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

multi-level marketing, MLM audio

The Bible does not address multi-level marketing (MLM) specifically, but it does give some general principles that are applicable.

Take time to thoroughly research the company and pray about the opportunity.
Before becoming involved in any multi-level marketing business, investigate the company in detail. Review the start-up costs, ask to see the company’s income disclosure statement, ask questions, and understand the job description, expenses, and responsibilities. It is easy to get caught up in the hype of a sales pitch, so take a step back and look at the information and reviews. Ask someone you trust for wise counsel (Proverbs 12:15). Also, consider how the Bible’s command to “not be yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14) might apply.

The Bible says you can know a tree by its fruit. While this principle specifically concerns being able to identify false teachers (Matthew 12:33), its application extends beyond that. According to a Federal Trade Commission report, only 1 percent of multi-level marketing participants earn a profit. Realistic expectations are a must.

Investigate any associations the company has with religious groups. Some independent distributers within MLM businesses are affiliated with cults; others feed into the Word of Faith movement, using unbiblical techniques such as visualization and the “power of positive thinking” as part of their motivational training.

Investigate whether the multi-level marketing company is legitimate or if it is a pyramid scheme. If the money you earn is based on your sales, the company may be a legitimate business. If your earnings are based on the number of people you recruit and your sales to them, the company may be a pyramid scheme, which is illegal. Christians are not to participate in illegal ventures.

Also, investigate if the products for sale by the multi-level marketing are safe and reasonably priced. Make sure the company’s claims have truthful evidence to back them up. If the company is promising miracle products or quick cures, it should be avoided.

Check your motivation
Some multi-level marketing companies promise high income and rewards for little effort or money. Your motivation should be more than simply making money (Hebrews 13:5–6). Proverbs warns about the desire to make quick money (Proverbs 12:11). While employers should reasonably compensate for labor (Luke 10:7), our primary focus should not be on what we receive. 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.

Pursue your giftedness and talents
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 than [ourselves]” (Philippians 2:3). If you enjoy sales, and the responsibilities of the job fit within your skill set, then work on developing your skills and use them for God’s glory, whether that be through a traditional business model, self-employment, or through multi-level marketing.

Don’t lose your friends
When business and friendship collide, it is often a sign of trouble ahead. Remember that friendships are more important than making that extra sale. Unless your friends are also successful in the same business, they probably don’t want to hear about your business each time you meet. If a friend says “no” to your sales pitch, respect that. As with any business or financial venture, the Christian’s 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” (Philippians 2:3).

You can say “no”
Not everyone is skilled as a salesperson and social media expert, nor do they desire to be. Don’t be pressured to join a business that you aren’t skilled in or don’t want to participate in.

There is nothing illegal about most multi-level marketing companies, but they are not a good fit for everyone. Pray and ask God for wisdom before you launch into a new opportunity. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022