Like many Christians, I’m excited about the fresh work God is doing in the marketplace. Christian business professionals – and those who disciple or mentor them – are re-discovering and re-claiming basic Reformation ideas such as “vocation” and the “Priesthood of all Believers.” As a consequence, Christian business professionals are not only being treated with more respect in the church, but in some cases have achieved almost a “rock star” status.
But scratch below the surface and you’ll find large reservoirs of continued ambivalence toward business among Christians. Look more closely at what they find praise-worthy and you’ll almost always find references to something not directly related to the product or service being sold. For example, businesses are praised for helping fund a local community center, or paying above market wages, or closing on Sundays, or hiring ex-cons or other disadvantaged people, and so on.
These are all great things, and I don’t want to sound like I’m opposed to any of it. But what this often communicates is that businesses are praiseworthy only if they make an overt attempt to “give back” to society, that businesses are inherently exploitive otherwise, or at best morally neutral. It is akin to saying that nursing is a praiseworthy profession only if the nurse prays regularly with their patients, or volunteers for a local charity.
A case in point is a man I recently met at a meeting of Christian CEOs who are striving to be faithful stewards of the resources and opportunities God has given them. The emphasis of the meetings was on “Business as Mission;” that is, the role of (in many cases multinational) business in advancing the cause of Christ in less developed countries. This man meekly introduced himself as “just a Christian business guy,” not a “BAMer.” (Some day I may write about how much I hate the term “BAMer,” but let’s stay focused.) This man is in the importing business. Specifically, he helps importers navigate all the regulations and paperwork involved in importing goods from abroad. He’s been doing this for some 40 years and is among the best and most trustworthy in the industry.
Later I had an opportunity to affirm this dear man, and to assure him that God created him for the work he is doing, and that more than likely God is well pleased when he sees this man doing his job. Yes, the work he does for his church, and his charitable giving is probably also pleasing to God. But we too often forget that the thing we spend 40+ hours a week doing is a major part of God’s purpose for our life. Our profession is a ministry, and a form of worship.
For more on the idea of Business as Ministry, read Business for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace, by Kenman Wong and Scott Rae, and Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to be Fixed) by Jeff Van Duzer. There is also an excellent 3-minute video by RightNow Ministries that should be required viewing for all Christians.