Biblical Foundations for Business as Mission
What does God say about business in the Bible? What were His intentions when he made enterprise part of His design for human society? For those pursuing business as mission it is essential to build on solid Biblical foundations.
Three reasons to build a Biblical foundation for business, work and economics
1. Broadening our horizons
Most start with a particular motivation when they launch into BAM and there is nothing wrong with that. However, embracing all the ways that business might positively impact a community will give us greater potential to intentionally create that impact. Let us understand and embrace the fullness of God’s design for business. Let us celebrate His intentions. As we do that, we will have to say, “Wow!” God is so creative and He has given us the ability to be creative, to add value, to make money, to create wealth and come up with new innovations, that provide livelihoods, that help a community develop, that help us live in peace, that close the door on exploitation, that give lives meaning and transform people’s values, that communicates the Gospel… These are all God’s gifts to us in business!
2. We will multiply what we sow
Whatever we believe about business in our own worldview we will multiply as we go out and do business as mission. If we only emphasize that business is a means to a particular end and not something to celebrate it in its own right, then that is what we will multiply. We will perpetuate the split thinking about what is sacred and valuable, and what is not, in the minds of the people we will influence and disciple. If we are to see a multiplication of business people bringing Kingdom transformation, we must multiply a Biblical view of business.
In our society we become what we celebrate. In order to release business people to get engaged, we need to celebrate their role in the Kingdom of God. Business is a high calling, we need to celebrate it so that our children and their children know that if they are called to business then that’s what they should be doing to God’s glory. Steve Saint
3. It is good for business
Thinking broadly about the transformational power of business is also good for business. This is something the world at large is waking up to. Terms like ‘social entrepreneurship’, ‘shared value’ and ‘conscious capitalism’ are becoming common currency as society re-evaluates the role of business. There is a growing understanding that as we create products that are good for society and meet human needs, then that will also be good for business in the purely economic sense. This cutting-edge thinking is rediscovering God’s original design for business! As Christians we need to have a firm grasp on what God says about the purpose of business.
Thoughts on the fundamental Biblical purpose of business
Excerpts from the BAM Think Tank Biblical Foundations for Business as Mission paper:
God calls His people to do good… Whenever business is carried out justly, it does good and is God-ordained because we are assured that all good things ‘come from above’ (James 1:17). God created the marketplace to serve positive ends. Human provision, facilitated by the beneficial exchanges of the marketplace, is a fundamental function of creation. Commerce can also be, at least informally, a means of revelatory grace, specifically as immanent charis, the kindness, mercy, and goodwill of God in the world, as business generates wealth that can be used to pay wages, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for widows and orphans. Business can be evangelizing witness to the glory of God… Christ is present in the marketplace when the devout carry out their business in accordance with God’s will, purposes, and character (Doty, 2011, pp. 93–4).
Understanding God’s purposes for business comes through understanding God’s purpose for humans outlined in Genesis and understanding God’s purposes for institutions (principalities and powers outlined in the New Testament writings). Broadly, the purpose of business lies within the context of the purpose of life―that is, the ‘chief end of humankind is to glorify God and enjoy God forever’ (Westminster Confession). God is in the people-developing ‘business’ to make a people to live in harmonious relationship with God and with one another (Daniels, 2012, p. 60).
First, business appears to be uniquely well situated to work the fields, to cause the land to be fruitful, and to fill the earth—what we might in modern parlance characterize as “to create wealth”. Second, business is the dominant institution (although obviously not the only one) equipped to provide organized opportunities for meaningful and creative work (Van Duzer, 2010, pp. 41–2).
Business, from a Christian viewpoint… is a calling to transformational service for the common good. It is a calling on personal, institutional and structural levels to serve God and participate in his ministry of bettering the lives of others in multiple dimensions (Wong & Rae, 2011, p. 284).
Christ talks about invasion: may God’s Kingdom come on earth, may God’s will be done in our lives and societies today. The incarnational mystery is one of engagement, living among us, sharing our lives and circumstances. Business as Mission recognizes our calling to be salt and light in the marketplace. It is not about evacuating Christians from a sinful and corrupt sphere, but rather becoming an answer to the Lord’s Prayer: May your Kingdom come in the business world (Tunehag, 2013b).
Read the full paper to unpack these and other ideas. See also Further Resources list below.
What does the Bible say about business, work and the economic sphere?
Selected scriptures for further study:
Provision for human society and multiplication of resources is designed by God to come primarily through dignified work. God is creative and pleased with his work and we are made to be creative in His image: Genesis 2:1-3, Deuteronomy 28:1-13, Joshua 5: 11-12, Psalm 128:1‒2.
Material provisions are good and important for our daily life and the healthy functioning of communities, however they are not sufficient to fully satisfy us as humans: Deuteronomy 8, 1 Kings 4:25, Psalms 62:10, Proverbs 23:4-5, Ecclesiastes 5:10-20, Zechariah 3:10, Matthew 4:4, Matthew 6:33, Mark 8:36.
Business creates opportunities for meaningful work and creativity that is essential for human dignity and a peaceful society: Genesis 2:2-3, Ephesians 6:5-9, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, 2 Thessalonians 3:10–12.
We should care for the poor and needy and support the work of the Church out of the abundance of economic activity. We are to be generous: Deuteronomy 15:4-10, Proverbs 31:18-20, Leviticus 19:9–10, Acts 20:33-35, Ephesians 4:28, 1 Corinthians 9:10-14, James 2:14‒17
God hates oppression, injustice, and those who exploit the economically and socially vulnerable: Exodus 22: 22-27, Deuteronomy 24:14–15, Deuteronomy 25: 13-16, Proverbs 22:16, Amos 8:4-10, Micah 2:1‒2, Micah 6:8, Malachi 3:5, Colossians 4:1, James 5:4.
Biblical values and precepts can be modeled in the context of daily business life; this makes our message and witness more credible. Life in business can be a training ground for moral development and spiritual maturity: Deuteronomy 22:8, Proverbs 11:1-3, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-9.
We are God’s image bearers in the world and our chief end is to Glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We are to be salt and light in the world, called on to be witnesses for the Gospel in any daily situation: Genesis 1:26-27, Psalm 86:8-13, Matthew 5:1-16, Colossians 4:5-6, 1 Peter 3:15.
Wayne Grudem – Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business (2003)
Timothy Keller – Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (2012)
Jeff Van Duzer – Why Business Matters to God: (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed) (2010)
Kenman Wong and Scott Rae – Business for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace (2011)
Articles and Web Resources:
BAM Global Think Tank Report – Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done… in Business: Biblical Foundations for Business as Mission
Lausanne Occasional Paper No. 59. – Business as Mission. See Chapter 2, The Word and the Mission: Biblical Foundations for BAM
Theology of Work Project – A Biblical Perspective on Faith and Work
Daniels, D. (2012). Toward a theology of business. In Okonkwo, B. (ed.). Finding Meaning in Business: Theology, Ethics and Vocation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Doty, D. (2011). Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.
Saint, S (2010). Unpublished conference speech, Call2Business, Long Beach, USA
Tunehag, M. (2013). Business as Mission can be smelly. Retrieved March 20, 2013, from www.matstunehag.com.
Van Duzer, J. (2010). Why Business Matters to God: And What Still Needs to be Fixed. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
Wong, K. & Rae, S. (2011). Business for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.