This paper has two goals: to demonstrate the divine aspects of entrepreneurship and to show that there is much more to entrepreneurialism than business activities.
Christians have a somewhat schizophrenic view of entrepreneurs. We see them as something of a necessary evil; we recognize their value to some extent but also view them with skepticism and distrust, especially those who become wealthy. They are frequently viewed in a certain accusatory way, as though their wealth has come at the expense of others.
This view stems from an incomplete understanding of what entrepreneurs do, how they function, and the role they play in God’s order. Entrepreneurs are vital to fulfilling God’s purpose. They are creative people who provide people with a way of serving others. In that sense, they display a divine characteristic. Furthermore, entrepreneurial activity is not restricted to commercial activity. Properly understood entrepreneurship is a special kind of stewardship, something to which we have all been called. This paper examines entrepreneurship from a biblical perspective and places the activity within the biblical worldview.
To Create Is Divine
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.1
Genesis tells us that man is the only creature created in God’s image. This is a wide-ranging statement and applies in many ways. We have an eternal part, we have the ability to commune with him and socialize with each other, we can reason and think as well as love and worship, and we have the ability to choose and act on those choices. It also means we have the ability to create. The first thing we are told about God is that he is a creator; creation is a divine act and when humans create, they are displaying a certain part of their image-bearing nature.
The Bible tells us that when God began his creative work, the world was “without form and void.”2 In the Hebrew, the English phrase, “without form and void,” is tohu wa-bohu, and can accurately be translated as wilderness, chaos, emptiness, and darkness.3 God’s creative act brought order out of chaos and nothingness. While human creation is not as dramatic, there is still a sense that it brings order out of chaos and nothing. The blank canvas becomes a painting, the uncut stone becomes a statue, and the empty page becomes written music, but it is broader than that; the field of weeds becomes a garden, the stand of trees becomes a home, and the swamp becomes a city.
Human creation emulates the Genesis story; it is the same impulse at work put there by the master creator. God created heaven and earth ex nihilo; out of nothing. Man does not create out of nothing; he has resources with which to work. Some of these resources are natural and some are manufactured, but the point is that the entrepreneur takes the same resources that are available to everyone else the same twenty-four hours a day and creates a way to make life easier and better.
To Create Is a Calling
Besides our God-given instinct to create, we are also called to create; it is a duty. While each person is gifted in certain ways to perform certain work, we, as a race and as individuals, are called by him to be creative in whatever task he has for us. From the very beginning, Adam was given the task of naming the animals and was told to work and take care of the garden. While these assignments may not sound like creative acts, we are examining them after the fact. At the time, this was all new and required significant creativity. Adam was delegated some tasks as part of helping creation flourish; and in reality, we are all delegated such tasks. As John Calvin states in his commentary on the creation story, “Let him who possesses a field, so partake of its yearly fruits…let him endeavor to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated.”4 (emphasis added)
Calvin believes that each person’s minimum goal is to use and enjoy what he has. However, he needs to leave it in at least as good of condition as when he received it because this is sort of a first-condition stewardship obligation. The higher goal, the second condition, is to pass on what we are entrusted with in better shape than it was in when it was entrusted to us. This is an ongoing process. Calvin is specifically discussing farmland, but the concept more broadly applies to all tasks we undertake. Passing on something that is in better condition than when we got it means improving it by adding value to it by finding creative ways to make it better. This can involve doing something to it to improve it or selling it to someone else who has a higher-valued use for it.
1 Gen. 1:1, Geneva Bible 1599.
2 Gen. 1:2.
3 James T. Bartsch, “A Word Study of Tohu wa Bohu,” Wordexplain, last modified July 15, 2010, accessed Feburary 28, 2014. http://www.wordexplain.com/Word_Study_tohu_wa_bohu.html.
4 John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses, Called Genesis, Volume 1 (Ada, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 1996), 125. John Calvin (1509-1564) was a Swiss based French theologian and a key figure in the Protestant Reformation. He is commonly considered the father of Presbyterianism and is known for his work The Institutes of the Christian Religion and his extensive multi-volume Bible commentary. For more information see http://www.ccel.org/c/calvin.