Why Business Matters to God, Part 2

[A]t this time in history, there are two legitimate, first-order, intrinsic purposes of business: as stewards of God’s creation, business leaders should manage their businesses (1) to provide the community with goods and services that will enable it to flourish, and (2) to provide opportunities for meaningful work that will allow employees to express their God-given creativity. – Jeff Van Duzer

In yesterday’s post, I began to consider the book by Jeff Van Duzer, Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed). In this book, Van Duzer explains why he thinks it is crucial for Christians to consider the purpose and function of business from God’s point of view.

Van Duzer begins to make his case on the basis of a close reading of the creation accounts in Genesis 1-2. From these accounts, he derives the following principles:

1. The material world matters to God.
2. Human beings are called to steward God’s creation.
3. Human beings are made in the image of God.
4. Humans are made to live within limits.
5. God delights in variety.
6. The Garden was incomplete.

These principles, a “creation mandate,” point to the divinely-intended purpose of business. Here’s the crux of Van Duzer’s argument in Chapter 1:

So the question boils down to this: In our twenty-first-century context, which aspects of the creation mandate are best suited for business to handle? Or using Paul’s language, what is the unique giftedness of business at this time and place in history.

In my judgment, the answer is twofold. First, business appears to be uniquely well situated to work the fields, to cause the land to be fruitful, and to fill the earth-what we might in modern parlance characterize as “to create wealth.” Second, business is also the dominant institution (although obviously not the only one) equipped to provide organized opportunities for meaningful and creative work.

From this I would conclude that at this time in history, there are two legitimate, first-order, intrinsic purposes of business: as stewards of God’s creation, business leaders should manage their businesses (1) to provide the community with goods and services that will enable it to flourish, and (2) to provide opportunities for meaningful work that will allow employees to express their God-given creativity. One goal for the Christian businessperson who is stewarding God’s business is focused outward-providing goods and services that enhance the quality of life. One goal focuses inward-creating opportunities for individuals within the company to express their vocation in the performance of God-glorifying work.” When managers pursue these particular goals for their companies, they participate directly in God’s creation mandate. They engage in work of intrinsic and not just instrumental value. (Kindle Locations 396-406).

Of course, by giving you the outline and conclusion of Van Duzer’s opening argument, I have not included the evidence he provides to buttress his case. For this, you’ll need to purchase the book, something I highly recommend.

For many people today, including many Christians, the very word “business” leaves one’s mouth with a sour taste. “Business” conjures up memories of Enron, WorldCom, and the infamous housing bubble. “Business” is a tool for the powerful to take advantage of the 99%. “Business” is what’s wrong with the world, especially when it’s big, as in “Big Business.” Thus, it may be hard for some readers to follow Van Duzer’s argument without wincing. If you’re such a reader, you might find it easier to grapple with Van Duzer’s prose if you supply the word “small” in front of “business.” These days, it seems like just about everybody is in favor of small business.

  • Ray

    Dr. Van Duzer offers an interesting perspective on the purpose of economic exchange.  I’m trying to understand exactly what he means.  Let’s see…businesses exist to provide employees with meaningful and creative work.  Hmmm.  I guess that sort of parallels the Church’s purpose, which obviously is to provide pastors, secretaries, youth ministers, custodians, educators and musicians with meaningful and creative work.  And I’m certain that Seattle Pacific University was founded for the purpose of providing meaningful and creative work for Dr. Van Duzer.  Just like NASCAR was established for the purpose of providing drivers an opportunity to drive really fast in circles.

    The beauty of a free market economy is that we all have the liberty to pursue our own self interests.  And as we pursue those interests, opportunities for meaningful and creative work are created.  Meaningful and creative work is not the reason for business to exist.  It is the byproduct of a successful business.  Don’t get the cart mixed up with the horse.

    By the way, I thought Mark’s question to Larry yesterday was a good one.  I noticed that Larry didn’t answer…

  • http://thehighcalling.org/ Marcus Goodyear

    “Meaningful and creative work is not the reason for business to exist.  It is the byproduct of a successful business.” That is good push back. 
    Sometimes we can start talking that way about business, but you are right. We can’t forget that this secondary purpose only comes after the primary purpose:”to cause the land to be fruitful, and to fill the earth…to provide the community with goods and services that will enable it to flourish”Being fruitful, filling the earth, serving our communities–these are the cultural mandate. When we pursue these things, the work will be meaningful.

  • buying a business

    True! And especially in company these days, specially if you are selling a business or buying a business. My son is a blessed designer. Seems many do not believe in God. Previous few several weeks several of his designer buddies sent him information, to the impact that they cannot believe anyone as sensible as him could believe in obsolete factors such as God. And they were providing to show him their methods. In the organization he performs for, they informed him they just didn’t know what to do with him, how to cure him, that none of their workers considered in God before. He’s had the opportunity to describe factors often. What was excellent to see, was when he was standing up for another designer who is also spiritual, more followed his example. Seems several were reluctant to keep their throat out.


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