Why I am Convinced that Network Marketing is Evil

evil-marketing

“It’s not a pyramid,” insisted my friend across the table, “It’s more of a web of ladders.”

Slice it any way you want, it was a pyramid.  But I had known the guy for so long that I allowed myself to hear him out.

After all, it only cost $250 to join… and that’s a great investment considering the potential return! (or so I was told)

He shared the whole plan with me.  He shared all the success stories.  He took me to a large meeting at a hotel conference-center where millionaires in the program gave motivational speeches and sold the system to the group with all manner of hype and flash.

I even listened to the audio tapes he gave me.

In case the “tapes” didn’t give it away, this was about ten years ago.  I cared so much for this friend that I wanted to give an honest assessment of what he was offering.  But after my thorough “honest assessment,” I was out.

And I’ve never looked back.

I’m convinced that “Network Marketing” schemes are evil; and in this article, I’ll give you four key reasons that I — as a Christian — cannot participate at all.

Network Marketing is EvilWhy Network Marketing is Evil

Before we move on, I should define some terms here.  The good kind of “Network Marketing” is positive word-of-mouth that is rewarded with no strings attached.  For example, when my dad referred me to a car salesman he knew and trusted, the salesman sent my dad $100 in gift cards as a way of thanking him for the business.  That’s not a scheme — it’s just good etiquette and smart marketing.  The same can be said of “pyramid” programs that involve no up-front costs and allow people to freely participate without having to pay for or purchase anything at all.

The bad kind of Network Marketing — the “evil” kind, as I see it — is any system that promises all manner of success if you will simply buy into the program and start inviting others to join.  These programs involve some sort of membership fee “that will be earned back once you bring two (or three…or five) people on board.”

In the context of this article, these are the programs that I’m talking about.

Here are my four reasons Network Marketing is evil:

1) The Relational Reason

When I said “no” to my old friend, that was the last I heard from him.  I haven’t seen him or his audio tapes in about 10 years.  As it turns out, I was nothing more than a dollar sign that wore clothes.  Once he joined that program, the only thing he ever wanted to talk about was the “amazing opportunity” that he was “investing” in.  He was no longer interested in relating on any other terms.  The program had consumed him.

I don’t want that to happen to me.  But even if it didn’t, it would likely happen to someone else who I roped into the program.  I don’t want it to happen to them either, and I don’t want their problems to be my fault.  It’s better to be drowned than to lead someone else into sin. (See Matthew 18:6.)

2) The Missional Reason

I’ve seen pastors and other Christians wrapped up in these programs.  I’ve watched ministries fall apart.  I’ve observed ministers whose Facebook updates went from good teaching and wise sayings to promotions to join their pyramid, and then to bad teaching and confusing sayings.  In one case, a preacher I knew fell right off the map and is no longer involved in ministry at all, sadly wallowing in financial failure and searching for the next big idea that will set him free.

Network Marketing schemes ruin fellowship, discipleship, and evangelism.

  • They ruin fellowship for the “Relational Reason” I just presented.
  • They ruin discipleship because they turn a spiritual relationship into a business relationship that is now tainted by money and coercion.
  • And they ruin evangelism because you have to decide which “good news” you’re going to share — the news about Jesus or the news about your “amazing opportunity.”  And if you wait to share the marketing program until after the person is saved, then they will wonder if your motivation was pure or if they too were just a dollar sign.

For the Gospel message to truly be conveyed, it must be completely free from the appearance of ulterior motives.  Grace is a free gift with no strings attached.  Network Marketing schemes taint the message being conveyed through our lives.

3) The Moral Reason

The farther up the pyramid (or ladder, or web, or bubble, or tree, or whatever you want to call it), the more money you make.  The opposite is also true.  If you’re on the bottom tier, you make no money at all.  In fact, since there’s always some sort of membership fee involved, you’re actually losing money.

That’s what motivates you to convince more people to join the program — you want to move from losing money to making money off of five or six people under you (who are all losing money… unless, of course, those five or six people can bring in five or six more of their own, for a whopping total of 25 to 36 people who are losing money while you make even more and your five friends start making a little).

Do you see the problem?  The bigger the organization grows, the more people there are at the bottom of the pyramid who are losing money.  If each person needs to reach five people to make money, things quickly balloon from one person losing money to five people losing money, to 25 people, to 125 people, to 625 people, to 3,125 people all losing money (and that’s as far as my mental math will take me).  Thus the success of the minority depends on the fruitless loss of the majority.  And that’s why the minority millionaires will go out of their way to “train” a hundred people in a hotel conference center.

I can’t morally bring myself to participate in an organization that preys on the poor foresight of thousands so that a few can make money off of their misfortune.

Using the numbers I just shared, suppose you need to bring in five people to “break even” on your membership fees.  That means 3,125 people are losing money and 625 people are making no money (a whopping total of 3,750 people with nothing to show for their involvement except some nicely packaged audio tapes). At the same time, 125 people are bringing in a small paycheck — barely enough to cover the gas they use to bring friends to the hotel meetings.  Finally there are the 25 people who are probably making $100 or so a month, and only one person who is making more…and that one person still isn’t making enough money to quit their job.  (You need to rope in a few more suckers for that to happen.)

It is frankly immoral to promise wealth and success to people while knowing that, at some point, the “amazing offer” will reach a point of saturation in which no one else wants to join — leaving the vast majority of your “converts” losing money.

4) The Spiritual Reason

I used the word “converts” on purpose.  That’s what these programs generally require.  You have to convince your friend that you have their best interests in mind; that the weight-loss formula, or energy drink, or legal services, or whatever, is the best product in the world; and that it’s worth eventually quitting their job over (even though that will probably never happen).  Thus the Network Marketing scheme takes on the life of a cultish religion, complete with conferences and trainings where the “gospel” of wealth is preached unashamedly (sometimes with Christian undertones or even Scripture to justify it!).

Jesus was clear that “you cannot serve both God and money.” (See Matthew 6:24.)  Money isn’t evil in itself, but it certainly can hijack God’s throne in your heart if you let it.

Those who are involved in these Network Marketing schemes are definitely serving money and not God (whether knowingly or unwittingly).  I know this because they are ignoring the loss of money being suffered by the vast majority so that they can enjoy their own success.

If you’re involved in one of these Network Marketing schemes and you don’t believe I’m right about the condition of your heart, try giving your next ten “converts” to the person above you on the ladder (so that they make all the money and you make nothing).  If the product is so great, and if you truly have your friends’ best interests in mind, then their well-being is far more important than you making money off of them… right?

Or is that just out of the question?

Hmmm…

As it turns out, the only way to succeed in a Network Marketing scheme is to turn off your compassion and thrive off the failure of others whom YOU convinced that they would succeed.  That’s evil, and God isn’t in it at all.

Is This Really Such a Big Deal?

I’m sure my usual readers are wondering why I would spend time on an article about Network Marketing on a blog that’s all about supernatural Christianity.  The reason is simple: Many of us Christians are gullible.  In some ways, that’s good because “love always trusts.” (See 1 Corinthians 13:7.)  But in other ways, it’s bad because thousands of well-meaning Christians are being unwittingly sucked into schemes that prey on people just like them — all in the name of infinite, effortless wealth.

I know of a pastor who had many people leave his church after he convinced them to join a Network Marketing scheme that they all lost money on.  I know of an evangelist who became so wrapped up in the scheme he joined that all his Facebook status updates changed from preaching the Gospel to making sales pitches.  And then there’s the man I mentioned earlier who completely left ministry and sunk into depression and poverty.

Network Marketing schemes are toxic to healthy Christianity.  They destroy meaningful relationships.  They tempt us to value people according to how much money they can make for us rather than valuing them simply because God values them.  They take us outside of grace and fill our hearts with sinful judgment and wealth-based priorities.

If you’re involved in a Network Marketing scheme, get out now.  Even if you’re making money, some careers are just innately evil.  I liken Network Marketing schemes to the pornography business.  Both view people as objects who should serve you.  There’s no redeeming either one.

And if you’re currently being “courted” by a Network Marketing convert, I would encourage you to share this article with them.  It should help them understand why you’re saying “no.”  And hopefully, it will rescue them from the same evil business.

It’s time to get this garbage out of the Church.

We have much better news to spread.  The Gospel is the most “amazing opportunity” you can ever share.  Let’s focus on that one.

Be blessed!
–Art

 

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13 Responses to “Why I am Convinced that Network Marketing is Evil”

  1. AliceJuly 9, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    Thank you for enlightening everyone on Network Marketing. After finding out my daughter had a brain tumor I quit my job and am now her caregiver. I started trying to find work on line. I got involved with several network scams and spent about 25,000 on a Visa card. I always considered myself a smart person. I now realize I was nieve and did not know there were a lot of people out there that dont want to work but to make money off of people like me. I now pay a very large amount of money a month plus interest. I will be paying on this he rest of my life. I hope this helps someone else.

    • BriceSeptember 5, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

      Alice…2 Questions…what was the $25,000 to go towards? and did you ever consider bankruptcy? (See year of Jubilee in Old Testament. It was forgiveness of debt for those who had gotten themselves into trouble by bad financial management. ie. Those who didn’t deserve it.) Something to pray about. 🙂

  2. Susan PontiusJuly 16, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    First of all, I’m sorry, Art, that you had such a hurtful experience with your friend regarding his network marketing business. However, I wonder how many other network marketing companies you have researched to cause you to make such bold generalities. We are partnered with a company that has proven it’s integrity for decades and has an unwavering reputation of superb customer service. The company was founded on Biblical principals of caring for others in a way you would like to be cared for. Over half a century later, this company continues to show genuine care for the betterment of others. People’s lived have been transformed in so many ways through our business. We see our business opportunity as a way to offer a “cup of cold water” to people around us in need. There are many who would never give us an opportunity to love on them with the love of Jesus if it weren’t for a practical need they had and the potential solution we could offer. And, yes, we have in fact given some of our business “leads” to leaders above us and below us and yes, it has affected our paycheck. But in our business, it’s about preferring one another and working to see each other’s God-given dreams become a reality. God is in the business of redeeming “God-inspired” ideas and ingenuity that have fallen into the hands of the world and become twisted and harmful. Posts like yours that magnify the negative and clump all network marketing companies into the category “evil”, only reinforce the skepticism we already have to overcome in many individuals. Thankfully, the Lord is bigger and we are confident that our business belongs to Him. We continually trust Him to lead us to those who are in need, looking for answers to their challenges, either physical or spiritual. For us, a successful business transaction is one in which our friend (new or old) leaves the conversation feeling encouraged, hopeful and loved, regardless of whether any money or products have been or ever will be exchanged. I sincerely hope that you have an opportunity to be “loved on” and cared for by someone with a network marketing business that truly cares for people more than money.

    • ArtJuly 16, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply!

      Two things:

      1) You will notice that I specified before giving my first reason that not all network marketing is evil…only the ones that meet the criteria I listed. I even went so far as to say that not all pyramid programs are bad either. So there were no “bold generalities,” and there was no “clumping together” of all companies; only a condemnation of the companies that fit the category of “scheme.”

      2) What is the name of your company? I would be happy to investigate it and decide whether or not it fits the good or bad category. Since you seem to be concerned that my lack of research has kept me from finding out about your company (which is apparently different from all the others), it seems like the best place to start. What you’ve described sounds great, but it doesn’t change my mind unless I can see how the company actually functions.

      Be blessed!

  3. HopeJuly 19, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    Hmm, where should I start? Well a pyramid is illegal because it has no product or service offered, so to say network marketing is a pyramid is false. The image you have of cut-out people in the form of a triangle is a true “format” in ANY business. There is always people at the top, usually it’s the owner, then people in the middle and the ones getting paid the least at the bottom doing the runt work. Now don’t forget the interns who aren’t getting paid at all but they are getting to learn. Go ahead and think of any business from pizza parlor to grocery store to Fortune 500 company and yes also network marketing/direct selling and you will see the same format. Then you made mention of “the good kind of Network Marketing”. What happened between you and your dad is called “networking”, what happened between your dad and the salesman was just “marketing”. These are two different things in business and neither is “network marketing” so your definition is false. However congrats on your new car. The original “network marketing” concept was thought up by a business man during his attendance of church. Pastor at the top, people in the middle helping and of course the congregation (lots of people) who come to church “bringing” others in so they can hear the “good news” also. Sorry your friend was using you. That has nothing to do with a business. Yes there are many people who “join” network marketing companies versus people coming on board to do some serious business growth. These people that join come in in hopes of getting a better income but they have stars in their eyes and don’t take the time to really learn/do business. They get pumped by people above them who also “joined”. If you look up buying a franchise to any type of business you will learn you have to pay mega money to start. This is called “start-up” costs. And then it will take at least 2-3 yrs to start seeing a “profit” IF you succeed. Network Marketing is a type of business that offers an average person willing to do a lot of work for a long time in order to start said business with a little money. That’s why people shouldn’t quit their jobs when entering into network marketing. You may be surprised to find that network marketing is taught at Harvard and many other reputable university’s. The negative that you have experienced or seen or heard of is nothing more than people not serious or knowledgeable about business or how to go about “marketing it”. What else can I say… oh yes, no one can have the foresight to tell another they will “succeed” in a network marketing business. I can open a pizza parlor down the street pay a quarter million dollars to do it and not succeed. Does that mean the business model is evil? No it means I suck at selling/marketing pizza! Ok now I quote you here, “Those who are involved in these Network Marketing schemes are definitely serving money and not God”. This is so false it’s ridiculous and you are prideful in thinking such a thing. Who are you to judge a mans heart? When you get handed a paycheck from a job or you would maybe make a profit from a business you own, is this you serving money? Do you see ridiculous now? I am aware you have been hurt by your friend but have you considered that he really believes what he says and wanted something good for you too? You should probably pray for your friend to find success for him and the team that he builds instead of writing up an article that puts people down. I am also aware that there are many companies out there that are just crappy companies and don’t deserve my business or time. But that is true in any “type” of business. So it’s unfair of you to rule out one section of the business world. You might probably think I do Network Marketing but I don’t. I have in the past, many years ago, but found I’m not really into sales and working late nights. I have also been in many types of business in the past and most of the people in my life are successful business owners so I do know what I’m talking about. I also love God and encourage you to bless and not curse with your writings. And finally, you made a challenge to those in NM to give the people they bring in to their higher ups. Well, since you don’t think they deserve to be rewarded for their efforts, let’s see if the reverse works here. I challenge you to send me your next 10 months of income straight to my mailbox since I’m in need and too ill to work. Well how’s “your” heart faring now? By your own definition do you love money more than God? Should your attempts at earning an income be considered “garbage” and should people like you be thrown out of church?

  4. ChereAugust 17, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

    Dear Art,

    I am so completely with you on this. I have to say, though, that my Christian friends who have been brainwashed into joining network marketing scams generally have their hearts in the right place. They have bought into the thinking that recruiting people is actually helping the recruits as much as the recruiters. They aren’t exercising critical thinking, but they mean well. And they intend to use their vast and quickly gained theoretical wealth to advance the Gospel and help others. And they might actually do it if they ever made any money, which they don’t.

    There is another reason to avoid network marketing as a believer. It promotes quick money with minimal work. The work involved is actually not minimal- it involves trying to coerce family, friends and everyone you know to join what almost everyone knows is a scam. That’s both difficult and painful. But more than that, it appeals to the inherent laziness of our flesh that wants something for nothing. Proverbs is pretty clear that wealth gained through vanity is not a blessing, but money made through hard work- the real kind- can be. It is also clear that we should not wear ourselves out to get rich. Money is a byproduct of hard work and wisdom. It should never be an end in itself.

    Network marketing is not the same as a regular job or business, as implied by the previous writer. With legit businesses, there is an agreed-upon and guaranteed paycheck. Yes, lower-level people make less than upper-level people, but they agree to work for that amount, whatever it is. And when a lower-level person advances in a regular business, it is through genuine hard work, not convincing a lot of suckers to join a scam.

    I hope that lots of people read your article and wake up. I will certainly share it. Not to be mean, but to speak the truth in love.

  5. RobertDecember 11, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    Hi Art!

    I have had 2 negative experiences with network marketing. And I agree 100% with your views. Here is why:
    Firstly, the maths. In order for EVERYONE to be successfull would depend on an infinite number of consumers of this exclusive product and no other similar, branded products. An infinite market for this product that for some reason cannot be sold in ordinary stores. Mathematically impossible.
    The second reason is more personal. A very good friend of mine got sucked into the ‘Mannatech’ MLM business. He was an awesome Christian (well he is), however he became a total fanatic. He tried to get me into the business. I enlisted only because he insisted on the product basically changing your whole life by providing nutrients that you don’t get anywhere in nature anymore. LOL. Why am I still alive and healthy if my body needs these nutrients?

    Anyway it got to a point where he would not talk about anything else. He would ask me to attend seminars every week, and would not take no for an answer. I have 2 kids and a well-paying job. I value the time I spend at home with my family more than attending product and motivational seminars. I do not believe in easy money and I enjoy hard work. Yet he tried every angle – even saying that i just needed to give him names and he would see the people for me. Needless to say I do not speak to him anymore and have lost respect for him and for Mannatech. How can such behaviour be constructive for any friendship?

    Then 2 weeks ago a good friend from varsity calls me and says he has been thinking about starting a business. On the side. I think ok maybe it’s something interesting, and it would be nice to catch up again. So I arrive at this venue, and low and behold – an AMWAY NETWORK 21 presentation. He told me that he had not mentioned that it was MLM due to the fact that he wanted them to present it to me first hand and that he would have spoiled it for me if he had done so. I could feel myself getting physically anxious and nauseous as the seminar proceeded. I sat there so as not to be rude, and then I left. While there, I tried to make conversation. I asked about his church, etc. All I got was one word answers and then he reverted to talking about ‘building the business’.

    I have been left with a total disgust with the whole MLM principle. If it turns good people into manipulative, greedy, desperate users, what else is happening behind the scenes?

    The funny thing is that Mannatech and AMWAY, according to these people, is based on pure Christian values. LOL. I know that anything this evil is NOT remotely anything wholesome or good for anyone. And if it is supposed to free up so much time for the ‘consultant’ to have more family time, why do you spend every week and every second weekend away from family?

    Regards,

  6. BernieDecember 24, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Art,
    Keep spreading the word about the EVILS of MLM’s. I have seen them destroy churches, marriages, families and friendships. You need to look up a gentleman by the name of Robert Fitzpatrick, he has a website too. He calls them false prophets. he has a wealth of
    knowledge, I’m sure you could both share notes. When someone approaces me with an
    MLM opportunity I RUN! And believe me I have been approached by so many, from skin creams, to juices, supplements, the list goes on and on. The MLM people have become
    CULT like, they are in some kind of trance. I appreciate your ministry Art, keep the faith and God Bless you!

  7. M DMay 2, 2014 at 1:16 am #

    Art,

    What do you think of http://www.nerium.com, the night and day cream? Nerium AD? I’ve been wanting to join for the past two years and have seriously considered it recently and as recent as tonight, however, each time I’m about to sign up, the picture of the person on the podium pops up, you know that speaker at the conference talking about how much he made his first year? I feel that picture of the speaker should only be speaking about the gospel rather than telling thousands how to make 80 million in a day. What are your thoughts on my feelings? I’ve been praying about joining and this is the vision I see everytime (the guy speaking on stage and everyone clapping but not about the Lord Jesus but money) then I quickly turn around and want to stay as far away from this company as possible. My good friend, a believer just joined and that is the main reason why I was pumped to join but this “vision” keeps blocking my way.

  8. LizzyAugust 9, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

    Hi Art,
    I am so greatful unto God to see this post!!! Because everything in which you have stated reminds me of a particular company World Ventures !!! The devil found his way to me through this because I needed a way to travel home for a cheaper rate and this was what came my way! However, God knew best and weeks after I joined God opened my eyes and my ears to the truth! And the truth was that this company was trying to take the place of God. When I went to the meetings they would say ” I have been on 5 dreamtrips I got my bmw, thank you World Ventures” at that point it occured to me that it was similar to being in church and saying “I met in an accident but the Lord protected me Thank you Jesus” – After connecting the similarities I knew I had to get out of that company! Not only that I started to read my bible one day and stumbled upon 2Timothy 3 when I read that entire chapter it became evident this company was not of God ! This is my experience ! God bless

  9. John Anthony CurranJuly 21, 2015 at 12:40 am #

    Not a bad article, but the logic likening to pornography is a bit of a stretch. If these things are bad because they treat people as things to serve you, then restaurants must be equally as bad.
    You’d do better by looking at the requirement to suspend compassion, in which case the link to pornography becomes tenuous.

  10. Eugene HorluAugust 21, 2015 at 3:52 am #

    I have been blessed by your article. The opportunity networking marketing was proposed to me but I have never felt a peace in my spirit despite all the multimillion rewards they promise. I just know there must be something wrong somewhere and your article had make things clearer. Thank you.

  11. Chukwuebuka MichaelSeptember 10, 2016 at 10:05 am #

    Am so pleased to read your article on this very matter. Now it’s clear to me cause the spirit of God within me is highly against it but now is clear to me and I know the reason why. That which highly exalted among men is an abomination before God. God bless you and preserve you in Holy and righteous living. Amen

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