Throughout the Bible, the people of God who were business people were invariably excellent at their business.
Abraham’s business was so large and so successful, for example, that it could produce “318 trained men who had been born in his household.” (See The Good Book on Business, Chapter Four). Joseph was so good at management and administration that he was made CEO of what was probably the world’s largest economic enterprise. Boaz was a successful landowner and farmer. In the New Testament, Lydia was a successful merchant and Paul was so good at tentmaking that he was able to support himself where ever he went. God does not leave the matter to doubt or interpretation, when he said, in Colossians 4: 23:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
It’s hard to reconcile that with the common expectation that a Christian-owned business tolerates, and maybe even promotes, mediocrity in performance. There is, among our Christian culture, a sub-current which believes it acceptable to not create expectations for employees, and to not hold anyone accountable for their behavior. As a result, many Christian businesses wallow in the muck of mediocrity and never achieve their worldly or spiritual potential.
What a shame.
Christian businesses are God’s creation, designed by Him to fulfill a need in the world and to shine His light in locations, markets, and industries. (Ephesians 2:10)
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Anything less than the pursuit of excellence is an abdication of our responsibility to do good works and to do them with all our heart. God has given us our careers, the business responsibilities that we have and our businesses. He expects us to do them with all our heart. And that means, for a business person, to pursue excellence in the marketplace. While pursuing excellence is an easy thing to say and to agree with intellectually, the daily pursuit of it is an entirely different thing which requires not just our intellectual assent, but a complete sell-out of time, money and emotional energy to pursue a vision which always seems just out of reach.
The first step in that daily battle is to gain a clear idea of what it is we are striving for. What is excellence?