Business as an Agent of Human Flourishing and the Greater Glory of God

by Rod St Hill

It is now three years since the Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation and subsequent publications. Over the coming weeks we will have a series of articles on wealth creation, reflecting on the eleven affirmations in the Wealth Creation Manifesto, which now exists in 17 languages.

Even the simplest one-person or family businesses as most are, especially in poorer countries, unleash the creative capacity in the human person, bringing together various inputs and transforming them into products that contribute positively to human flourishing. Not only do the products contribute to human flourishing, but the processes associated with business create opportunities for the realisation of human dignity.

The purpose of this blog is to reflect and comment upon the seventh and eighth affirmations of the Wealth Creation Manifesto:

7. The purpose of wealth creation through business goes beyond giving generously, although that is to be commended; good business has intrinsic value as a means of material provision and can be an agent of positive transformation in society.
8. Business has a special capacity to create financial wealth, but also has the potential to create different kinds of wealth for many stakeholders, including social, intellectual, physical and spiritual wealth.

I studied economic development at university over 40 years ago. I still recall reading Dudley Seers on ‘The Meaning of Development’. [1] He conceptualised development in terms of ‘realisation of the potential of human personality’. For this, he argued there were a number of necessary conditions, namely:

  • Basic needs – food, clothing, footwear, shelter – must be met
  • A job – defined broadly to include paid and unpaid work like studying, working on the family farm and housekeeping – to satisfy the need for self-respect
  • Other conditions such as good education, freedom of speech, and citizenship of a nation that is truly independent

In the first decade of my academic career I taught development economics. My students were certainly made aware of Seers’ concept. I also introduced my students to Amartya Sen’s work. He rejected the idea of ‘development’ and focused on freedom as the ultimate goal of economic life as well as the most efficient means of realising general welfare. According to Sen, overcoming deprivations (‘unfreedoms’) is central to development. These include hunger, ignorance, an unsustainable economic life, unemployment, barriers to economic fulfilment by women or minorities, premature death, violation of political freedom and basic liberty, threats to environmental sustainability, and poor access to health, sanitation, or safe water. [2]  

The Role of Business in Human Flourishing

More recently Peter Greer and Chris Horst have argued theologically for the role of business in human flourishing. [3] They argued that the key is freer markets and higher levels of employment which are statistically related to higher levels of overall life satisfaction or human flourishing. Human flourishing involves spiritual, physical, moral, political, economic and social dimensions. Although I should have been aware of this important book when I contributed to the Lausanne Global Consultation on Wealth Creation for Transformation, Peter Greer’s earlier work on the importance of sustainable employment through business was among the resources we used in a paper to which I contributed. [4] [5]

Research on factors that explain happiness (also referred to as life evaluation) aligns fairly well with at least some of the elements of development and human flourishing referred to above. The World Happiness Report correlates GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and freedom from corruption with happiness. [6]

The Business As Mission (BAM) movement has always been committed to the ‘quadruple’ bottom line – economic, social, environmental and spiritual. The idea of the quadruple bottom line is consistent with the seminal work by Seers, Sen and Greer and Horst and with the research on world happiness.

Twenty years ago, the movement focused on the poorest and least evangelised nations of the world. More recently there has been recognition that there is a need for BAM wherever there is systemic poverty. Even in North America and Europe some 30 per cent of adult individuals are at the base of the global wealth pyramid. Although this is much lower than the 80 per cent in the low-income countries and, for many, it is only a transient phenomenon related to life cycle, there is, nevertheless, a significant number of people trapped in poverty. [7]  This is why ‘BAM in our own backyard’ is growing in at least some of the high-income countries.

Business for the Greater Glory of God

An example of ‘BAM  in our own backyard’ is The All Shall Prosper (ASP) Movement which is centred in Australia but is gaining momentum via the development of an international network of Kingdom Investors (KI) chapters encompassing both high- and low-income nations including the United States, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Thailand, Fiji, Samoa, Mauritius, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Ukraine, South America, Central America, South Korea, and Australia. The fundamental thinking that underpins KI is to teach Christian men and women how to multiply their businesses, or if they are not in business, their affluence and their influence, to eradicate the Babylonian culture of greed, self-centredness and corruption from the marketplace. This is a culture that leads to systemic poverty, social distress, and human misery, everything which Jesus campaigned against. The goal is to replace this failed system with the Kingdom culture of caring and sharing which always leads to universal prosperity and human flourishing. [8] In essence, the goal is to replace the kind of economic system described in Ezekiel chapters 27 and 28 and in Revelation chapters 17 and 18 with that described in 1 Kings 4:20-25 and Micah 4:4 (which contain the vine and fig tree, Jewish motifs for shalom) or to create ‘sheep’ nations as in Matthew 25:31-46.

The ASP Movement represents a version of BAM that is different to that envisaged in the original Lausanne paper. [9]  BAM has matured since then to encompass ‘holistic transformation of people, businesses, industries, societies, and nations’ and is appropriate and needful in every nation on earth. It is business ad majorem Dei gloriam, business for the greater glory of God.’ [10]

 

[1] Seers, D. (1979). ‘The Meaning of Development, with a Postscript’, in D. Seers, E.W. Nafziger, D.C. O’Brien, and H. Bernstein (eds) Development Theory: Four Critical Studies, Frank Cass: London.

[2] Sen, A.K. (1999). Development as Freedom, Alfred A. Knopf: New York.

[3] Greer, P. and Horst, C. (2014). Entrepreneurship for Human Flourishing, AEI Press: Washington, DC.

[4] Greer, P. and Smith P. (2009). The Poor Will be Glad: Joining the Revolution to Lift the World Out of Poverty. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI.

[5] Lausanne Movement & BAM Global. (2017). Wealth Creation: Biblical Views & Perspectives. Lausanne Global Consultation on Wealth Creation for Transformation, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Available at https://www.lausanne.org/content/wealth-creation-biblical-views-perspectives

[6] Helliwell, J. F., Layard, R., Sachs, J. and De Neve, J-E. eds. (2020). World Happiness Report 2020. Sustainable Development Solutions Network: New York. Available at https://worldhappiness.report/ed/2020/

[7] Credit Suisse Research Institute (2020). Global Wealth Report 2019. Credit Suisse: Zurich. Available at https://www.credit-suisse.com/about-us/en/reports-research/global-wealth-report.html

[8] See http://www.kingdominvestors.com.au/what-is-kingdom-investors/

[9] Business as Mission Issue Group, (2005). Lausanne Occasional paper on Business as Mission. Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, Occasional paper #59.

[10] Tunehag, M. (2020). BAM 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 & Beyond. Available at http://matstunehag.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/BAM-TALK-2.pdf

 

More in this series:

Wealth Creation Manifesto: Affirming the Role of Business People in God’s Plan for the World
Shaping Our Views on Wealth, Wealth Creation and Wealth Creators
Creating Wealth for God’s Glory and the Common Good
Business Is a Holy Calling That Should Be Affirmed by the Church
Alleviating Poverty by Creating Businesses and Sharing Wealth

Dr Rod St Hill is Pastor at IgniteLife Church Gold Coast, Australia, where he leads IgniteLife Business, a promotion and educational platform for BAM. Prior to ordination, he held various academic positions in universities and private higher education institutions in Australia and New Zealand. He taught economics, management, leadership and governance for nearly 40 years and is a leader in Christian higher education curriculum development in business, management and leadership. He was a group leader at the BAM Global Congress in 2013 and the Lausanne Global Consultation on Wealth Creation for Transformation in 2017. He contributes to economic and business commentary on national Christian radio in Australia, writes blogs for his church and other promoters of BAM and is a Kingdom Investors chapter leader. Rod is a happy husband (39 years), father (36 years), father-in-law (14 years) and ‘Poppa’ (two years), enjoys time with family, cooking, gardening and LEGO and would tinker with vintage farm machinery if he had any spare time.

 

 

Watch the Wealth Creation Classroom Series

The Lausanne Global Classroom on Wealth Creation is a series of short 2-5 minute videos based on the work of the Wealth Creation Consultation

More Resources

Download: PDF of the Wealth Creation Manifesto

Read: Wealth Creation Manifesto with Bible References

Read: Calling the Church to affirm Wealth Creators

Download: Wealth Creation Papers:

Click on image to open BAM Global Reports page

 

 

Photo by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash