Is business a necessary evil?
Contemporary spirituality tends to think ‘yes’. But this little book* by Wayne Grudem argues otherwise. And he does so from Scripture.
According to the author, business is a calling that not only caters to man’s good, but also brings glory to God. Essentially, business is the process of creatively using the physical and intangible resources supplied by God in meeting the needs of society.
All aspects of business, whether ownership of property, transactions, competition, or profits, are rooted in God’s created order and so are morally good. True, the presence of sin in the human heart often plays out in each area. Nevertheless, this does not alter their fundamental character as worthy activities. And he goes on to show why.
1. Ownership of possessions or property is established as valid by God’s prohibition of theft in Exodus 20:15 – “You shall not steal.” Stealing is one taking what belongs to someone else unlawfully. God gives us possessions (whether cars, land, skill, talent, money, etc) so that we can use them wisely and responsibly as stewards. For everything ultimately belongs to God , and he merely delegates the ownership to us. (Psalm 24:1; 50:10-12, Lev. 25:23)
2. Productivity is rooted in what is known as the Cultural mandate:
“Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen. 1:28)
Our ownership of resources allows us to use these resources or convert them into other products or services for use. This could be as basic as planting fruit trees in the soil that God has provided and selling the harvested fruits. We could use our God-given talent for music to delight and entertain others. Or we could make cutlery out of the tin or aluminium deposited in the earth’s crust. Production is everywhere and, when engaged in according to God’s principles, it truly brings glory to Him.
3. What about Profit? Surely this must be an exception. However, even this is morally acceptable. In the parable of the talents (Matt. 25: 14-28), Jesus condemned the servant who had received one talent. Why? Because he refused to put it to use and thereby reap a profit from it. He was not productive with the talent he had been given. Profit is proof of productivity. Profit is the evidence that we have made good use of resources in meeting the needs of others. And this is morally commendable.
Wayne Grudem also discusses Competition, Borrowing and Lending, Employment, etc. Though vulnerable to the withering presence of human sin, these activities are not sinful in themselves. Just as almost any good thing (be it money, authority, or sex) can be abused , so also can any of these business activities be distorted. Therefore, it requires that we take heed to our hearts, for this is the source of all our actions(cf. Prov. 4:23 ). God’s principles are summed up in one command:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
When we walk in love toward God and toward our neighbour, we maintain a proper motive for all business activities. Also, setting our hearts on God like David (Psalm 73: 25, also Psalm 62: 10) keeps us from that love of money and profits which has been the downfall of so many.
This is an excellent little book on developing a Christian perspective on business and economic matters, and I heartily recommend it to every believer.
*Wayne Grudem. Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business. Crossway Books, 2003. 96pp.