In December 2005, I sat with my wife in a small Chicago theater watching a charming production of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
I found myself unexpectedly moved. In the closing act, Ebenezer Scrooge has been wildly transformed from his greed-fueled life and is gushing in benevolence and generosity such that his old business advisers protest, “Ebenezer, you can’t keep giving like this—think about what it will mean for the business!”
To which Ebenezer passionately replies, slamming his fist on a desk, “From now on, mankind IS our business!”
Right then, something about his declaration moved me to a place of clarity and resolve. Emotion swelled within me; he was right.
What does faith in the marketplace have to do with a flourishing economy and prospering society? Everything.
In 1800 B.C., a rancher near Baghdad was commissioned to be the patriarch of a tribe intended to “bless all people of the earth.” We know this man as Abraham, and his descendants are the Jewish people from whom we receive the Bible, Jesus, Albert Einstein, Solomon, Steven Spielberg and even Bob Dylan.
Abraham was an agricultural titan with a fantastic portfolio of assets and hundreds of employees, but it was his faith that both prospered his enterprise and contributed to the flourishing of every community he engaged in.
Chinese economist Dr. Zhao Xiao researched capitalistic market societies for implications for China. In 2002, his “Market Economies With Churches and Market Economies Without Churches” proved a scandalous treatise, as it boldly concluded that the success of American capitalism greatly hinged upon the presence of faith and Judeo-Christian values to counterbalance the cannibalistic tendencies greed fueled in such markets.
Essentially, he wrote, if China wanted to leverage capitalism and flourish, it needed to simultaneously cultivate religious fervor within the marketplace!
Any casual review of the last decade of “white-collar” crime, ethics scandals and corruption illustrates the dangers of free market forces devoid of values anchored in something greater than self-interest.
We recently engaged the Best Christian Workplace Institute to assess our own company culture around their eight dimensions of “flourishing.”
We were assessed around fantastic teams, life-giving work, outstanding talent, uplifting growth, rewarding compensation, inspirational leadership, sustainable strategy, healthy communication, and overall engagement.
For over 20 years, we have evaluated thousands of C12 Group member CEOs against a “Tri-Value” model — economic, team and spiritual “value add.” All of these assessment dimensions are rooted in a faith system that calls for the type of robust stewardship that yields prospering economies, flourishing people and transformed communities.
A flourishing society and prosperous economy requires values unlikely to germinate in a schizophrenically partitioned society, where faith is somehow excluded from the public square. We don’t need a secular marketplace devoid of faith. Our nation needs more authentic faith expression throughout the marketplace, with followers of Jesus effectively demonstrating the policies and priorities of His administration through every aspect of business.
A society where faith-fueled stewards in the marketplace demonstrate their faith in the products, processes and people they manage will be a flourishing one by all measures. The God of Abraham is in the people business and calls all followers in every sector of the marketplace to remember that “mankind is our business”—because it is His business!
We know the term “Puritan Work Ethic” because of how the early stages of the American Experiment were marked by entrepreneurial output that fueled our nation’s formative GDP. Beyond productivity, faith—rightly expressed with dignity and humility—yields desperately needed values, localized compassion, hope, and stability.
Faith in the workplace led Trevor Bird to deploy Harley H.E.A.R.T. Programs across Harley Davidson dealerships in Texas to see dozens set free from addictions. It led James Ruder to leverage L&R Pallets Service Inc., (Denver) to provide jobs and training to refugees from Southeast Asia. It’s why Jeff Jaime would lead Taurean, a cybersecurity firm, to impact the lives of hundreds of local foster children and at-risk families, and build wells in Africa.
These business leaders share a common faith, which fuels their values and leadership. Their employees, customers, and entire communities are the beneficiaries of such businesses operated with a stewardship mindset.