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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Multi-Level Marketing

I'm sure you know someone. We all do. They're friendly enough. Perhaps they're even people that we love dearly. But then they go down a path that surprises us. And perhaps it annoys us. I'm talking about friends and family who engage in "multi-level marketing."

You know the drill. They sign up and then they sign up 10 people who sign up 10 people --- who sign up 10 people. They all save mucho bucks on whatever it is that's being sold. Their lives are greatly enriched with the wonderful product or service that's being sold. And of course everyone makes zillions of dollars and lives a lavish lifestlye.

Amway, Mary Kay, and others. Toy parties, candle parties and other such "events" help make the products & services available to all our friends. Really, we're doing them a favor by inviting them and give them the opportunity to buy from us! (At least that's what the training brochure says.)

I don't know about you, but it makes me uncomfortable. I don't like it when Verizon comes knocking on my door at dinner time to try and switch me to Verizon's FioS cable TV & Internet service. And I don't want to attend any so-called "parties" where I have my arm twisted to buy something I don't want or need. Often we glance through those catalogues and pick out something to buy - just so we can get out of the brow-beating as painlessly as possible. It's easier to buy something than to say no!

When I have friends or family who persist in trying to include me in their multi-level marketing business ... I'm pretty much done with them. The friendship tends to end as they give it a back seat in favor of their "business." Whether it's to save money on electricity, save my life with vitamins or make Christmas really special with scented candles --- these people have put a price on our friendship. I always find myself offended, hurt and puzzled (in that order).

Do these people engaged in multi-level marketing (MLM) know how offensive it is when they try to con me every time we talk? Are they aware that it hurts my feelings to be viewed as just another customer to be milked for whatever they're selling? Do they understand the price they're puting on this friendship or other relationship? Do they care?

I'd like to condemn multi-level marketing and say it's of the devil. Unfortunatley I haven't found Biblical support for such a positon. But I did find this write up recently at a web site I find myself being drawn more and more. The web site is Here's what they had to say about multi-level marketing:

Question: "What does the Bible say about MLM (multi-level marketing)?"

The Bible does not address multi-level marketing specifically, but it does give some principles regarding providing goods or services in general and our involvement in them. MLM companies have been a frequent subject of controversy and lawsuits because of their similarity to illegal pyramid schemes, price-fixing of their goods and services, high initial start-up costs, emphasis on recruitment of lower-tiered salespeople over actual sales, requiring associates to purchase and use the company's products, frustratingly complex compensation schemes, and the cult-like techniques which some groups use to “hook” and keep those in lower tiers.

There is nothing illegal about most MLM companies, but are they a good fit for a Christian? Both spiritually and physically, God gifts us with abilities. He also intends for us to use all of our abilities on behalf of others, not solely for our own gain (
Acts 20:35). We are also told to “consider others better then yourselves (Philippians 2:30). This focus on serving others, seen in Christ Himself, is reflected in the frequent use of the word, “give” and is a general principle of Scripture. The contrast to a focus on giving is a focus on getting, also called “greed” or “covetousness.” As Christians, our life focus on giving should also be reflected in our chosen occupation in which we seek to give to others through our work. It is true that our employers should reasonably compensate us for our labor (Luke 10:7), but our primary focus should not be on what we receive.

There is another principle found in Scripture that applies: you can know a tree by its fruit. While this principle was specifically given about being able to identify false teachers (
Matthew 12:33), its application extends beyond that. According to one business teacher who has spent a good deal of time researching 350 MLM companies, over 90% of the people who become involved with MLM companies end up leaving those companies in just a few years. He also found that on average 99% of those involved with MLM companies end up losing money (see These statistics alone say something about a company that uses the multi-level marketing technique as its primary way of selling its product.

As with any business/financial venture, the Christian’s first responsibility is to obey the Lord’s command that we love one another (
John 13:34) and Paul’s admonition to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Seen from that perspective, for the Christian, MLM would seem to be a less than ideal enterprise.

Recommended Resource: Business for the Glory of God by Wayne Grudem.

Source: - September 2010

So there's the answer. Multi-level marketing may not be unbiblical. But it certainly lacks the virtues of maybe Philippians 4:8. It is not typically excellent and worthy of praise. Now I don't have to harbor resentment and bitterness toward my friends who offend me with their chronic conning me to buy their crap. I can just forgive them as misguided people who are lost without the truth.

The fact is there are more excellent things they could be doing than trying to shake down everyone they know for commerce. God bless 'em and lead 'em to that truth, please!

1 comment:

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