This is an article by guest blogger Chris Patton. His website is Christian Faith At Work where he writes about his Christian faith lived out in the every day world of business.
Don’t hold me to the exact numbers, but it appears that less than 5% of the population will ever own a business with employees (http://www.census.gov/econ/susb/). When I think about that, I am amazed that God has counted me among that small group. The more I think about this fact, the more I realize that there is a lot of responsibility that comes with this opportunity. I want to take a closer look at this picture.
Gift From God
As I spend more time thinking about this privilege, I realize that I do not deserve this opportunity. I have done nothing that has earned this chance. I have worked hard in a family business and have put in a lot of time, but I am sure many could say something similar about their own work ethics. I cannot think of anything heroic I have done that I can point to as a solid reason for the privilege of owning a business. As I see it, it is just a gift from God.
Privilege = Responsibility
Of course, as with any gift from God, this privilege comes with responsibility. If I was given the gift of teaching, then I would have the responsibility to teach others. If the gift of serving, then I would need to serve others. If the gift of giving, I should be giving freely. You have probably heard this before (Romans 12:6-8).
Well, I see the gift of owning a business as something similar. In fact, I see it as exactly the same…and it comes with significant responsibilities. The more thought I have put into this idea, the more I am convinced these responsibilities can be divided into two categories – responsibility to God and responsibility to others.
Responsibility to God
Just as in the parable of the talents, I believe I have been given an investment from God and that He expects a return. First and foremost, I believe He expects a return of glory. God wants the business that He has entrusted to my stewardship to bring Him glory. He and He alone is to get the credit and renown for the existence of and results from this business. Psalm 115:1 says that God is to get all the glory. I think this includes our businesses.
I do not think His glory is the only expectation God has here. Most business owners, even some Christians, see business as separate from God. They see business as existing for their own personal benefit and the benefit of their families. They may or may not tithe on the profits, but that is likely as far as they go.
I believe God expects more. Take a look at Matthew 22:37-40. Jesus says that the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God. Note that He says we are to do this with ALL of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He does not want a part of our lives – He wants it ALL.
Do you really believe that this ALL only applies to our personal and family lives, but not to our businesses? While it might be more comfortable if it did, I just cannot see it that way. I think Jesus’ ALL means ALL. That being the case, I believe we are to dedicate our entire business over to Him and to His purposes.
Responsibility to Others
From what I can see, His first purpose deals with others. I believe there is more to God’s expectations of me in owning this business than just bringing Him glory. I believe He also wants me to look at how this business can impact others.
Read Matthew 22:37-40 again. Note how Jesus answers the initial question, but then follows up quickly in adding that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is a tall order for anyone, but how exactly does it apply to a business? Surely, He does not expect us to give up our own personal gain for the benefit of others, does He? Could He possibly mean that we are to treat this business as more than a machine for generating profit?
I believe He does! I believe we are going to be held accountable to the second greatest commandment not only in the way we lived our lives, but also in the way we ran the businesses entrusted to us. If this is the case, what does it mean? How do we apply this understanding?
Application To A Business Owner
Unfortunately, there is not room here to adequately answer these questions in detail. However, I think the essence can be found in Matthew 5:16 when Jesus says we are to let others see our good deeds and thank God for them.
This means our employee policies should be such that people see our heart and associate it with God. Our strategies should be honest and straightforward. Our reputations should be above reproach. Nothing we do should reflect poorly on our Lord.
Our every thought and goal should be to point others to God. While we will still certainly benefit from the business, we are not to view that as the purpose of the business. God will bless us as He wishes, but we are to remain faithful to His purposes, regardless of the circumstances we experience.
To read more about how we try to do this through our business, visit my blog (http://christianfaithatwork.com).
What are your thoughts?
Are you focused on His purposes or your own?
What do you need to change?
2011’s Top Half-Dozen Posts.
1) 4 Lessons I Learned from “Heaven Is For Real”
2) Shall We Gather at the River?
3) Jet Lag, Fatigue, and Sick Wife
4) When Does Inspiration Come?
5) Tough Times Provide Plenty of Reasons to Be Thankful
6) How Do You Handle Life’s Surprises?
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Awesome post, Chris.
You really have hit on a key point in stewardship in general. We are to steward our resources to love God and other people. This applies to money, time, talents, influence, and yes – even businesses. Great stuff.
Chris did do a great job of addressing that didn’t he?
Thanks Loren! It is convicting when we view things through the stewardship lens. As is normally the case, I am preaching to myself as much as anyone else!
At times, I feel like I am focused on His purposes, but I all to often venture into serving my own puposes. Seems like the struggle is constantly less of me and more of Him. Doing this means that I can make plans, but I must leave room for Him to move. In other words, I need to remain flexible. My natural tendancy is to be controlling, and that is the area I am working on changing. As I learn to be increasingly flexible, I see God moving and working more in my life. I’m often excited now when I don’t know what a post is going to be about in the next week, I still feel confident that He will provide me with the topic and contect at just the right moment. He always does. He’s always faithful.
Kari, I love the fact you’re writing and feeling the fear associated with heights (jumping off cliffs, driving on a mountain road with no guardrails, etc.). It’s both scary and energizing. God-empowered encounters tend to be that way.
Scary and energizing… definitely. Living my life more and more by “God-empowered encounters” has led me to be enjoying life more than I ever have. Thanks for the encouragement!
I agree with Tom…I believe the fear (in a positive sense) is an indicator that you are living in faith at that moment. Keep it up! Not only is it scary and energizing (as Tom says), but it is also strengthening. Over time, you will be willing to go further and further out on that limb. God will use that in amazing ways!
It is interesting for me because I feel that my business doing well only happens when I focus on God. I know there are people who prosper from selfishness, but it seems when I stray from God’s purposes things stop working. When I refocus on His Kingdom, He is faithfully there to help me and work through me. I thank Him that He has put those boundaries on me and pray that He keeps them there. I would hate to be left to my own devices!
Great post Chris and wonderful scripture references!
Sue, glad you joined the conversation. Chris has done a marvelous job of expressing the importance of our faith in the Lord permeating all of life–home, family, business, worship… God bless you as you serve Him in the business world.
Sue, I think you are on the right track. I would ask one question…how do you define “business doing well”? Too often, I get caught up in “doing well” based on the financial statements. I have to keep forcing myself to try to define “doing well” from the eternal perspective. I think this is the only accountability we will have to face that Day.
I would like to recommend the book, “Lost December” which is based on the prodigal son and the story is of a business man with heart, whose son takes his trust fund and leaves…..I won’t tell you more so as to spoil the story, but it ties in well with this blog. You can find it by request at the library, I did!
I agree 100% but while it is easy to say, it can be a lot harder to put some of the principles of Christ’ teaching into practice. May God give us the strength to do what He would.
Mary, I will be looking into that book as well!
You are right about it being easier to say what we believe than it is to put it into action. But, also as you say, God’s strength will make it possible!
Thanks for your comments Mary!
Thanks, Mary, for your recommendation. Will have to check out the book next trip to the library.
Great thoughts here! God is calling more & more believers to business ownership & leadership so that we can take on this level of responsibility and influence. Thanks for being open & transparent about the process!
Thanks David! I appreciate your encouragement.
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