For many years, Christians in business have aimed to do the Lord’s work when they are “off the clock” and do their boss’ work when they are “on the clock.” This separation of faith and business has led to confusion and misunderstanding among the Christian church about the role of business as it relates to one’s ministry, or as some would say, “calling” in life.
From what I can observe, much of this struggle seems to surround the topic of making and retaining profits in business. In the culture of the American Christian church, the process of creating and retaining profit seems to be associated with greed and is therefore discussed negatively. To support this thinking, many people will point to scriptures such as 1 Timothy 6:10 which talks about how “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” However, confusing the “love of money” with the desire to make a profit is a fundamental flaw in modern thinking.
This faulty position soon leads to the conclusion that God is not pleased with profits and would certainly not “call” a person into business as a means of ministry. If we take a moment to unwind this flawed reasoning and reexamine the actions, intentions, and fruit of profit, we will find that for-profit business can be, and often is, one of the most proliferate vehicles used by God to bless the earth and expand His kingdom.
Reverend Robert A. Sirico writes about this issue in an essay titled The Entrepreneurial Vocation. Sirico states that the role of business people in the Kingdom of God is a noble and crucially important vocation, especially entrepreneurship. He argues that many church leaders have skewed the concept of Biblical stewardship and have created a guilt-centered reprimand for the “greedy business person” to make amends for their greed by giving their money to the church and to missions.
Sirico points out that clergy often have basic misunderstandings about markets and profit leading to their flawed perception. He highlights that many religious leaders believe that there is a finite amount of money in the world and that if one person gets more, then someone somewhere got less. This is called a “zero-sum game.” If this were true, then the re-distribution of wealth remains the key to peace and mutual prosperity. However, the truth about capitalism is that wealth can be created and does not need to take from one person for another to profit. This is a concept that is not often taught in theological seminaries thus leading to a grave misunderstanding between business people and clergy. If this concept were made clear, then pastors would take the pulpit from an entirely new perspective about financial stewardship and avoid much of the conviction and discrimination against business people in the church today.
Instead, Sirico argues that the creation of profit is not only permissible but required of Christians in business. He cites Jesus’ parable of the talents and illustrates that God will require a return on his investment regarding the resources and abilities that He has entrusted to each of his children and that business people making a good and honest profit, in activities that uphold Biblical values, are simply providing their Maker with an excellent return on His investment. Sirico acknowledges the efforts of entrepreneurs and praises them for their creative ability to use the gifts that God has given them to be a blessing to people everywhere by creating opportunities for workers to grow in their own gifts and abilities.
In addition to creating wealth, entrepreneurs succeed in creating jobs for workers, new technologies and resources for the public, and innovation in medicine and science. Without the role of for-profit business, humans would fail to fulfill the command to rule and subdue the earth which was given to Adam in the Garden of Eden. I emphasize for-profit business because this activity and benefit would not be possible without the creation and retention of profit. If a company does not make and retain a profit, they will go out of business and these blessings will disappear with it. Therefore, sustaining a solid profit is a crucial component to honoring God through business and ought to be praised rather than frowned upon.
I believe that God does call men and women into business to do His work and be a blessing to the world just as he calls others into vocational ministry. One is not greater or more holy than the other. While there are certain businesses a Christian ought to avoid – such as producing pornography – no single role or position is more important to God’s purpose than any other. If the business person dedicates their life and career to the Lord and works “as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23), I believe God is honored and pleased and rejoices in the obedience of His faithful children. As Christians grasp this reality and carry this message into the church, I believe that we will see a revitalization and redemption of for-profit business for the Kingdom of God that will bring a new season of growth and blessing to the world.