Why Business Matters to God

[F]or Christians interested in advancing God’s agenda
of peace, justice and reconciliation,

a focus on business and its role in society is critical.
- Jeff Van Duzer

Jeff Van Duzer at Laity Lodge

This past weekend, Laity Lodge hosted a retreat on the topic: Christians in the Marketplace: What would it Look Like if God Was Running the Show? Our speakers were Tod Bolsinger, Senior Pastor of San Clemente Presbyterian Church in California and Jeff Van Duzer, Dean of the School of Business and Economics at Seattle Pacific University, Washington. From their different perspectives and on the basis of their diverse experiences, both Tod and Jeff challenged us to think creatively as Christians about business. Many of those who attended this retreat are business owners and/or leaders.

Both speakers commented on the fact that most of us who seek to follow Christ have not done much deep thinking about business. We have tended to uncritically endorse either of two popular options. One idolizes capitalism and the market. The other demonizes capitalism and the market. Thus, we are desperately in need of careful, creative thinking about business in light of God’s purposes for the world and for us as creatures created in his image.

Both Tod and Jeff approach theological questions in light of Scripture. Both are also concerned about the practical challenges faced by actual practitioners. Tod is slowly working on a book that will deal with some of these theological-practical matters. Jeff has already written such a book: Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed). I thought it might be interesting to my blog readers to learn some of what is in this book, which I consider to be an outstanding discussion of a theology of business. So, today, and in in the future, I’ll share some excerpts from Why Business Matters to God, and perhaps a few of my own thoughts as well.

So throughout what follows you may experience the tension that I have encountered as I have sought to pursue these two goals. On the one hand I hope that what I have written can be a life-giving affirmation to a whole class of Christians who for too long have felt like their work had, at best, only instrumental value to God. To this end I simply want to affirm what is. On the other hand I do believe that the dominant paradigm that governs much of our business practices today is flawed and needs to be changed. I seek to call Christians to be at the forefront of these changes. Affirming and challenging. Priest and prophet. (Kindle Locations 184-188)

WHY IT MATTERS: The twenty-first century is destined to be the century of global business. More than any other institution, business is likely to shape the face of our world. The sheer magnitude of the resources controlled by corporations makes it almost certain that business will dwarf the influence of other traditional institutions. Of the 150 largest economies in the world, nearly half are not countries. They are businesses. Annual sales from the top two hundred corporations are larger than the combined economies of all but the twenty-five largest countries in the world.  Moreover, businesses are increasingly multinational or transnational in reach. Notwithstanding the retraction in global trade and investment accompanying the 2008-2009 recession, it is very unlikely that we will see a long-term diminution of the cross-border influence of companies. In short, companies doing business will, in many ways, dictate the kind of world we will live in. Thus, for Christians interested in advancing God’s agenda of peace, justice and reconciliation, a focus on business and its role in society is critical. (Kindle Locations 188-194).

I would add that we a living in times when the purpose, identity, role, and value of business is greatly in debate. This provides both an unprecedented need and an unprecedented opportunity for Christians to reflect on business in light of God and his purposes for the world.

 

  • http://profiles.google.com/wingleberry Larry Wendlandt

    Hi
         Not a single other living creature on the entire planet… uses economies (money, ownership, price tags).   I wonder why capitalists do.  Seems that caps might be worshiping paper false idols.  And competition seems to be the opposite of cooperation.  And cooperation… seems to be the original core of Christianity.  So, I would think, capitalism and economy usage in general, is completely anti-Christian.  I know one thing for sure.  I was born onto a planet that does not allow one to freely walk around-upon… due to fences and no-trespassing signs and laws.  I’m quite sure that the Earth creators did none of that.

    Anyhoo, thanks for the report about this pow-wow, Mr. Roberts.

  • markdroberts

    Interesting comment. Does it bother you that, before he devoted himself to his preaching ministry, Jesus was a small business owner, who would have exchanged money, sold goods, etc.?

  • http://www.facebook.com/julie.reid.9484 Julie Reid

    In light of our position in the world we must be wise how we conduct our businesses. Are we a business run by Christians or are we Christian businesses. There is a big difference. We are to make a difference in the world in which we exist no matter where we are placed, and that includes business, and we have a specific sub-section of population we are to be focused upon: the dispossessed, the needy, the poor, the downtrodden, the orphan, the widow, the prisoner. This doesn’t change if you are a businessman or woman – the edict is the same. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/wingleberry Larry Wendlandt

     Hi Mr Roberts… thanks for the reply.  I have no proof for or against that hypothesis, and I tend to doubt that you do either,  but I must admit that the same thing happened to me.  It took seeing and experiencing (learning) the disgusting attributes of busyness… before I left it behind and began speaking against it.  It would not surprise me that Jesus had to do that very same learning before he realize the differences between giving and billing.

    Economies suffer from a thing I call spirography… (what goes around, comes around).  Remember spirographs? No matter which way you would start rotating the gears/pen, the pen would ALWAYS, eventually, return to its starting location. (Because the tip of each spiroflower petal (person)… is a loop, not a point). Lets say one direction is GIVING, and the other direction is BILLING/INVOICING. First, lets look at the goes-around-comes-around of billing. The more wages capitalists (caps) ask for, the more the caps make their own cost of living go up, which causes a need to ask for raises, which… etc etc. All issued billings/demandings, spiro around and around until it returns to the issuer. Some call this a “self-feeding machine” and they always blow up.

    The very same goes-around-comes-around spirography thing happens to all “issued” giving/sharing/love. Its handed-on, loop, loop, loop, till it returns to its issuer. No matter which way (giving or demanding) you start rotating the gears and the spirograph pen, the pen ALWAYS, eventually, returns to its starting place. Spirography… what goes around, comes around. So, as long as “we” condone and allow price tags, timecarding, and billing, we will continue to have a cost of living to “fend off”. Outlaw price tags (blockades to survival supplies) and poverty somehow evaporates… completely. Strange how that works, huh?

    To illustrate spirography in another way, picture a round dinner table with 8 or so people with plates of food in front of them.  There are three spirographic actions that can take place.  One… is ‘idle spirography’ where nobody reaches across the table to another’s plate whatsoever.  Lets leave that condition alone.  Another thing that can happen, is someone reaches across the table at some angle, and TAKES (bills/demands) some food from another’s plate.  That ‘robbed’ person is now in fear of not enough food, and likely will reach across at another angle and take some from another’s plate.  The newly robbed person takes some from another’s plate.  Each person begins looping the billing around the table, and the billing, just like the spirograph pen, eventually returns to the issuer of the first billing.  Again, the billing is handed on and on because each person (spiroflower petal tip) is a LOOP, and not a point.  I call this eb spirography…  the handing-on of billings/demandings.

    Now, in the opposite spiroflow… lets say someone starts off reaching across the dinner table to put some of their food onto another’s plate.  The receiver of this giving gets NO fear, and there is a pretty good chance that the receiver of the food gift will see that they now have too much food, and reach across the table and place food onto another’s plate.  And just like the spirograph pen, it eventually returns back to its initial issuer.  i think you get the theory and point of this.  I call this flow spirography… the handing-on of giving/love.

    The dreaded debate between human nature and learned behavior gets involved here.  For these spirograph theories…  one probably needs to ask oneself if humans are more likely to share things (commune-ity), or more likely to hoard things (ownership).  And I think abundance is involved, and so is perceived shortages.  I’ve done some tests on local wildlife here in the UP of Michigan, and as best I can tell, when there is plenty of food, the animals share.  When the plate goes empty, the animals compete.

    I wish you the best, Mr Roberts, and thank you for the interesting comment.  i hope you consider the theory of spirography, and eventually come to realize the detriments of billing… and the beauty/love of no-compensation-needed giving.

    Best regards!
    Larry “Wingnut” Wendlandt
    MaStars – Mothers Against Stuff That Ain’t Right
    (anti-capitalism-ists) (anti-economy usage)
    Bessemer MI USA

  • Ray

    Larry, as wonderful as the economy you describe sounds, I doubt that you can cite a single example where it has actually worked and been sustained over the long term.  Getting rid of currency will eliminate neither wealth nor poverty.

    And you seem to be missing something in your analysis of “billing” and “giving”.  I bill customers every day, but I never take from them.  And they pay me every day, but they never give to me.  We enter into a mutually beneficial exchange relationship which is the basis for any economy.  I have something (goods & services), and they have something (currency).  If my customer values the goods I am able to offer more than they value the currency in their pocket, and if I value the currency they will pay more than I value the goods in my warehouse, then we will each gladly exchange one for the other.  If not, then the exchange doesn’t take place.  And here’s what you don’t get – if we decide to make the exchange we are BOTH better off after the exchange than we were  before.

    Making everything “free” is a utopian pipe dream that does not and cannot solve the problem of the allocation of scarce resources.

    Does nobody teach economics any more????


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