COVID-19: Biblical Principles to Help Business Owners and Employees

The economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 crisis is staggering. Cary Summers provides advice for business owners, pastors, and leaders facing challenges in this season.


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The news flash is unemployment could reach 20% or more and there could be a record number of bankruptcies filed. We cannot adequately describe the economic devastation that’s being brought by this Coronavirus pandemic. When I heard this news, I thought about the many people losing their jobs, their families, and employers trying to cope with it all. And so I reached out to my good friend, Cary Summers who is one of the most successful CEOs that I know, a Christian businessman that has enormous faith and endurance. Cary Summers is President Emeritus of the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC which is phenomenal. Previously, he served as president and CEO of the Herschend Family Entertainment, Silver Dollar City Corporation, one of the largest theme park attraction operators in the nation. He also served as the vice president for Bass Pro Shops and as General Manager of Abercrombie & Fitch.

Here is Cary’s advice for business owners, pastors, nonprofit leaders and so many others facing organizational challenges during this season.

I’ve never been through a Coronavirus-19 episode of my life. But I did go through 1987 and then in the year 2000, we had just opened a brand new major development in Israel. The grand opening was the first day of the first shot of the Intifada, the conflict that exists today. Then, in 2009, we decided that we would try to build a Museum of the Bible in Washington and I think most of us can still remember what 09 and 10 were like. So, I’ve had for some reason, been fortunate to have lived through three of the more major financial crises and political crises worldwide in the last 35 years. What helped me through all of those is something that I started looking at in the mid-80s when I was trying to find something that I could send employees to so that they can understand principles to live their life by and to operate their companies by. I sent them to all kinds of seminars all over the world, including Disney, these were very good by the way. Disney and Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk, Connecticut, and Ritz Carlton, the Covey Leaderships.


They’d come back and in their report they said, “Well, here’s the new principles.” And I said, “Wait a minute, principles are something that don’t change with time. They stand the test of time.” It got me starting to dig and find out what is sustainable and what is something that has lived through crisis after crisis and challenge after challenge. It drove me to the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament in the Bible. When I stumbled on the book of Nehemiah in the early 80s, I found it fascinating. I read it and reread it and reread it, now I’ve read it maybe 100 times. I found principles that are in there that were developed during the time of Nehemiah. That was some of the most terrible times in the world, and the most difficult times in the world. Those principles by which he operated and used them to go back and rebuild the walls around Jerusalem became etched in my heart. I realized that this was God’s principles. Somebody would ask me, “Well, how do you know they still work?” And I said, “Well, that was 2,500 years ago, they worked then and they still work today in the middle of every crisis that I’ve been in. So, I think I’m gonna hang my hat on those versus the latest writer, even though I have tremendous respect for a lot of these guys that have been writing.”

So, what do we find in Nehemiah? Why should I make such a dogmatic statement that they do work and they don’t move? Well, first of all, if you look at the major themes in Nehemiah, it was a careful constant reading of God’s Word that got Nehemiah through these challenges that he went through. Number two, God worked through the obedience of Nehemiah. It was God’s plan. It was his rebuilding, but he worked through Nehemiah in his obedience to God. Number three, when you’re doing God’s work, the opposition will come. Even though we’re in this major crisis right now, we, hopefully, will start coming out of it in the near future. There’s still going to be a lot of opposition that’s going to come in. Nehemiah was aware of that, and God saw him even through that. Number four, God can and will use circumstances for His glory. I call it the economy of God. It’s difficult for us to see all that and I think he knew that. It’s one reason, we’re not given all those in-depth insights, because we wouldn’t know how to handle it if we did.


Nehemiah realized that the wall of Jerusalem had been destroyed. Some of that is happening right now in so many lives in this country and around the world there’s a destruction of our wall, our human spiritual wall. It’s not something that is sudden.

Nehemiah also realized that he could not rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, except by the power of God Himself. We’re going to look at a few principles real quick today on how he started and why he did what he did.

Nehemiah stuck to God’s leading no matter what the opposition said or, in our case, the circumstance is, he stuck to God, he knew it was God’s deal and he was just going to stay with it.


If you look at the book of Nehemiah, it’s very interesting how it’s structured. Number one, they were in captivity. The Babylonians had captured Israel, they had taken them into prison. And Cyrus the king came on from a Persian Medes defeat of the Babylonians. Cyrus was a heathen king. He allowed the migration to come back to Israel. I found it fascinating that the first person who went back was Zerubbabel and he went back and he built the temple. Why the temple? Why not a wall to protect the city? God told him to build the temple because he first had to establish this spiritual emphasis. It’s the same way in our lives during this crisis. We can create the physical walls around us to protect us from all this, we can stay at home which is highly advised. We can do all these other actions. But when that same thing was occurring in the time of Nehemiah, it was the spiritual building that he first had reconstructed. The second is when Ezra went back and he filled that spiritual building with God’s Word. Then third is when Nehemiah went back 100 years later and built the wall around it. I always found that interesting that God first said, I want the spiritual side first and to get that right, and then I will provide the means and the person in my gumption to get that physical protection then built. But it all first starts with the spiritual side.


In the middle of Nehemiah’s crisis, walls have been destroyed, enemies everywhere, they have just come out of seven years of captivity. Now what? If we look at Nehemiah there are some guiding principles.

In the book of Nehemiah chapter one it says, Nehemiah had a concern for the condition of the people. During this time, we should take a self-examination of do we really have a concern for our neighbors and our employees? Not just a theoretical concern. Nehemiah’s heart was broken, and his concern and the condition of his people then moved into compassion. If we really have that God-given condition, especially among Christians, it should move us to action.

Nehemiah not only recognized the condition of the people, and stepped out with compassion for the people, but he also recognized that God’s power was the only way that they were going to get through this and to have the walls around Jerusalem rebuilt. It wasn’t Nehemiah’s wall, the publication says it’s Nehemiah’s wall has really little to do with it. It has to do with the obedience of one person with the power of God fused within him in a way that this compassion and condition and observation took place.

So, how did he get there? What just happened? We see in the fourth point that’s found in Nehemiah one that not only did he pray for the people but then he also made himself available to the people. It’s one thing to have compassion, it’s one thing to understand the conditions, one thing to understand God’s word. But are you willing to make yourself available for God to use you during this time of crisis? I’ve read so many great stories lately about people, just stepping out and saying, God, here I am, and God is using them in an amazing way to meet the needs of this world right now. God is just waiting for those few people to raise their hand and say I’m ready.

Nehemiah prayed for them, he made himself available to meet their needs then he waited upon God. He didn’t run ahead of God. Waiting and praying go hand in hand. We can’t do a whole lot ourselves. But he wants us to stay in the game, not to abandon ship. He’s given us a vision. It may be a vision for ministries right now, for your church right now, or might be a vision for your business. He never said stop doing that. Just take a timeout and really examine what he has given us to do. Nehemiah looked at himself. He said, “Oh my goodness, I’m telling all these people that here’s the problem but I’m the problem.” During this time that we’re in, God should be speaking to every one of our hearts and we should be asking ourselves that question; God, what have I done that is not totally serving you? What am I doing with my employees? What about my actions and decision making that I have had come down the line? Was that really in alignment with you? We’re given an incredible time right now, to say, God, I ask your forgiveness in these areas where I have not lived up to what you’ve asked me to do, and I have not treated people correctly. Nehemiah admits his human weaknesses to God. And I think it’s one of the key critical reasons that God used him as his obedient servant to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem because he laid his heart open to God. The question is, are we doing that right now? We have that option to do that.

Nehemiah allowed God to speak through him to the people. This is something that only God can do. We can get out and voice, our opinions, and our education, but it’s only the voice of God that is literally going to motivate people. It’s going to pull them through these kinds of circumstances. God is looking to use us for that purpose.

I think the most important scripture verse in the book of Nehemiah is found in Nehemiah Two. Nehemiah gets to Jerusalem and he says he’s there with a few good men and he walks around with the walls at night and he prays and cries out to God. Now, God had already given him a plan. And he’s given us many plans right now. Nehemiah went back to God, and it was just him and God in the darkness and this is when God puts the- as Chuck Swindoll says in his book Hand Me Another Brick, this is when God puts the steel in individuals. We are allowing God in this darkness right now to put steel in us so that we can be used in this process to get through it. God is saying, are you willing to be in the silence with me so I can speak to you, so I can put steel in you and I can start using you in the most powerful way?

Then Nehemiah spent the time to get his plan together, to organize the plan that God had laid upon him. And are we doing that now? Are we using this time to allow God to give us the plan? Maybe it’s a revision in our ministry, maybe it’s a revision in our business. Now he’s asking us, each and every one of us that believes in Him as the sovereign God to cry out to Him and ask Him to give us that steel and that plan. So, as we exit this, we will be a new person. We might even be a new company, we might even be a new ministry because God has spoken to us and we have yielded ourselves to them. What will happen then? Number one, Nehemiah, through the power of God, turned ultimate despair, into incredible hope where the people said it was an anointing. People said that is not Nehemiah, that is God speaking. When we come out of this, how many people will tell us, we heard God through you, we saw God through you? It’s an opportunity that many of us will never have again.

Then Nehemiah started working and he started praying. He never abandoned God during this whole process. Even then, when success was coming, he realized that it was not his success. It was God’s success. Nehemiah 4:6, says it kept the morale up because they realized that it was beyond a human being that was leading them now, it was God himself.


While the stress and the discouragement started fading away even though it existed, success was there. Nehemiah never gave in to the discouragement. God is not the God of discouragement. This is something that the enemy uses. He’s a God of correction, he may stop things, close things, open doors, closed doors, but never through discouragement. Nehemiah kept his eyes upon God. God does not have the power of discouragement but of encouragement of light.

You will never find, for every word in the Bible, you will never find him being the God of discouragement. The enemy uses that because it’s camouflaged so well, we don’t realize that discouragement is coming from him. In fact, most of the time, we blame that situation. Many times we blame it on God Himself. Trust me, that is not God doing that. Especially during this time that we’re in right now, that tool is being used in an amazing amount. So many people are beating up God for this. That’s not God. That is Satan himself trying to discourage us.


  1. He trusted totally in God.
  2. He sought God through prayer and fasting.
  3. He put God first, others second, and he was third.
  4. When he realized that God was going to use him in a powerful way, he didn’t create an ego, didn’t create power, it created incredible humility because he realized it was in the hand of God Himself.

As we exit this incredible crisis, whenever that is, remember, God is the one that got us through it. He is not the God of discouragement.


Father, as we are in this incredible time in history, we’ve never seen anything like this, but you were totally aware of this. Father, we are weak at heart and we readily admit that to you. Father, we say we trust you but Lord, do we really trust you? Lord, we’re beaten up in many cases, we’re scared, not knowing what to do in so many circumstances dealing with employees and finance and health, and just the normal day of life has become totally changed. Father, I must admit, it’s not glorifying to you the way we’re handling it. So, Father, show us this week, that you are indeed the God of encouragement. You’re the God of light. You’re not the God of darkness. Father, as we struggle with layoffs of staff and people in finances, Father, that you intercede and you give us that peace that goes beyond any of our understanding. It’s your economy, not ours. Father, we realize that you are in the midst of us. Lord, we just ask that you would pour upon every single business person that is seeking you right now, every pastor, church ministry, every non-profit organization that is seeking you for what to do and how to help. Father, that you just create an anointing of wisdom and knowledge in people. Father, they’ve realized that it’s from you and you alone. We claim that. That’s the one thing that Nehemiah did, he claimed the promises that you gave to His people.

Father, we’re here right now to claim that promise that if we bring it on to you, and it glorifies you that you will take charge of that, and you will do something with that. Father, we just make that claim in the blood in the name of Jesus Christ right now that you would intercede in the most powerful way nobody will ever deny that it was you and you alone, who stepped into the midst of all this because of what you’re about to do. So, Father, we claim that and we claim it in the name of Jesus. Father, just let us use this time for us to repent to you, for you to put the steel in us as we yield our own desires and our thoughts to you and our plans to you. Father, use this to change our course in our life, keep our vision on what you’ve given it to us, Father, but allow us to just resubmit that to you just as Nehemiah did, resubmitted the plans to you by walking on that wall at night and nobody else around. We’re just resubmitting our life and our plans to you right now, Father and just confirm them. We accept that and we grab on to it in the blood and the name of Jesus Christ.