by Mats Tunehag
As we do business, we create wealth – not only financial wealth, but also social, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual wealth. The Bible talks about wealth in three ways: wealth creation, sharing and hoarding. The last is condemned. Wealth sharing is encouraged and is often facilitated through NGOs and churches, but there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created. Wealth creation is a godly gift; God says that He gives the ability to create wealth (Deut. 8:18).
Let’s look at the context of this statement in Deuteronomy chapter eight. The people of Israel have been brought out of Egypt and are about to enter the Promised Land. God tells them what to expect and what to do. He explicitly states that there are good business prospects in mining and agriculture. People are admonished to seize these opportunities. As a result, wealth will be created. But then a danger arises, or rather, two potential pitfalls.
Firstly, God says there is a risk that people will think and say that they themselves have created wealth, failing to acknowledge the Lord in it. This is what precedes verse 18. So God reminds them that He is the one who gives the gift and ability to create wealth.
Secondly, wealth creation is put into the context of the Covenant. God entered into a Covenant with Abraham and his descendants that He blessed them so they could bless others – locally and globally. But, one could say blessings are beyond words. To bless others is to create all kinds of wealth and in turn, share it. This is indeed a part of the Covenant. And one mustn’t forget God, the initiator of the Covenant.
Wealth creation processes, done through business, should be mindful of both God and others. We should always have this dual goal: to do business for God and the common good. It makes a difference. Noah and his sons undertook a massive engineering project with this perspective and it led to the salvation of mankind and creation. An equally impressive construction project was the Tower of Babel. However God was left out of this project, and, built on selfish motives, it led to the breakdown of society.
The gift and calling to create wealth is beyond a micro finance loan or a single small or medium size business. It is about building nations, and seeking the welfare of cities.
“This is what the Lord Almighty says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city.” (Jer. 29)
Here the people of Israel are in exile. They are in a country they didn’t choose. But they mustn’t sit and sulk, simply go into survival mode, or withdraw into religious ceremonies and meetings. No, they are commanded to start businesses, develop the local economy, and in doing so strive for shalom. Shalom is whole relationships filled with integrity. Business is about relationships with customers, clients, suppliers, staff, community, city, and environment. Seek shalom with all these partners and entities, as you seek to create wealth and prosperity for cities and nations.
Pope Francis writes: “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.”
Wealth creation is a godly gift. Use it – for God and the common good.
Join us for our Summer Series on The BAM Review Blog, summer 2016. We’ve asked BAM leaders and practitioners to write about topics they are passionate about for a series of one-off blogs throughout the summer.
Mats Tunehag has been speaking, writing and convening on business as mission for 20 years. He is the Senior Associate on Business as Mission for both the Lausanne Movement and World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission. He is the co-editor of the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission and currently the co-chair of BAM Global. He also serves with a global investment fund based on Christian values that helps SMEs to grow in size, profitability and holistic impact in the Arab world and Asia. Visit MatsTunehag.com for more resources from Mats.