Matthew Tan, has over thirty years of experience in the business world, sits as a Director of several companies. He is currently the Chief Technology Officer of a listed company in the Singapore Stock Exchange. He is distinctly humble and simple in his demeanor despite his stature.
I was blessed to have been invited early this year to a small forum where Matthew shared for believers many encouraging stories about his journey walking with the Lord in the context of business. He had a few hours before he had to rush to the airport after his short Philippine visit but instead of exploring the bustling, lively Rockwell community where we all converged, Matthew chose to use this time to sit with us and answer questions anyone had about his topic.
Here are some some of the things he shared which I thought might inspire you [text emphasis mine]:
For Christians, what does the Word say about being in the marketplace?
Matthew 5:13-16 says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its flavour, how can it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” Then Jesus went on to say, “You are the light of the world. A city that’s set on the hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under the basket but on the lamp stand. It gives light to all who are in the house.” It says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Why does God call us the salt? Why not “eagle of the land, you will fly high?” Salt is used for seasoning. Salt by itself doesn’t taste good. What are some of the properties of salt? Why would God compare Christians to salt?
Salt gives flavour to food. By itself it tastes terrible but when mingled with food, salt tastes good. It actually brings out the natural flavour of food. Salt is useful when added to other things. But if salt just by itself, it is useless unless you add it to the other thing. (You have to mingle with others.)
In the area of Science, salt is used as a preservative. When you add salt to anything, it will be preserved. That’s why you have salted chicken, salted pork leg. It prevents it from rotting away.
Jesus tells us we are the light of the world. What does light mean? When there’s light, there’s no darkness. The more light you have, the less darkness you have. It has like a purifying effect. This involves us making a spiritual impact in the marketplace in line with the mission of the local church.
How does salt and light apply to the church? To love God and to love one another including the lost in the marketplace.
In Matthew Chapter 5, before it talks about the salt and light from verse 13, it talks about the beatitudes, the values of the kingdom of God (Blessed are the poor in spirit, etc.) because God wants to preserve kingdom values in the marketplace.
Have you ever thought that God will use you to bring the flavor of something that don’t really taste good in the marketplace?
A number of years ago, I was appointed as a Director of Sales in a regional airline. I was quite young then and it was a big company. One day, my wife asked me to send out a small letter that needed a 10 cent stamp (maybe P30). I went to Receptionist and asked her if she could help me mail out this personal letter and I will pay her back the next day for the cost of the stamp. She said, “Don’t worry. The company has many stamps and everyone in this company uses the company stamps to mail their own letter.” However, I reiterated and told her that this is a personal letter. The next day, I brought a stamp to replace the one I borrowed. She told me, “Mr. Tan, you’re very strange. For 10 cents, it’s okay.” But three months into the job, her boyfriend who knew what happened came. He had trouble and opened up to me. I prayed for him. He cried. The Lord showed me, “You can help shine God’s light in a world of darkness.”
Light talks about integrity. When people see that you have integrity, you will gain respect, influence, spiritual leadership. Because of the light, God gives you an open door into their lives. You are able to help those who do not go to church. Maybe they’ve had bad experiences there before. These are the people who think, “Aah, I make more money than you, why do you talk to me about God.” Someone has $1.2 million watches, all the money in the world but he needs prayer. You inspire more than you instruct not because of the position that you have [but because of your integrity].
Without realising it, you already have a platform. You mingle, mix like a food. In the marketplace, you are the salt and light. In the last days, God is going to use all of us. But you must have integrity.
Psalm 24:3-4 Who may ascend to the hills of the Lord but he who has clean hands. It’s very important that whatever we do, we must have clean hands because the Lord is watching.
My wife started working as a property agent three years ago when our youngest of three sons went off to secondary school… empty nest. She realised that a number of agents were not following the law. They’re not supposed to advertise properties unless they have exclusive rights to sell the house but agents were doing it. In the end, she had little or no customers. So we prayed. But after three years, she came up top property agent. When you walk in integrity, God will honour you.
2. SPIRIT OF EXCELLENCE
Be the best in everything you do. Whether you are a secretary, or helping your parents… become the best. You know who is an example of someone who became the best? Joseph in Genesis. Even as a slave, as a prisoner. It says, “The Lord was with him.” And Joseph was successful. God made him prosper. Subsequently, Joseph became the Prime Minister of Egypt. When you have the spirit of excellence, you bring out your testimony as salt and light to the world.
I’m now a Chief Technology Officer in a listed company and an adjunct professor. [But in the past], we have GCE O level Exam. I came from a poor family. I did not pay much attention in my studies and didn’t do well. I failed my college exam. I did a retake. But even at a young age, I was serving the Lord. I said, “God, I’m going to be the best even though my result is not a pass. I started from scratch. Along the way, I went back to study and I became an A student. In everything I do, I say, “God, please help me.”
During the time when I was with the airlines, every year, our bosses talk about the sales quota and they would asked me what’s my strategy to renew the business.”
We have to compete with airlines around the region … Every September there’s so much pressure. We got to see all our customers as we are competing for the same companies’ budget. But you know, as I begin to read about the life of Joseph, he always seeks the Lord. I went to God and said, “God, I want to be the best.” One evening when I was sleeping, I woke up at about 2:30 in the morning, I just saw the Lord giving me an idea. I woke up my wife and told my wife and she told me to write down the thoughts I was getting. In the morning I thought it was a dream but when I went to the table, I saw what I had written down. It was to launch a loyalty [incentive] program where they will be given a 10% cashback if they sign up their business with our airline by 15 December and pay the whole amount up front. What? [Everybody seemed to say.] In the airline industry, nobody give any cash back. They give points but they don’t give cash. I said, “God if this is You, I will give it a try.” I brought the proposal and gave it to my manager. The higher boss wanted to see me. He said, “Are you sure? You’re going to be responsible.” And I said, “Boss, we will give the cash but they cannot cancel.” By January, I had my full target fully met for the whole year. However, three months thereafter, the global economy was plunged into a financial crisis. The other airlines had massive cancellations except my company. My bosses said, “You did well, Matthew.” But you know what, it’s because I asked God for help.
Matthew prayed the release of the Joseph anointing upon those present to know the seasons, when and where to turn, before doing anything, that it be with God’s hand present, with wisdom to know how to make good investments and good business decisions but ultimately, always running back to the Lord.
Interestingly, Matthew didn’t know how many people would show up but there were exactly six people and when we looked around the room, there were exactly six chairs in the room as well. Praise God for this blessed opportunity.
Dear Lord, thank You for how You got a hold of Matthew’s heart from a young age and have been with him through his life, growing him in wisdom, stature, favour with you, and favour with men being salt and light in his family as well as in the marketplace. Even as in humility he pursues excellence and integrity, he seeks to preserve Your kingdom values where You put him. Thank You for his heart to share what he has learned with others who are willing to hear. Please help us to follow him as he follows You in Jesus’s name and for His glory, amen.