Integrating Faith and Work (2)
In the previous article I drew some conclusions from Tim Keller’s book, Every Good Endeavor, about the relation between faith and our work, our jobs, our careers. Here I want to turn to some observations drawn from Wayne Grudem’s short book, Business for the Glory of God. Continue reading . . .
In the previous article I drew some conclusions from Tim Keller’s book, Every Good Endeavor, about the relation between faith and our work, our jobs, our careers. Here I want to turn to some observations drawn from Wayne Grudem’s short book, Business for the Glory of God.
There is a tendency among some to look with disdain on the pursuit of profit in our work. The very notion of a for-profit business is considered an expression of a competitive ambition that is fueled by greed. It is certainly possible for someone to be driven solely by greed and an acquisitive spirit. But business, property, and profit, when set within the framework of biblical guidelines/ethics, are good.
(1) Profit, justly obtained, is not bad. Don’t be apologetic for or embarrassed by money righteously obtained. Business is morally good when conducted in a manner consistent with biblical principles of justice. Business can glorify God in the same way that worship and evangelism and godly living do.
Thus, profit, when justly gained, is good. Profit is simply selling a product/service for more than the cost of producing it. The ability to obtain a profit is thus an indication that I have produced something that is beneficial for someone else. The making of a profit also indicates that I am making good and efficient use of the earth’s resources, thus obeying God’s creation mandate that mankind “subdue” the earth. Keller writes:
“Corporate profits and influence, stewarded wisely, are a healthy means to a good end. They are vital to creating new products to serve customers, giving an adequate return to investors for the use of their money, and paying employees well for their work” (165/Kindle).
(2) Ownership of property is a good thing. It is not necessarily the result of greed. When God gave the command, “You shall not steal” (Exod. 20:15), “he affirmed the validity of personal ownership of possessions. I should not steal your car, because it belongs to you, not to me. Unless God intended us to own personal possessions, the command not to steal would make no sense” (Grudem, 19). God gave this command because “ownership of possessions is a fundamental way that we imitate God’s sovereignty over the universe by our exercising ‘sovereignty’ over a tiny portion of the universe, the things we own” (19).
[Of course, “ownership” is in reality “stewardship” insofar as God ultimately “owns” everything. What we possess we hold as stewards of God’s property. See Psalm 24:1; Lev. 25:23; Ps. 50:10-12; Haggai 2:8; Luke 16:12; 1 Cor. 4:7.]
So what should we do with some of what we own? (1) Give some of it away to those in need (Acts 20:35; Heb. 13:16). (2) Give some of it to the church for the work of the ministry (2 Cor. 8-9). (3) Invest it so as to gain a good return / profit on what we own. (4) Enjoy it as a good gift from God (1 Tim. 6:17). (5) Save it for future use (1 Tim. 5:8). Says Grudem:
“Therefore human desires to increase the production of goods and services are not in themselves greedy or materialistic or evil. Rather, such desires to be more productive represent God-given desires to accomplish and achieve and solve problems. They represent God-given desires to exercise dominion over the earth and exercise faithful stewardship so that we and others may enjoy the resources of the earth that God made for our use and for our enjoyment” (28).
But we must be diligent never to focus on material things for their own sake, as if they are an end in themselves. Always remember that money is a means, never an end.
(3) Contrary to the suggestion of some, the Bible does not view employment as evil. Hiring one person to do work for another in order to gain a profit is good (Luke 10:7). In fact, the employer/employee relationship is an excellent opportunity to display those biblical virtues such as honesty, fairness, trustworthiness, kindness, generosity, as well as providing an opportunity for the development of our skills and our use of wisdom. This relationship enables people to create services and products for others that were not present or available before.
(4) The Bible also indicates that the buying and selling of goods/services is fundamentally good (Lev. 25:14). See also Gen. 41:57; Lev. 19:35-36; Deut. 25:13-16; Prov. 11:26; 31:16; Jer. 32:25,42-44. “Voluntary commercial transactions benefit both parties” (Grudem, 36).
(5) Finally, money is not inherently evil. Only the love of money is evil. Money is fundamentally good.
“Money provides many opportunities to glorify God: through investing and expanding our stewardship and thus imitating God’s sovereignty and wisdom; through meeting our own needs and thus imitating God’s independence; through giving to others and thus imitating God’s mercy and love; or through giving to the church and to evangelism and thus bringing others into the kingdom” (Grudem, 49).
To be continued . . .