Good business planning must involve setting priorities and working on the most important ones first. In the area of money, that is called budgeting.
Business budgeting is the process of allocating available resources among a variety of possible expenditures. If a company sells a product or service, it needs a system of budgeting and billing customers.
How we use our money, on many occasions, is the clearest outside indicator of what we really believe.
“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Luke 16:13). The priorities we establish for the use of our money (both personal and business) can give us good insight into where we are spiritually.
Just as a thermometer doesn't make a room hot or cold but, rather, measures the temperature in the room, so money and how we handle it doesn't make us spiritual or worldly; it merely reflects the inner spiritual condition.
Scripture supports a business priority system for payment.
- Pay suppliers. Without a doubt, those who provide materials on credit have the first right to any available income from a business. This commitment runs contrary to present day business logic and business practices, which say, “When money is tight, string out the accounts payable.”
Yet God's Word has a different attitude: “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight”(Proverbs 12:22). When a business owner orders materials, there is an implied promise to pay. A Christian's promise is his or her vow and it must be honored. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it” (Proverbs 3:27).
- Pay employees. Once creditors are paid, the next priority is to pay employees what is due them. This also runs contrary to present day business practices, which says that owners should be paid before employees. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
- Pay owner or self. Once creditors have been paid and employees have received their compensation, owners can draw their compensation. It is not unusual for people who start businesses to feel that they sacrificed to build the companies, so they have the right to any and all proceeds.
However, this is not what God's Word teaches. In essence, owners are faced with a critical decision: whether to obey God's Word or adapt to the common business practice of today.
That choice is what separates Christian businesspeople from all others. Christianity is more than verbal proclamation and church attendance; it is a lifestyle that says, regardless of the costs I will follow His principles.
Priorities for use of time
There is no biblical principle that sets normal business hours at 40, 60, or 80 hours a week. The preponderance of evidence in Scripture seems to indicate a sunup to sundown workday, six days per week.
Yet in today's American society most employees feel that anything beyond 40 hours should be overtime paid at time and a half, and many owners think that anything less than 80 hours per week is laziness.
Both sides are extremes. Owners who allow work slothfulness from their employees are just as wrong as those who demand extraordinarily long work weeks, with or without adequate compensation for the extra work.
Very seldom does more money compensate for employee occupational burnout.
After owners have established financial and time priorities in their businesses, they need to make sure that ethical priorities are established.
There are three areas that need to be directly addressed regarding ethical priorities.
- Taxes. Perhaps nothing represents a Christian businessperson's spiritual values more clearly than that person's attitude toward paying taxes.
No one likes to pay taxes, but to cheat on income taxes or any other tax is stealing—a sin that separates us from God.
- Fraud. In today's society it is shocking to realize how many Christians and Christian businesspeople accept fraud and dishonesty as normal. The most common business fraud (not including tax fraud) is against insurance companies and medical health providers.
These are followed by fraud associated with over-billing or double billing, overcharging, warranty fraud, reverse shipping charges, and selling outdated or inferior products.
- Misuse of company time and property. Most owners cannot be held accountable for the misuse of company time. This is related more to employees who do not give their employers a complete day's work or perform personal tasks on company time. According to God's principles, this is stealing from the employer. Nevertheless, many times owners are guilty of using company materials for personal use.
Each year American businesses lose $160 billion to employee theft. A portion of this is owner theft. Although owners tend to believe they can treat company assets as their own personal property, until current law agrees with that perspective, asset misuse by owners is still unacceptable.
Some of the most common areas of misuse are personal use of a company vehicle; long distance calls on company telephone; company stamps for personal use; and the use of company computers, copy machines, fax machines, pens, pencils, and paper for personal use.
“He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9). Although some Christian business owners have financial priorities, many are not in line with God's Word.
All professing Christian business owners need to establish not only financial priorities but also time use and ethical standards as well. Realizing that God is always watching and is always attentive to our every action and decision should be a constant reminder that Christian owners must be led by God's directive and the principles of His Word.