Media highlights the negative connotations associated with business. Bad business deals. Big business monopolies that limits choices of everyday people and prevents new products entering the market. How do you reconcile the fact that most Christians will work in a business of their own or in a business that belongs to someone else at some stage in their career?
People throughout the Bible were involved in business. For example, Abraham was a successful business man. Solomon applauded a business woman in Proverbs 31. Some of the Apostles were involved in the fishing trade. Paul was a tent maker and advised Thessalonians to work in a trade (1 Thessalonians 4:11). Even Jesus was a carpenter. In fact, virtually everyone in the Bible was involved in some aspect of business.
What is God’s view on business? God’s plan is to reconcile man to Himself. His Kingdom is coming to people on earth, which is why Jesus prayed:
“May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10 NLT)
Dr David Livingstone (1857) said:
“Those two pioneers of civilization—Christianity and commerce—should ever be inseparable.”
God uses business to advance His plan for the world. Our experience of God changes as He directs us to progress His plan on earth. In so doing His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
Salvation is only part of God’s plan to redeem mankind. For example, Jesus’mandate on earth was:
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me,
and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19 NLT)
Who Are Called to Business?
All Christians are designed by God to change the world, but we all do it in different ways. For example God calls pastors to guide a church. He calls teachers to change the world by passing on knowledge. He calls doctors and nurses to care for the sick.
Business people are called by God to change the world by providing products and services. For example, He may call you to start a restaurant that changes the world with His life. A website that changes the world with His love. A secular job that changes the world with His hope. Jesus said:
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” (Matthew 6:24 NLT)
I have seen many Christians working in businesses in my career. The sad truth is that most Christians are worse off than their secular colleagues. Why? It happens when we mix the secular, pig farm system with God’s way of working. I came to terms with the reality that God’s approach to business and the pig farm approach are completely different when I worked in investment banks for eight years.
For example, we may try to make as much money as we can and love our neighbor as ourselves. Inner conflict leads to inaction. Inaction in business leads to failure. If you aren’t making career decisions everyday in line with a single purpose, then chances are that you are drifting in the Purposeless Cycle.
I’ve observed only a handful of Christians (maybe less than 10%) who manage to get off the pig farm system. They are not necessarily missionaries or pastors. Some of them are Chief Executive Officers, prayer warriors and inventors. How do they do it? They discover their God-given purpose. Their careers have a major impact on the world. They love what they do. They are free because they are solving the types of problems that they are designed to solve.
What is the Future of Work for Christians?
I saw a picture of people assembling blocks each day. People working in a secular system where what they do is replaceable. The only purpose of the secular system is to make a profit. These people were saying “why am I stuck in my career?” and “where is the hope in my career?” They didn’t realize that the problem was not with them, but with the secular system itself.
Suddenly I saw all the blocks swept off the table as if the secular system of work was shaken. I then saw a tree of life, as in the parable of the sower, growing. It is an authentic system of life that God intended for us to live, not the artificial secular system of assembling blocks.
In God’s system people were held on the branches of the trees. People were valued in this system not profits. As the seeds in one Christian’s life took root and grew into an extraordinary business career, the Christian employees and colleagues saw that it was possible to work with God in their career. These Christians in turn built their own extraordinary careers by following the example of the forerunners. So God’s Kingdom is extended in the business world by one Christian at a time learning to work with God and showing other Christians that it is possible to break out of the secular system of work.
Don’t be afraid of the shaking. This world and the secular system will pass away. It was never intended to be the way in which you will work with God. God is replacing the secular system of work!
How do Christians in Businesses Measure Success?
Jesus never set performance targets based for Himself nor for His disciples. For example, Jesus never said “today my goal is to heal one more person than I did yesterday”. Neither did He say to His disciples that “someone needs to step up today and do a really big miracle”.
What Jesus said regularly to His disciples was “where is your faith?” In other words, why aren’t we believing God to do what He has asked us to do. This is the same idea in what Paul said:
“Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” (Romans 12:3 NLT)
In my career I have found two ways in which I can identify whether when I am operating in faith. Firstly, I can compare what has God asked me to do against what I have actually done this past week, month or year. Secondly, I can compare how the world has changed with the change that He has asked me to make. In other words, how does the world look different before and after someone has used my products or services? My measure of faith increases as I change my focus from performance metrics onto what God says to me or shows me.
We can trust God with our careers. To do what He tells us to do. To go where He leads us.
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