God Wants You To Be Rich
A Conversation with Paul Zane Pilzer, author of
Unlimited Wealth, The Next Trillion, and
God Wants You To Be Rich


By John Milton Fogg

I first encountered Paul Zane Pilzer on an audio tape a friend sent me where he was interviewed by Tony Robins--"Power Tapes," I think they were called. Pilzer was an economist in the Reagan White House--which fact immediately turned me off (not the least judgmental was I), but I pushed "Play" anyway and started off down the road. In less than a mile, I stopped my car, pulled off the road, and sat there, transfixed, listening to Pilzer. Power tape, indeed! "Economic alchemy..." was extraordinary. For the first time (for me, anyway), economics made sense--and it was hopeful and optimistic, too! Since that time, I've had the learning pleasure of meeting with Paul and interviewing him at least five times. Every encounter with P.Z.P. is mind-opening--and heart-opening as well. I always slide into our conversation by asking Paul if he's been nominated for the Nobel Prize in economics yet. "No; not yet." I say, it's inevitable! --JMF

Paul, given the subtitle of one of your books, "God Wants You To Be Rich," and a chapter in another one of your books, "God Wants You to be Healthy," the notion of spiritual values in business clearly is not foreign to you.

No, in fact, I was looking forward to this interview when you told me the topic! I'm very excited to see this interview in your magazine; it obviously is my favorite topic.

Spirituality has been the foundation of all of my work, even though the theological basis has not been as evident in my work as I would like it to be. My secular publishers and speaking clients do a good job of telling me to remove it from my work. This is my first interview where I can "take the gloves off" in terms of my theological beliefs and how they have affected the development of my economic theories.

 

So take off the gloves: what do you see?

What is theology? What are spirituality, economics, material needs...? To me, they're all the same. We can start by looking at the first book of any great religion; for most Judeo-Christian-Muslims, we start with the Creation and science.

To me, "science" means economics: knowledge that will help you improve your life. If you are a farmer, back in the days when most of our great religions were founded, you wanted information that would give you more food, safe shelter and more free time to raise your children.

Genesis has nothing to do with God, it has to do with the Creation of the world; it has to do with physics. Genesis is really a scientific explanation, based on the science of the time. In God Wants You To Be Rich, I traced the origins of Genesis, an "economist's walk through Genesis."

Genesis provides a study of the first person who synthesized the science in Genesis into a way of life that gave him more material wealth: Abram, later renamed Abraham, who is considered the father of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish religions. Abram means "father," and Abraham, to which Abram's name was changed, means "father of many nations."

This "father of many nations," who is also the father of Ishmael (founder of the Arab world) and Isaac (whose direct descendants founded Judaism and Christianity), came up with a theory of economics on which our modern world and the US Constitution is based.

Abraham was a nomad who wandered from Ur into Canaan; in Canaan, he discovered that if he didn't roam around taking food off the land, but instead domesticated animals and planted seeds, he could become much wealthier. By planting food on the land, growing it--in effect, by making it his own food--Abraham turned from nomad to farmer.

A nomad anywhere on Earth--say, in a Native American tribe--will pray every night, "Oh, God, please help us find food tomorrow," then go out tomorrow and wander around looking for food. Abraham realized that he would be better off if he stayed put, and so every night--and this is the big theological switch--Abraham would pray not, "God, give me food," but, "God, give me strength to go out and work tomorrow for food."

I cannot stress how important this is. To me, Abraham is the "theological light switch" that says, we can grow our own food, and turn to God--or whoever you see as your higher being--for strength, to grow more food and deal with adversity in the process.

Now of course, Abraham had a problem: he was the only one who got it. A Philistine from the north or an Egyptian from the south would come and say, "Wow, look at all this food growing on this beautiful field. Let's take some of this food and bring it back to Philistia or to Egypt."

Can you picture Abraham walking out in his robe and saying, "Hey, excuse me, I planted this food. This is mine..."? What would they say back? "Silly man! Everyone knows that God makes food. There's enough for everybody, we'll take what we need back with us...," and off they go to Palestine or Egypt. Can you imagine Abraham trying to argue that he had just planted it six months ago? They'd think he was crazy.

Abraham prayed that one day everyone in the world would get it. Instead of crossing the borders, fighting and taking people's food by force, they could all grow their own and have unlimited food. Think of that: unlimited food, unlimited material wealth, if they would just stay organized and respect each other's property!

What Abraham wanted more than anything else was for everyone to understand what he had learned: the ability to make your own food, and the theological connection to turn to your higher spiritual being for strength to go and make it, not to just give it to them.

We see this clearly with the sacrifice of Isaac. This is a pivotal event in the Bible, when Abraham is willing to sacrifice his only son for God. God stops him from following through, and tells Abraham never to do that again--and makes a deal with Abraham known as the Covenant: "Because of your faith in Me, Abraham, one day everyone in the world will know what you know."

What does that mean? It means, "Abraham, one day, your followers"--and the Hebrew word here, usually translated "descendants," really translates as "the people who believe what you believe," not biological descendants (even though in many cases they were one and the same)--"will be as numerous as the sands on the shore and the stars in the heaven."

To Abraham, that didn't refer to how all these people would relate to one God; it meant that they would all follow the rules God had given him--the rules of respect for private property, of ownership, and of the ability to turn to God for strength to make your own food.

The rest of the world's history (as I tell this story in God Wants You To Be Rich--and throughout all of my work, really) is the 5000 years it took us to finally reach that point. When I stood at the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when I stood with President Reagan at Moscow University (at the center of the "Evil Empire") in front of Lenin's bust, I clearly saw firsthand the end of that 5000-year journey towards an understanding of the laws of Abraham.

 

How do we bring spiritual principles and practices into our business today, in a practical way?

We need first to realize that our entrepreneurial side is not disconnected from our spiritual side. The act of being an entrepreneur is a theological act: it is a belief that God has given you the tools to go out, make money and take care of your
family.

Included in that belief is the understanding that the better you do your job, the better you, your customers and the world will all be. This is so because of the reality of unlimited resources.

In the 1930's, we had 30 million farmers supporting 100 million Americans. Today, fewer than three million farmers support 300 million Americans--and export 50 percent more food at the same time! More importantly, the yields per acre have gone up 100 times--making land a virtually unlimited resource.

Unlimited land, unlimited energy and unlimited resources mean that we do not live in a zero-sum-gain world. We live in a world where we use our minds and our belief in our abilities to create wealth for everyone. This means that each person, if he understands these laws--which I consider to be theological underpinnings of our economy--is able to go out and create unlimited wealth for himself. Furthermore, we live in a world where the more you succeed, not only are you wealthy, but everyone else in the world is also more wealthy, because in today's world, we succeed by serving.

 

Paul, what do you say to people who don't believe in the existence of God?

I often say, "That's not important. Let's talk about what God would want you to do if He did exist."

If there were a God, would He need us to pray to Him, to bend in homage and say, "Oh, God, you are great..."? Of course not. God would already know He is great. What God would want from us is that we serve other human beings. If I say to you, "John, go to hell," God would say, "Hey, wait a minute--I love John. If you want to mess with John, Paul, you come mess with me." To me, our theological mission of serving God is really about serving other people, starting with our immediate families and then the people we touch, and the entire world.

How do we serve other people? We give them something that makes them happy. This would start with food and shelter, and might progress to teaching them a theological way of life that helps their well-being. What makes any business more successful than any other? It produces more happiness and more satisfaction for its customers than its competitors do.

Business is about serving other people. The better you are at giving people something that improves their lives, the more successful you are, and the more money you make. That, to me, is serving God: doing the best job you can at serving other people.

I love to stand in a mall near a cash register and watch people shop around, looking at merchandise, looking at the prices. Most people would see what they're doing as an economic act, but I think of it as a theological act. Someone worked very hard, left his family for hours to make ten bucks an hour, and now he has fifty bucks in his pocket--and this business is working harder to make him part with that fifty bucks!

When the customer voluntarily parts with his money, this business has given him something worth more than the money in his pocket and the hours he spent to make it. He gets happiness because we only spend money on things we really want. That, to me, is theology: that is serving God. I see it every time I see the register ring. When someone voluntarily steps up to the register and buys something, I say, "That businessman did a better job serving God, by producing that product for that person, than the competition."

 

Paul, you have a long-time, up-close-and-personal knowledge of network marketing. Are there unique opportunities for spiritual business in the networking realm?

Oh, absolutely. One thing I like so much about networking is that without meaning to, you are teaching religion and theology as much as you are teaching about your business.

In the act of sitting down with someone, one-on-one, the networker has an unusual opportunity to teach others about unlimited wealth: that we are not running out of resources--that when they succeed, they are creating more wealth for everyone.

Sadly, this is not a prevalent view in our media, especially as we enter such a time of turmoil. Once you teach someone that their success doesn't take away from others, but actually adds to our overall wealth, then you can give them the tools and directions to go out and serve other people.

More than any other business, network marketing starts with the core: not with the product or the service, but with helping other people, by teaching other people how to succeed, regardless of their education or what business or field they've been in.

Unfortunately, the economics of most businesses are that when you go to hire someone for a job, you look at what college he went to, and even if you like him, you may not be able to hire him.

What's so exciting about network marketing is that you can offer this opportunity to anyone, and people can maximize the value of their life experiences to date instead of having those life experiences limit their opportunity.

 

What can we do to get more of this understanding into the daily practice of our businesses?

Where appropriate, we can use the icons of our religion and our business interchangeably. I have had good success in teaching economics because I have used the examples from Genesis and other books of the Bible that are common to Muslims, Christians and Jews. People know these stories, and when you relate them to an economic outcome, they understand it better and are often more inspired to succeed in their business--especially as they also see that as succeeding in their faith.

Too many business people feel that religion is inappropriate. I will argue that religion is inappropriate when you are talking to someone of a different religion--but if you happen to be Jewish, and you are sitting with someone who has the same Jewish education and religious values you do, of course you should use Jewish analogies and Jewish stories and other elements of your faith to help explain business concepts to them.

This applies if you are a Muslim talking to a Muslim or a Christian talking to a Christian. This does not apply if you are a Christian trying to explain your business practices to a Muslim or to someone else who doesn't follow your religion.

 

You said that you run into trouble when you want to speak about this from the stage?

Oh, absolutely.

 

What is that resistance all about?

America is founded on the beautiful concept that we don't convert each other's children--but in my view, we have taken the "separation of church and state" too far. To me, there is nothing wrong with your going on stage and expressing your religious beliefs to show how they tie to your business. But people view this as proselytizing and tune out.

My corporate clients are very concerned about my putting any of my religious beliefs into my speeches. I believe taking them out waters down my speeches, but if my customer thinks it is going to have a negative impact and I can't convince them otherwise, I obey them--because they are my customer and I am here to serve them. So I remove most of my religious background stories.

When I wrote Unlimited Wealth in 1990, it was a great success, got on all the talk shows, became a major bestseller. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, felt it was the most important book he had ever read, and he adamantly promoted it as such.

A few years later, I get a call from Simon & Schuster, who had published my first big hit, Other People's Money, but was no longer my publisher. They call me in and say, "Paul, we want to talk to you about Unlimited Wealth." I say, "Unlimited Wealth is already published by Random House, your competitor." And my editor says, "No, Paul--" and he holds up a copy of Unlimited Wealth "--in Unlimited Wealth you told only half the story. I know you: you've taken out all your religious references. You've given all the conclusions, but you've taken out your faith. We want you to rewrite Unlimited Wealth and put all the religion and the faith back in!"

That was the creation of God Wants You To Be Rich. Actually, the title of the book is "The Theology of Economics," but Andy Rooney lampooned it one day on "60 Minutes"; he called it, "The Theology of Economics: God Wants You To Be Rich"--and that parody stuck as the name of the book.

 

That's a great story!

I am proud to say that when I wrote The Next Trillion and The Wellness Revolution, my religion is all there--I'm wearing it on my sleeve. My theological belief is that only a true and just God could create a world where one person's success leads to greater success for the whole society.

 

Paul, is there anything else you want to add?

Most of what I'd want to say about theology is contained in the second chapter of God Wants You To Be Rich; that is the core of my theological beliefs.

I realize these are good things we are doing, John. God Wants You To Be Rich was a bestseller twice, both in paperback and in hardcover, in '95 and again in '97. It's still selling very well at Amazon and in 18 different languages. This clearly shows that there is a huge need out there among people to reconcile their theological and economic lives.

We live during the first time in history when people have made a deliberate disconnect between economics and theology: "I do this for business and I do that for church." In so doing, people completely miss that what will make them successful in business is precisely those values they learned in church. The values of honesty and integrity will lead to long-term customers.

More importantly, people miss the economic concept that in this world of unlimited resources, one person's gain is a gain for all people in all of society. It is a great motivating force to help you understand your faith better. We live in a time where people think we should separate them; I believe that we should combine them.