Sunday, August 15, 2010
Business as Unusual: A Christian Philosophy of Doing Business
I've begun reading The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium, by Walter Wink. He makes a statement about the nature of American business and contrasts it with a biblical understanding of business. I've got to tell you--a Christian philosophy of business is absolutely revolutionary. Here's what he says:
"It has become stylish to develop mission statements for institutions. But a sense of mission implies a sender, just as a vocation ("calling") implies one who calls. The biblical understanding is that no institution sexists as an end in itself, but only to serve the common good. The principalities and powers themselves are created in and through and for Christ, according to Colossians 1:16, which means that they exist only on behalf of the humanizing purposes of God revealed by Jesus. . .
Many business and corporation executives ignore God's humanizing purposes, and speak of profit as the "bottom line." But this is a capitalist heresy. According to the eighteenth-century philosopher of capitalism, Adam Smith, businesses exist to serve the general welfare. Profit is the means, not the end. It is the reward a business receives for serving the general welfare. When a business fails to serve the general welfare, Smith insisted, it forfeits its right to exist. It is part of the church's task to remind corporations and businesses that profit is not the "bottom line," that as creatures of God they have as their divine vocation the achievement of well-being (Eph. 3:10). They do not exist for themselves. They were bought with a price (Col. 1:20). They belong to God who ordains sufficiency for all."
Can you picture the reaction if that were suggested at the next board meeting of IBM or CAT or you fill in the blank? Do you see how counter-cultural an authentic Christianity truly is? I can only wonder what our country would look like if the "general welfare" of the citizens and those outside our borders was the bottom line for businesses and corporations throughout America.
Stand up and suggest the above philosophy at the next business strategy meeting and you'd be a prophet without profit; you'd be fired.