(Note: This article was published on the Coram Deo blog.)
I had written an article on this topic for my blog nearly two years ago. In the fall of 2017, while I was conducting extensive research in preparing to write my book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession, I found some additional insights on work that are worth sharing now.
Business itself is morally neutral
One of the things I came to learn in my research on this topic was that business is neither inherently good nor evil. It has the potential to be both. Wayne Grudem, in Business for the Glory of God presented simple biblical concepts that countered the ideas I had while making my own career decisions as a teenager. Grudem emphasizes, “We will find that in every aspect of business there are multiple layers of opportunities to give glory to God, as well as multiple temptations to sin.”
Paul Stevens, in Work Matters offers some encouragement. “Competition in business and the workplace is not in itself evil or wrong. In fact, it can be a stimulus to creativity and initiative.”
Mattson and Miller, in Finding a Job you can Love wisely add this refreshing perspective:
Business and industry do not produce greed. The sick nature of man does … Can you imagine the wonder of people making beautiful products that have integrity of design and purpose, and then those products being distributed by way of ingenious systems to all those in need of the products? Can you imagine people involved in all phases of those activities doing what they are gifted to do under God’s authority? The world has little conception of such business, but the Christian should.
Creativity that glorifies God
While I was revising the draft my manuscript, I found an article about a biblically based company. The Center for Faith and Work at LeTourneau University posted a fascinating interview with Nate Saint, nephew of one of the five missionaries that were martyred by the Auca Indians in the 1950’s.
Nate invented the Pack-n-Play, the portable baby-corralling device that is loved and appreciated by many parents. My wife and I bought one to give our grandsons a place to sleep when they visit.
Nate believes that God invented creativity. My immediate response when I read that simple statement was this: The Creator created us in His image to creatively expand His creation.
This godly businessman understands the creation mandate from Gen. 1:28 and Jesus’s command to love our neighbor. His company is taking the earthly and human resources that God provided and is using them with integrity and creativity to meet people’s legitimate needs for products that helps keep children safe. They are loving parents around the world by manufacturing and selling this item.
Business as a way of loving our neighbor
Other businesses glorify God. Tim Keller, in Every Good Endeavor remarks, “A banker in a small town making mortgage and small business loans can easily see the purpose and fruit of her labor.”
I could not miss this obvious allusion to the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey, after seeing what it would have been like if he had never been born, eventually appreciates the value of his work at the Bailey Building and Loan. What a great illustration of how our work is directly related to love of neighbor, where God works to meet the needs of people through our work.
Joseph immediately comes to mind. The presence of God had been with Joseph. God blessed his hard work in Potiphar’s household and in prison, and then placed him second in command in Pharaoh’s court. We read a great description of Joseph’s business savvy in Gen. 41:33-37.
In The Accidental Executive, a great book on faith and calling based on the life of Joseph in the OT, Dr. Al Erisman writes, “We can learn from the story of Joseph about moral questions related to our work. How can we deal with temptation and the trifecta of money, sex, and power? How can we deal with the unique challenges that come to any businessperson, which require courage when things are difficult and the wisdom to handle success when things are going well?”
Amos, one of the minor prophets, shows us God’s thoughts on business. R. Paul Stevens, in Work Matters declares, “Amos railed against workplace injustice … The gospel is not merely the gospel of personal salvation, but is a message that has profound implications for fair wages, workers’ rights, equitable interest rates, appropriate executive remuneration, reliable currency, and protection of property rights for the poor.”
The Lord condemned the practice of buying and selling slaves in Israel (Amos 2:6). He also condemned unethical business practices, such as skimping on standard measures, greedily boosting prices, and using dishonest scales (Amos 8:4-5).
There is much more the Bible says about business, such as fair wages, lending, profit, and wealth.
To close, let me share two motivational quotes from Tim Keller, in Every Good Endeavor:
The gospel-centered business would have a discernible vision for serving the customer in some unique way, a lack of adversarial relationships and exploitation, an extremely strong emphasis on excellence and product quality, and an ethical environment that goes ‘all the way down’ to the bottom of the organizational chart and to the realities of daily behavior, even when high ethics mean a loss of margin.
To be a Christian in business, then, means much more than just being honest. . . Rather, it means thinking out the implications of the gospel worldview and God’s purposes for your whole work life—and for the whole of the organization under your influence.
Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.