Economics 101 & Public Square & Theology 101

Who, Me? An Entrepreneur?

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This week we’re tackling tough questions about faith, work, and economics.

In an earlier post, Dr. Anne Bradley used Steve Jobs as an example of someone who helped others through using his gifts in an entrepreneurial fashion. Her larger point was that we as Christians are called to help others through our work, even if our job isn’t typically thought of by the status quo as an important or helpful service.

Her point raises an interesting question: I’m not Steve Jobs. You’re not Steve Jobs. (Surprise!) How can we be entrepreneurs? Is entrepreneurship really a calling?

We need to redefine our idea of entrepreneurship if we are to answer these questions.

Our redefinition begins with Scripture. In conversations I’ve had with Dr. Art Lindsley, he continually references the Cultural Mandate given in Genesis and what it means for human creativity. The fact that we are made in God’s image bears implications for our role as entrepreneurs.

As Art is fond of saying,

He [God] is the Creator, but we are sub-creators…Only God can create something out of nothing, but we can – and are called to – create something out of something.

In other words, we are to take initiative in using the creativity inherent in us as God’s image-bearers. Because we’re all made in the image of God, we all have the potential to initiate and create. This is an important step towards being an entrepreneur.

We’ve talked elsewhere about how we are called to use our work in new, creative ways to advance human flourishing. Christians are called throughout the Scriptures to work toward restoring culture, and entrepreneurship is an important way we can answer this call to reweave shalom.

This call is for all of us, whether we’re the next Steve Jobs or a janitor. As the Parable of the Talents teaches us, we will all be held accountable for the resources we’ve been given to make a return on God’s investment.

Economics can also help us expand our definition of entrepreneurship. Economist Israel Kirzner writes in his work, Competition & Entrepreneurship,

It follows that anyone is a potential entrepreneur…

Kirzner goes on to further define entrepreneurship as a process of discovery. How can we, through our gifts and our work, discover new ways to steward resources and open opportunities for others?

Furthermore, the Library of Economics and Liberty defines an entrepreneur as:

  • An agent of change.
  • Someone who discovers new ways of combining resources.

Under this definition, it’s possible for all of us to be entrepreneurs in our work.

I’ll admit that these are new ideas for me. I worked in a grocery store for three years in high school and college, and it never occurred to me that my gifts could be put to good use while stocking shelves.

Me? An agent of change? All I could think was, “I.Hate.This.Job.”

Even if you’re like I was, and feel your job is “just a job,” you’ve been given unique talents that you can use to create improvements or new ways of doing what you’re doing.

Consider the story of Toyota assembly line workers. Jeffrey Liker writes in The Toyota Way that at Toyota,

Workers are contributing to the improvement of the system and of themselves.

One way Toyota workers exercise entrepreneurship is in the control they take over the quality of parts on the assembly line. Liker describes how assembly workers have the power, and take the initiative, to halt the line when they feel the quality of the car parts is sub-standard. They’re changing the quality of the cars they build.

This is just one example of entrepreneurship on the job. In the future, we’ll be exploring the myriad of possibilities for being an entrepreneur that are open to all of us through our work and creativity.

What do you think of this expanded definition of entrepreneurship? How does it change the way you approach your work?

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