Most Christians are woefully misinformed when it comes to understanding the role of businesspeople in the Kingdom. They often have misconceptions about what is expected from a Christian in business. As a result, they compartmentalize business from their Christianity and rob themselves and those around them of a more fulfilled life.
Here are 3 common misconceptions and the Bible verses that shed light on them:
1. If I try to bring my Christianity to the marketplace, I’ll be expected to preach to my customers and employees and ‘wear my Christianity on my sleeve.”
While every Christian is called on to be able to articulate his faith, that doesn’t mean that you should be preaching to your customers and employees. I Peter 3:15 says this: but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
Notice the phrase “who asks you.” You should be modeling Christian peace, joy, hope, and love to such a degree that folks will, from time to time inquire about the source of your contentment. But that is true for every Christian, not just business people.
You just happen to be in a situation whereby you have more exposure and more influence than most. Your employees look up to you, and your customers and vendors are continually assessing you. You have a responsibility to be ‘ready to make a defense …for the hope that is in it.’
As a business or professional person, you have been put into a place to bring a little piece of God’s kingdom to it. And, one of the ways in which you do that is being excellent at the work put in front of you. Colossians 4: 23 commands it:
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.
“Whatever you do” means just that. The word that you do and the business that you lead or influence fit into that category. You are commanded to do your work and run your business as well as you can. You may want to read my post, “Should a Christian Business be Excellent?”
So, focus on doing your job with excellence, letting God’s presence shine through you, and be ready to explain your faith when someone asks.
2. If I mix my Christianity with my business, I’ll need to hire only Christians.
If you surround yourself with only other Christians, it’s difficult to be a light to the dark world.
There certainly is no Biblical command to do that. On the other hand, Good business practices indicate that you should hire the people who are most qualified to do the job, are a good fit for your culture and need or want the job as much as you want them. Their religious beliefs, or lack of them, should not be part of the hiring process. And, be mindful of your responsibility to be salt and light to the world. One way you do that is by hiring non-Christians and letting them see the difference in your life and business practices. If you surround yourself with only other Christians, it’s difficult to be a light to the dark world. Having said that, there is some anecdotal insight that indicates that a ratio of about 35 percent of Christians in a workforce will support a culture of Christian love and concern for one another.
There is also some conventional wisdom that your key executives should share your values, vision, and belief systems.
3. If I mix my Christianity with my business, I’ll be pressured to give my profits to the church.
You may be pressured to give of your profits, but that likely happens regardless of the success of your business. There is no scriptural precedent or command for a Christian business to do so. ( Check out my podcast: Should a Christian Business give to the poor?).
Despite the proclamations of the institutional church, there is no New Testament example of anyone giving to an institution. The institutional church, as we know it today, did not exist until 300 years after Christ. Almost all the giving in the New Testament is one person giving to another. (Read: Am I Required to give my tithe to the local church?)
That is not to ignore the Biblical commands to give – but these are directed at individuals. Whether or not a business is expected to give of its profits, above and beyond the individuals giving of the income they derive from that business, is a matter of opinion. In the one passage which sheds some light of it – the parable of the bags of gold — the good servants are rewarded for growing the master’s wealth – not giving it away. A great case can be made from that passage that it is more blessed to reinvest the profits in growing the business than to give it away. (Read: News Flash! Your Christian Business Should Make Money!) Here’s the passage.
Matthew 25: 19 – 27
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.(M) 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.(N) Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.(O) Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
So, the decision to give of your corporate profits is entirely yours. There is no scriptural command nor precedent to do so, and the clearest Biblical teaching indicates that you should reinvest your profits to grow the business.
Unfortunately, there are several misconceptions and wrong ideas about Christian business. A Christian business has the potential to be a powerful force in the Kingdom. To reach that potential, we need to remove some of the misconceptions that hinder it.