Basic business minimums
A business is a tool to be used by God to demonstrate the truth of the Gospel. In James 1:22 we are told to be “doers” of the Word. A business is the perfect environment for living Christ’s truth.
One of the best ways to determine whether a business is being used to serve God is to look at the policies governing its day-to-day actions. If Christian owners or managers are truly committed to Jesus Christ and to serving His purposes, the business will be run according to His minimum principles and precepts.
That means that Christian owners and managers need first to understand God’s principles and precepts. “The devious are an abomination to the Lord; but He is intimate with the upright” (Proverbs 3:32). In addition, the right decisions will yield something even greater—God’s wisdom and peace.
Purpose of a business
If a Christian business is to be used to serve God, it has but one overriding purpose: to glorify Him. Each decision—hiring, firing, paying, promoting, and so on—must be made in harmony with God’s written Word, under the day-by-day direction of His Holy Spirit. No one function is more or less important, and each must be done with excellence.
Basic business minimums
Whenever most people think about the basic minimums of Christianity, they generally think of the Ten Commandments. Indeed, these are the minimums that God said would separate His people from those around them.
In the business environment, the same commandments obviously apply, but there are some other minimums that set apart God’s followers from others in the business world.
These are not lofty, obscure goals for business owners and mangers to fantasize about; rather they are indicators of whether they are serious about dedicating their businesses to the Lord. These minimums are: keep out of unnecessary debt, evangelize, disciple others, fund God’s work, provide for needs, be accountable, provide a quality product, honor creditors, treat people fairly, and generate a profit.
Keep out of unnecessary debt. “The wicked borrows and does not pay back” (Psalm 37:21). “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Proverbs 22:7). Although it is sometimes necessary to accrue debt, especially when starting new businesses, borrowing to keep businesses going, to fund operating expenses, or to purchase product should be avoided.
Evangelize. There is no tool more effective for evangelism than businesses dedicated to the Lord. Not only can employees be won by the example of dedicated owners or managers but, similarly, so can suppliers, creditors, and customers. The key is the walk, not the talk.
Disciple others. Evangelism is sharing Christ’s message of salvation with the lost. Discipleship is training Christians to grow stronger in their faith. In businesses, that effort should be directed by the owners or managers to those immediately under their authority.
It is they who will then be able to disciple the others under their authority. “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Fund God’s work. Businesses are the best tools for funding God’s work ever created. Properly run businesses can generate excess capital to meet needs, share the Gospel, and still continue day-to-day operations. “Give, and it shall be given unto you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38).
Provide for needs. A business must provide for the needs of the employees, creditors, customers, and owners. That is done by paying salaries, paying for supplies and equipment in a timely fashion, and providing a quality product at a fair price.
If Christian business owners accept meeting needs as a normal part of God’s plan, businesses will play an effective role in evangelism and discipleship.
Be accountable. Perhaps nothing in our society is more needed for those in positions of authority than accountability. Too often those with authority are able and willing to surround themselves with people who support their decisions without question. However, without a system of checks and balances, anyone will eventually drift off course.
All businesspeople need some other Christian or a group of impartial Christians to whom they are accountable and with whom they can discuss major decisions or communicate personal problems or difficulties. “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).
Provide a quality product at a fair price. Value can be defined as the effective return on a purchase. Low initial cost does not necessarily represent value.
However, when Christian businesses accept the standard for services and products that the Bible prescribes, the end result will be the best product at the best possible price.
Honor creditors. Business creditors include those who have loaned businesses merchandise as well as those who have loaned money. Too often in our modern business environment, suppliers are treated like a no-interest source of operating capital. When business is slow, it is considered normal to delay paying suppliers to offset the reduced cash flow.
If the situation is beyond owners’ or managers’ control, that’s one thing. However, if businesses are simply choosing a cheaper way to operate, they are violating one of God’s minimum principles. Christian owners and managers who continue to order materials and other supplies when there are already past due bills are deceitful. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,’ when you have it with you” (Proverbs 3:27-28).
Treat people fairly, especially employees and customers. Fairness is both a responsibility and an opportunity. Employers who practice fairness are able to share Christ with their employees because they “practice what they preach.”
The first step in establishing the principle of fairness is to recognize that all people are important, regardless of their vocational position. “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9). If Christian owners and managers truly believe that their responsibility is to be a faithful example and witness for the Lord, the principle of fairness will relate not only to employees but also to creditors and customers.
Creditors will be more inclined to listen to owners or managers if they get paid on time and are treated fairly. Customers will be more inclined to listen if businesses give them a good product at a fair price and stand behind their word.
Generate a profit. Any business must be able to make a profit if it is to continue operations. Although God’s Word says that it is His will for us to prosper (3 John 2), that does not mean that owners and managers should sit on their hands, waiting for Him to bring profit to their businesses.
They are to work hard and be active participants in God’s plan for their businesses rather than observers. “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is made fat” (Proverbs 13:4).
Obviously, there is no such thing as a “Christian business.” A business is a legal entity and has no spirit or soul. It does, however, reflect the values of the principal owners or managers. It is the reflection of these values that determines whether a business is labeled Christian or non-Christian.
Committed Christians need to give their businesses to God, live by His basic minimums for operating businesses, and accept the fact that they are merely managers of His businesses. This means that God becomes the source of everything for their businesses. “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). “I walk in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice, to endow those who love me with wealth, that I may fill treasuries” (Proverbs 8:20-21).
Originally posted 6/9/2012.