to the design, it will result in them becoming a light and a blessing to the societies around them. At least in part, it is because their thinking is not polluted by the toxic influences of the world.
The differences in beliefs, the way the community takes care of themselves and the way Jews think will be quickly observed within environments in which people are out for themselves. It reflects the character of Jews as they are seen as a people. It is a cultural foundation that then translates into service and leadership.
Service and Leadership. Jesus articulated a very Jewish concept to His followers about leadership. He noted that without God, leadership is about the conduct of personal power. However with God, leadership is about service. Along these same lines, Jesus gave focus to another very Jewish matter, the Kingdom of God. He outlined principles of the Kingdom and how to apply righteous power in corrupt settings. At the core of these instructions was the premise that true leadership and influence came by means of service and faithful stewardship of one’s responsibilities. It is the manifestation of the Jewish way of thinking.
Joseph the Patriarch, having been sold into slavery in Egypt, demonstrated this faithful service orientation and in each of the three stages of his tenure in Egypt, it brought him promotion into leadership. In the process, it is written, that everyone around him observed the reality of God operating through Joseph. When promoted to work alongside Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s response targeted Joseph’s way of thinking, not only that it was unusually wise, but that Pharaoh discerned as coming from God.
Authority, Influence and Power. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has always been a God of infinite power. He is the Creator. He who formed the heavens and laid out the foundations of the earth is no less powerful today than when He parted the sea or when He answered the defilement of His people with fire from heaven.
Returning to the example of Joseph, during each of the three stages of his time in Egypt something unusual happened. When Joseph was but a slave in Potiphar’s house, with no status or position, Potiphar observed the authority of God operating through Joseph. His response was to entrust Joseph with his authority as administrator over his household. The same thing happened when through no fault of his own that Joseph was put into prison. The jailer began observing the authority of God that operated through Joseph, due to Joseph’s different way of thinking and operating. The result was the jailer entrusting Joseph with the responsibilities of overseeing the rest of the prisoners. So it was when Pharaoh was exposed to Joseph’s way of thinking. Joseph’s God-thoughts were ascribed to God. The outcome was Joseph being promoted to administer the resources throughout the entire land of Egypt.
A Different Way of Thinking with Purpose and Action
Jesus spent entire nights in prayer, aligning Himself with the heart and thoughts of God. He then gave a very dramatic illustration that gives insight into how Jews think. Jesus said that whoever comes to Him and hears His words and does not act on them is like a man building a house without a foundation. When the flood comes, then the house is destroyed. The foundation to the thinking takes root in the doing.
Time spent in prayer with a listening heart is time in which God’s people are able to align themselves with the heart of God. This alignment will change the thinking of those seriously pursuing this level of prayer. However, as the change of thinking takes place, so then does the way of acting on the alignment brought about by the prayer.
In our hometown is a Vietnamese man who in the early 1990s fled his country by boat, seeking a better way of life. He wound up in an Indonesian refugee camp, in conditions of squalor. Because he spoke English and initially to alleviate the boredom, he became an interpreter for a Bible teacher who visited the camp. He relates that despite initially not understanding the principles he was interpreting, he eventually began understanding the ways of God. He describes his response to applying these ways, within these very humble circumstances, as being the happiest he had ever been.
The process resulted in him becoming a man of prayer. Then when the refugee camp was disbanded and he was returned to Vietnam, the uncertainty of what lay before him became a serious matter of prayer. He began acting on the truth that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mine.
As it happened, this was the time in the late 90s when the US Secretary of State came to Vietnam and relations between the two nations were being restored. Part of the agreement made during that visit of State was for the US to grant green cards (a work permit and the first step toward citizenship) to 250 of a very long list of Vietnamese seeking to immigrate to the US. Our friend was one of those selected.
There is something in the Jewish model of processing thought that brings definition to one’s identity, develops one’s gift and sets before them a destiny that is bigger than the span of their years. It dovetails with the culture and the community which reinforce and supports both the goal of its individuals and the community to do something more, something greater that extends beyond the generation at hand.
Community as God defined it becomes the foundation for nurturing the way its members think and interact. It defines and hones the purpose and meaning of its members as the role of each is honored and nurtured and melded into the aggregate bigger picture. Then with prayer, the standard and traditions that strengthen the alignment with God and gives strategy and wisdom to the thoughts of its members, God’s people are then primed to become people of action, each employing their unique gifts to bless those around them and in so doing, contributing to their mutual destinies.
As it was written to the descendants of Abraham, the children of Jacob: “Seek the Lord and His strength. Seek His presence continually. Remember the works He has done, His wonders and the judgments He has pronounced.”
Morris Ruddick has been a forerunner and spokesman for the higher dimensions of business leadership since the mid-90s. As founder of Global Initiatives Foundation and designer of the God’s Economy Entrepreneurial Equippers Program, Mr. Ruddick imparts hope and equips economic community builders to be blessed to be a blessing where God’s light is dim in diverse regions around the globe.
He is author of “The Joseph-Daniel Calling;” “Gods Economy, Israel and the Nations;” “The Heart of a King;” “Something More;” “Righteous Power in a Corrupt World;” “Leadership by Anointing;” and “Mantle of Fire,” which address the mobilization of business and governmental leaders with destinies to impact their communities. They are available in print and e-versions from www.Amazon.com, www.apple.com/ibooks and www.BarnesandNoble.com.
Global Initiatives Foundation (www.strategic-initiatives.org) is a tax-exempt 501 (c) 3 non-profit whose efforts are enabled by the generosity of a remnant of faithful friends and contributors whose vision aligns with God’s heart to mobilize economic community builders imparting influence and the blessings of God. Checks on US banks should be made out to Global Initiatives and mailed to PO Box 370291, Denver CO 80237 or by credit card at http://strategicintercession.org/support/
Likewise, email us to schedule a seminar for your group’s gathering on the Joseph-Daniel Calling or on anointing the creative in business.
Reproduction is prohibited unless permission is given by a SIGN advisor. Since early 1996, the Strategic Intercession Global Network (SIGN) has mobilized prophetic intercessors and leaders committed to targeting strategic-level issues impacting the Body on a global basis. For previous posts or more information on SIGN, check: http://www.strategicintercession.org