During my first twenty years in the family business (electric power system reliability for industries and utilities), I studied scripture to find a biblical basis for our business’s purpose.
I focused on several parts of scripture:
- Jesus’s teachings about the kingdom and his parables about living and growing things.
- The story of creation.
- God’s instructions and demonstrations to Israel that related to the economic aspects of how they were to live as they traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land.
- Paul’s teaching about Jesus as the last Adam.
From experience with the business and scripture, I came up with these top-level purposes for what we do:
- Be an economically viable organization.
- Value people over money, expressed through giving people the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential.
- Build up a “good place” in the communities where we work.
There’s a lot to unpack in these three primary purposes.
Be an Economically Viable Organization
One intention I have for the business is that making money not be the primary purpose of the business. Making a profit is necessary, of course. We need to meet all our expenses, repay capital investments, and generate additional funds to invest in improvements, research, and growth.
But our primary purpose for making a profit (which I prefer to call being economically viable) is to support the other two purposes of the business, which together form its primary purposes.
Give People the Opportunity to Live Up to Their God-Given Potential
We are known as a “Christian business.” We have a Bible reference built into our logo and prominently displayed on the front corner of our building, where it is lit up at night in case you didn’t notice it in the daytime. The text of the verse (Acts 4:12) is on display in one foot tall letters in our lobby. A tab on our web site offering a “Free Gift” lays out the plan of salvation. I could go on.
Since we are a business operating in public space and not a non-profit ministry operating in a religious space, we often use publicly accessible terms to designate biblically-based concepts.
Rather than saying we want people to find and fulfill God’s purpose for their lives while becoming more and more like Christ, we say that we want to give people the opportunity and encouragement to live up to their God-given potential. Even atheists will overlook the “God-given” part to understand that we value people and express that value through training and development opportunities.
In my heart, when I say “live up to your potential” I know that a person living up to his or her full potential entails them becoming more and more Christ-like, and that becoming Christ-like entails accepting Christ as your savior.
No one needs to become a Christian to work with us. We do build a business culture, though, that allows people to understand the gospel as a proposition and as it is lived out in the lives of Christians in the organization. Each person makes their own decision from there.
Build Up a “Good Place” in Communities Where We Work
“Building up good places in the communities where we work” is another way to express the line in Jesus’s prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
This necessarily involves not only clear gospel proclamations but also meeting the needs of widows, orphans, and strangers, as well as any positive life engagement God gives us in this very good world created for our living.
I’ve learned the phrases cultural mandate and biblical flourishing to apply to these concepts. Whether or not people in our business understand or adopt a biblical perspective on their work, everyone enjoys meeting needs and building good places in the community.
Tying It All Together
Making a profit in our business enables us to support peoples’ journeys in becoming like Christ, and to express that Christ-likeness through impact in the communities where we work.
What a high and lofty purpose for the profit we make!
Some of the people who work with us understand their work in these overtly religious terms and some do not. Some are professing Christians and some are covert Christians. Some are atheists, Hindus, Muslims, or Mormons.
Each one has heard the gospel presented. More importantly, each person experiences the gospel lived out in the way we understand and apply it to how the business makes a profit.
Our culture makes a compelling case for the purpose and uses of a business’s profits. As with everything else in life, though, we can search the scriptures for our own, faith-based reasons for what we do.
We may find support for what the culture shows us, we may find ways to redeem cultural norms, or we may find something different and better. It all begins with seeking God’s view in prayer and scripture.
Editor’s note: Is Christianity consistent with capitalism? Check out Counting the Cost: Christian Perspectives on Capitalism.
On “Flashback Friday,” we publish some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was first published on Feb. 4, 2016.
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