For the Christian Business owner, there are four different topics that, when integrated, informs and foundationalizes how business is to be conducted. In a sense, these four theologies are part of a larger topic area on Stewardship, but they are more than just a theoretical discussion. Indeed, when lived out to their full, they represent a life that will be filled with the greatest of joys and the most difficult of trials.
It’s Just Money
I have a saying – “it’s just money” – as a way of expressing the relative value of money to wisdom and faith. I never say “it’s just faith” because for the Christian, faith and wisdom are worth more than the most precious earthly possessions. Consider these two passages, the first on Wisdom (Proverbs 8.1-11) and the second on Faith (1 Peter 1.3-9) [emphasis added]:
1 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? 2 At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; 3 beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud: 4 “To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. 5 You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, set your hearts on it. 6 Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. 7 My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. 8 All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. 9 To the discerning all of them are right; they are upright to those who have found knowledge. 10 Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, 11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Clearly, the Bible teaches us that our wisdom from God and faith in God is worth more than anything. It’s just profits – it’s just money. Let’s not lose sight of that which is truly valuable: wisdom from God and faith in God. These are to be desired more than anything else on this earth, including a big business or a great reputation.
This is why a Christian Business owner does not pursue profits simply to be more profitable or to maximize shareholder value. The Christian Business owner pursues profits so that the other three purposes for business can be fulfilled: Products, Passions and Philanthropy. We recognize that when we hear the voice of God and/or are brought into greater discernment concerning the Scriptures in decision-making, that we are receiving something that is worth more than precious rubies or refined gold. We are receiving something that money cannot buy. We are receiving that which is from the very throne of God.
Suffering is Part of the Christian Experience
Most Christians – including business owners – don’t have a good theology of suffering. Consider this passage from Hebrews 5.7-10 [emphasis added]:
7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
While there are a couple of thorny theological issues in this passage that I won’t deal with in this post, one point that is abundantly clear is this: Christ was made perfect (or complete) through suffering. If our Lord was caused to suffering, then why should we think that God will also not use suffering to complete us?
One of the most damaging aspects of the Prosperity Gospel – a theology that twists the Scriptures into a world view that assumes God always wants you to be happy and rich – is that people honestly believe that suffering is a result of sin. That is a lie proffered by many who purport to be ministers of the Gospel. I believe they do it to enrich themselves. But it is a lie: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him” Paul wrote in Philippians 1.29. Inherent within the sanctification process is the process of suffering – which produces a refined faith and trust in God as well as a more tuned ear to hear His voice.
Suffering also produces a treasure for us in heaven. Consider 2 Corinthians 4.7 – 5.1 [emphasis added]:
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” h Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
And when coupled with the command to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6.20-21) [emphasis added], we learn that for the Christian, our hearts are not set on accumulating material wealth and possessions precisely because it’s not what we value. We don’t really care if we’re rich. “Give me neither poverty nor riches” (Proverbs 30.8) is an overriding theme of the Christian’s life. These theme helps explain why many Christian Business owners live well below the standard of living that they could live at: God has called them to create wealth for the express purpose of not loving that wealth and instead, to give it away.
For the Christian Business owner, wisdom and faith are worth more than the stewardship of his or her business. Profits are seen as a means to an end – the fulfillment of the other three purposes for business. We recognize that at times, God will use our business to bring suffering into our lives, but the suffering is not about the business per se, it is about the refinement and development of our faith, trust and intimacy with God Himself. We recognize that our faith in God and the Wisdom of God are worth more than money, more than success (as defined by American business) and worth much more than our own reputations. And we understand that our suffering and faithfulness to Christ is bringing us treasures in heaven – which cannot be taken away and which we are commanded to pursue.
The Christian Business owner is a unique breed. We are counter cultural but not weird. We simply have different measures of success and assign different values to profits and money. We have a greater purpose in running a business than creating profits: we serve God through fulfilling His purposes of Products, Passions and Philanthropy.
Associate, The Platinum Group