Does business offer unique opportunities to serve God or does it disrespect God through its various practices, since some of them are less than spiritual? This is the focus of the book, “Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business,” by Wayne Grudem, who makes a strong thesis: when business is conducted in a way that represents God’s character and creation, business does glorify God, and offers many opportunities to do so. He uses many examples from the Bible to support his points. As noted early in the text, all aspects of business, from profit, borrowing money, and ownership, to competition, contracts, and money are opportunities to glorify God, if they’re done correctly.
A biblically-focused work, this book aims to show how business owners can transform their routine business dealings into spiritual opportunities for growth and how as Christians it is our responsibility to do so. He also recognizes that spirituality is often left out of business and that many people think it’s one other the way: God or money. He uses key pieces of Scripture to show how business can be a spiritual endeavor. The author contends, and I agree with this, that God can be imitated through business activities and interactions with people, and indeed should be. As Grudem notes, “few people instinctively think of business as morally good in itself” (Grudem, 2003, p. 11). This is in part due to some of the stereotypical cut-throat business dealings often reported in the media. However, as explained in the text, “Many aspects of business activity are morally good in themselves, and that in themselves they bring glory to God—though they also have great potential for misuse and wrongdoing” (Grudem, 2003, p. 12). In this paper I will discuss some of Grudem’s main points on how Christians can conduct business in a way that glorifies God and how they actually have the responsibility to do so. I will also note the points I agree with as well as some I do not, such as how to know when you’re being God-driven in business and when you’re not and how you can use possessions, money, etc., to glorify God.
Mixing Business and Spirituality
As Christians, when we think of glorifying God we mostly consider spiritual acts of services and not the businesses we run or the employment we hold. We often consider work and spirituality as two very separate endeavors. But the truth is, as Grudem notes, “God enjoys seeing his character reflected in [all areas of] our lives” (Grudem, 2003, p. 9). In the text, he explores the idea that business dealings offer many opportunities to reflect and honor God, and that Christian business owners should take these opportunities to glorify God and spread His message. Furthermore, he encourages business leaders to do so and to allow God to conduct business.
For example, through ownership, we can show glory to God by caring for our possessions and showing sovereignty. We can also glorify God by sharing those possessions and using them for the greater good. Furthermore, when we use possessions for human productivity we are showing God that we understand the real meaning of Genesis, particularly when we use our possessions to develop the earth. “… When we care for our possessions, it gives us opportunity to imitate many other attributes of God, such as wisdom, knowledge, beauty, creativity, love for others, kindness, fairness, independence, freedom, exercise of will, blessedness (or joy), and so forth” (Grudem, 2003, p. 19), as Grudem notes.
In fact, being productive in business or otherwise, is an important part of how we show homage to God, since it is in our very nature to be productive. God intended for us to be useful to the world and to each other by offering products and services and by accomplishing and solving problems for ourselves and for others. As noted in the text, we should “exercise dominion over the earth and exercise faithful stewardship” just as God wants us to.
Additionally, almost all businesses revolve around relationships, and this is one of the most important ways we can glorify God. Whether we are the business owner or the customer, we can take pleasure and learn from the experience by showing honesty, fairness, and kindness, and also by honoring our commitments and following through on what we say. As Grudem emphasizes, we were created to do well in life and to constantly improve on what we do. It is in our God-given natures to strive for perfection and to imitate God’s greatness. The point is to always have God in mind when conducting business and to provide service to others whether it brings a profit or not. Put simply, God provides for us and we should imitate this by caring for His children and by putting products and services out into the world that glorify Him.
But is money and the desire for it inherently bad? As Grudem notes, there is nothing in the Bible that says we shouldn’t make money or borrow or lend it, but instead we should be mindful of abusing it and misusing it. We should also consider the economy when conducting businesses and ensure our choices not only glorify God but benefit the greater good. We should, of course, always strive to respect human dignity and to not bring harm to others, financially or otherwise.
Grudem makes some solid points and backs them up with key pieces of literature, which are very hard to argue with, especially when Scripture is often used for the wrong interpretation. While this text is short, it is too the point and encourages business leaders to be successful and to not feel guilty about it.
Potential for Wrongdoing
While Grudem does mention that in business there is always “great potential for misuse and wrongdoing” I feel like he does not fully explain these points or give examples to help the reader fully understand the best spiritual practices in business. While sin is a part of everyday life, I feel it is particularly prevalent in business dealings and there are some activities that may seem like routine business that which are actually quite sinful. As Roel (2003) notes in his work, “Business Christians need the church’s ear to help them hear, interpret, and follow God’s voice…” (p. 365). All Christians in business need guidance on how to effectively glorify God while still exercising their productivity and passion for their work. This can be a tricky balance, which is while I feel strongly that the church needs to take a big part in guiding business leaders on practices that best glorify Him.
Furthermore, while it is not inherently bad to own things and to desire great possessions, private ownership can get in the way of a glorifying God, something else that is not fully addressed in the text. As discussed previously, the meaning of Genesis actually means doing work that encourages human productivity as a whole, which also implies sharing possessions. Part of addressing this involves making business people accountable in the church. As Roel (2003) notes, the church must “build perspectives [and] …preach and teach about the redemptive possibilities of business in the new creation” (p. 311) I believe that since business dealings are not simply black and white, even good Christians will often struggle with identifying good business practices.
I also believe that glorifying God is about taking chances, taking leaps of faith, in order to do one’s calling. That is, challenging the limitations of the modern world and showing passion for human potential. Steve Jobs is a good example of this. While he wasn’t a Christian, he was spiritually minded and was known to be spiritually empowered, often crediting his success to a “source.” As Roel contends, we are “agents of creation” and “…we are called to sharpen one another in our gifts and calling, not to tear down one another (2 Corinthians 10:8).”
In conclusion, Grudem’s book on glorying God in business is a thoughtful guide for Christians looking for “wisdom, knowledge, beauty, creativity, love for others, kindness, fairness, independence, freedom, exercise of will, blessedness (or joy), and so forth” (Grudem, 2003, p. 73) in business and ways they can bring spirituality to the world of business. However, I also believe that business has the potential for wrongdoing and that many Christians need more solid ideas of just what situations are questionable and what ways they can more adequately serve God.
When we firmly establish our intention to glorify God, our business instincts and practices naturally change. When we listen to the Holy Spirit and surrender our intellect to him, it doesn’t matter what type of business we are in – our focus becomes clear because we are in line with God. Scripture, as identified in this text, is a good tool for business leaders, but more guidance is needed from church representatives on how best to glorify God in business and how to avoid common sinful acts.
- Gould, P. M. (2014). The Outrageous Idea of the Missional Professor. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers.
- Grudem, W. (2003). Business for the glory of god: The bible’s teaching on the moral goodness of business. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.
- Isaacson, W. (2011). Steve jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster.
- Roels, S. J. (2003). The Christian calling to business life. Theology Today, 60, 357-369.