Business for the Glory of God
The book leads one to understand business in a new light. One may at times not think of business as a way to help others. We may do business to help our family and if we have a surplus, we would then consider charity. We are, or certainly can be, so self centered that we miss the blessing of service and the opportunity to glorify God through what He has given us. But let say we have and do see business as a way to help others, but have we seen it as a way to glorify God? Can we do business for the Glory of God?
The book begins in a light note that propels one to continue. Wayne Grudem begins with “when someone explains to a new acquaintance, “I work in such-and-such a business,” he doesn’t usually hear the response, “What a great way to glorify God!”
We don’t. We glorify God through our singing, worshipping, evangelizing but through business transactions? We take a moment to ponder.
Business for the Glory of God attempts to answer the question: Are things like ownership, commercial transactions, and profit always tainted with evil? Or are they merely morally neutral things that can be used for good or for evil? It argues that they are all fundamentally good things that God has given to the human race, but that they all carry many temptations to misuse and wrongdoing. And that is the two biggest themes of the book:
The aspects of business mentioned provide many opportunities for glorifying God, but also carry many temptations for wrongdoing, but the distortions of something good must not cause us to think that the thing itself is evil, and this clause constitutes the second biggest theme of the book. The author spends his time looking at different aspects of business (Ownership, Productivity, Commercial Transactions (buying and selling), Profit, Money, Inequality of possessions, Competition, Borrowing and lending, Attitudes of heart, and Effects of world poverty) and opens each chapter with a reminder of his theme as if he’s trying to warn us: Beware, of the temptations. For this review, I will only mention a few.
One of the aspects Grudem expounds upon is ownership. The book begins with “sometimes people think of all ownership of property as a kind of “greed” that’s morally tainted, and they imagine that in a perfect world people would not even own personal possessions” But the bible disagrees. Verses like Exodus 20:25 “You shall not steal” and 2 Cor. 9:7 “God loves a cheerful giver” wouldn’t exist if ownership was a sin.
One way we can glorify God with what we own is by giving it away.
“Giving is important because it demonstrates trust in God. When I give away $100, I am essentially saying “God, I am trusting you to provide for $100 of my future needs, because I no longer can depend on this $100. Thus, giving money away shifts our trust from our money to our God” (24)
Neglecting our spiritual lives can lead us to further self-centeredness and wrongful thinking. From the beginning, we wanted autonomy, and this shift from God ruling to self ruling makes everything we do for our benefit. We work for ourselves, save for ourselves, live for us and we forget God in the process. The commandment of giving away what we own shifts our attention to self towards others and also shifts our trusts from what we can provide to God.
This not only helps us to depend on God, it also helps our relationship with Him. It directs our thoughts toward Him and we know that what we ponder upon, what occupies our thoughts essentially becomes who we are.
One of my favorite parts of the book is where it mentions God enjoys seeing His character reflected in our lives. “God created us so that we could imitate him and so that he could look at us and see something his wonderful attributes reflected in us.”
We care for the poor, because God cares for the poor, we love because God first loved us, we provide for our families because God provides for us. When we act this way God looks at us and is delighted because he can see himself in us.
We do not glorify God simply in giving away, but also in saving for future use to help our own family and even for our own enjoyment. So whether you eat or drink or give away your money or save it for future use, do it all for the glory of God. (From 1 Cor. 10:31)
Another aspect of business that Grudem discusses is Commercial transactions. Is it biblical? “If you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another” (Lev. 25:14)
So the buying and selling is expected; in fact it is necessary for anything beyond subsistence level living for no individual of family providing for all its own needs could produce more than a very low standard of living. We can sell what we make for things we need and we call attain a much higher standard of living.
Grudem mentions stories of how so called Christians have broken their word, forgotten their business promises or failed to keep them. He advises “such actions should not be swept under the rug, but should be subject to the process of personal confrontation and church discipline that Jesus outlines in Matthew 18:15-17.
“If your brother sins against you go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Once again my personal belief in the necessity of disciplines shows up again and gladdens my heart. To live without discipline is like leaving a garden unattended and never cleaning a house: Weeds grow and dust accumulates. The role of personal confrontation and church discipline is then helping the person come face to face with the wrongdoing and help with correction or serves as a reminder for future reference.
But ultimately what is all this for? To help us live in harmony with each, displaying love, mutual respect, honesty, and thus glorifying God.
“The distortions of something good must not cause us to think that the thing itself is evil. Commercial transactions in themselves are fundamentally right and pleasing to God.”
Is gaining a profit from what you do evil? The parable of the Ten Minas in Luke 19 would show otherwise. 13So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ 14“But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ 15“He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. 16“The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
17” ‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
18“The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’
19“His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
20“Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
22“His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
24“Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
25” ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
26“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.
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By simply reading the text we can see that the master expected the servants to make profit from the money he had given them and even chastised the servant who was too lazy or not wise enough to invest. “Profit is an indication that I have made something useful for others, and in that way it can show that I am doing good for others in the goods and services that I sell.” So then making profit is not necessarily evil, but let us not forget temptation always lurks in the background.
Grudem provides an example: If I’m in charge of a monopoly on a necessary good, so that people can only buy bread or water or gasoline from me and no other suppliers can enter the market, and if I then charge exorbitant price that depletes people’s wealth, of course that kind of profit is excessive and wrong. That is where earning a profit provides temptations to sin, but the distortions of something good must not cause us to think that the thing itself is evil.
This last clause appears often in the book as well and I smile at the author’s wisdom. His repetitions sound like warnings from a loving father; yet his observations are profoundly true.
I want to lightly touch on the last chapter of the book simply because it brings up an important point about the poor. What about the poor who doesn’t own much and can’t buy or sell and make any profit, what do we do with them? The Word states we should seek to help the poor but whatever help we can provide is temporary. Grudem believes that the only long-term solution to world poverty is business and although he gives a few reasons as to why business has not yet solved world poverty, the biggest reason he states is our negative attitudes toward business in the world community.
If people think business is evil, then they will hesitate to start businesses, but if Christians could begin to change the attitudes of the world toward business, then “who would be able to resist being a God-pleasing subduer of the earth who uses materials from God’s good creation and works with the God-given gift of money to earn morally good profits, and shows love to his neighbors by giving them jobs and by producing material goods that overcome world poverty, goods that enable people to glorify God for his goodness, that sustain just and fair differences in possessions, and that encourage morally good and beneficial competition?” Who could?
Reading this book was truly beneficial and only a man who has the love of God in him could pull this through. After reading a little about Dr. Wayne Grudem and finding out the reason for his move to Arizona where he teaches at Phoenix Seminary, I reckon God must have smiled, because at that moment God saw His image. Dr. Grudem moved because his wife was ill and Chicago’s weather only worsened her condition and he made the choice to leave where he had been teaching for 20 years because of her health.
In everything that we do; whether it is figuring out where we ought to move, or what business we should own– Do it all for the Glory of God.