Giving, for a Christian, is one of the fundamental practices of the faith. It is never an issue of “if” we should give, but rather “how much,” and “to whom?”
When it comes to a Christian business, though, the answers become a bit more nuanced. To the many Christian businesspeople, the question of “if” the business should give is just as pertinent as the “how much” and “to whom.” Unfortunately, many Christian business people have never considered the idea of giving as a business. In this post, we’re going to consider the three questions noted above from the perspective of a Christian business. You may find your thinking challenged.
- Should a Christian business give – above and apart from the giving of the individual business owners?
In the research I did in preparation for writing “The Good Book on Business,” I sought the Biblical answer to this question: “Does God recognize a business as an entity separate and apart from the individuals who make up the business? Certainly, He speaks to churches, to cities and to tribes as having a presence above and beyond just the amalgamation of the individuals within them. Is that just as true of businesses?”
What I discovered was the model for a Biblical business – called a household – which is not only an entity on its own but is God’s primary mechanism for ordering the economic system. Households – or Biblical businesses – are incredibly important to God.
Households were groups of people – owners, family members, slaves, servants, and employees – who were organized for a specific purpose. Today, we call them Biblical (or Christian) businesses and understand they are composed of owners, family, employees, and sub-contractors.
Regardless, the issue for this article revolves around the understanding that a Christian business is composed of a group of people. And, a group can do some things that are bigger and have a greater impact than that which an individual can accomplish.
An individual can give his/her time to Habitat for Humanity, for example, and paint several rooms in a house. A group of people organized as a Christian business can build the house. An individual may make a financial gift to a person in desperate circumstances, providing some temporary relief. A group could make a much larger financial gift, impacting an entire community.
So, it’s clear that a group can take on larger projects and impact more people just by virtue of its quantity of resources – the combination of the talents of its people, and the group’s time and money. A Christian business, then, has greater resources and assets than any individual within that business. And, therein lies the key to giving as a business.
Let’s gather some Biblical insight. First, there is a Biblical principle: From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. Luke 12:48
A Christian business, because it has the ability to consolidate a group’s time and money, has much more to give than an individual. Could it be that we business owners will be required to give more, because we have been entrusted with more?
Remember the parable of the bags of gold. (Matthew 25:14-30) The servant who buried the master’s assets was rejected. Those servants who used the asEsts assigned to them to shepherd and then increased those assets were rewarded with greater responsibilities and a closer relationship with the Master.
If we have had the ability to organize our Christian businesses to give, and we haven’t, aren’t we like the servant who buried the master’s assets?
So, back to the original question: Should a Christian business give – above and apart from the giving of the individual business owners?
If your business has more resources than the individuals within the business, and if you believe that you have a responsibility to invest the master’s assets effectively, then the answer must be “yes.”
- How much should a business give?
While an individual can go right to this question and answer it, for a business it’s a bit more complicated than that. While you, as the business owner or CEO, could arbitrarily answer the question, that process would not incorporate the advantage of the mental power of the group. It would be far better to answer the question by creating a process that incorporated some or all of your employees and stakeholders into arriving at an answer. For example, you might form a ‘give’ team, and charge them with the challenge of recommending a giving formula, and nominations for gifts.
Regardless, this question should be a matter of regular, organized, and group prayers. If you have a prayer team in your business, have them take this question to the Lord. If not, it ought to be a part of your regular prayers for the business. Solicit some direction for God on this, keeping in mind that the answer can vary from circumstance to circumstance and year to year.
The amount you come up with this year, may not be what you allocate next year. There may be a local calamity for example, that requires an immediate response that is over and above a pre-defined amount. Keep in a mind, as well, that a group can give in multiple ways. Money is the first thing that comes to mind, but certainly you can make gifts of time – supplying a crew for a day or two to clean a highway or paint a house, for example.
There are different ways to determine how much to give. I’ve often found it easy to create a formula at the beginning of the year. For example, you may determine that a certain percentage of the company’s net profits ought to be dedicated to giving. Or in some unusual cases, it could be a percentage of revenue. We have one product line, for example, that yields about a 90% gross margin. We allocate 15% of revenue from that line to be given. That wouldn’t work in lower margin situations.
Consider also a percentage of some new effort –a new location, a new market, a new product. A percentage of the increase from new efforts are akin to the Biblical “first fruits” concept. You may want to follow the Biblical process directed by the Apostle Paul. In I Corinthians 16: 1 & 2:
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week let each of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collection be made when I come.
Here’s how that plays out in today’s world. I decide on a percentage of every income stream we receive. That’s one decision made for a period of time – typically a year. Then, as we receive the income that percentage is transferred to our “Give” account – a separate checking account where we temporarily house the money we have given. As we find needs – typically individuals who have a financial need – we distribute the portion of the give fund we feel is appropriate.
This makes given regular and proportional, and assures that you have the funds already set aside when needs become apparent. The decision as to how much to give is, then, a separate decision than to whom to give it. It creates a pot of money already given, just not distributed. Having that pot of money also continues to keep the issue of giving at the top of your mind.
- To whom should you give?
The easy answer to this is to use the same people and processes that you used to determine the answer to the “how much” question. So, for example, your ‘give’ team can meet regularly, consider nominations for gifts from the rest of the company, and decide how much and of what nature the gift should be. Or, in a smaller organization, you can personally decide whom to gift.
As in answering the other two questions, this question should be surrounded by prayer. You are asking the Holy Spirit to guide you and direct your gift to those whom he wants to have it. Several Biblical concepts can enlighten these decisions. In the early church, there were no institutional churches, so there is no record of any gift being made to an institutional church. In fact, most of the giving in the early church was individual and personal – one person to another, as in the example from I Corinthians 16, above.
There is a clear preference, in the New Testament, for giving first to needy Christians.
In our personal giving, we focus first on individuals. In our business giving, following the concept of a larger impact and greater gift, we focus on organizations that can have a bigger impact.
Understanding that giving can be a powerful testimony to the power of Christ in your business, the decision as to whom to give should be informed by the Holy Spirit. That means lots of prayer, before and after a gift, and an on-going sensitivity to the needs of people and organizations in your orb.
God created work and business as the primary place for mankind to interact with Him. Before Eve, before scripture, before prophets, before apostles –God created work, and by extension, business. A Christian business is a powerful entity in God’s eyes with the potential to impact millions for the cause of Christ. Getting serious about giving is one way to begin to reach the spiritual potential of your business.