Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jeff Van Duzer's book, Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed), (InterVarsity Press, 2010).
Business is much more than just a way to make money. It's work that matters to God - work that can be a valuable part of helping to redeem this broken world. Business has value beyond the income it generates for you to donate to churches and charities, and beyond the platform it gives you to share your faith with other people. The actual work you do in business has great intrinsic value, because it helps shape the kind of world in which we live.
Here's how you can do business for God:
Provide goods and services to your community that will enable it to flourish. Your business can serve your community in valuable ways by providing products and services that people need. When choosing which ones to produce, keep in mind more than simply what can give you a good return on your investment. Also consider what biblical values you can communicate through the type of service your business offers to people. Avoid producing any products or services that will encourage people to sin. Produce the particular goods and services that you sense God leading you to deliver to the people in your community to help improve their lives. Invite God to work through your business to bless people as your business helps meet the needs around you. You could do anything from producing healthy and affordable food for people to eat to making high speed Internet access available to people to use.
Provide opportunities for meaningful work that will allow employees to express their God-given creativity. Give the people you hire to work at your business opportunities to participate in meaningful and creative work. In our fallen world, too many people approach work simply as a chore to be endured just to earn money; they've lost the motivation to do their best and the joy that should come from the experience. At your business, help people discover, develop, and use the talents that God has given them to contribute to the world, so they'll find joy in their work and want to do it well.
Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and empower you. Through ongoing prayer each business day, seek the Holy Spirit's guidance so you can make wise decisions. Pray for discernment about situations such as ethical dilemmas, whether or not to make an acquisition or set up a distribution channel, hiring and firing, and which meetings to attend. Also pray constantly for God's help to do the work you sense Him leading you to do. Trust that He will always help you with your work, from calling on potential customers and negotiating contracts to building a new manufacturing facility and marketing a new product line.
Keep in mind that your work has eternal value. Not only does your business work matter right now, but it also affects eternity because it affects the lives of people who will live forever. If you do your best to participate in God's redemptive work in the world through your business efforts, some of your work will last into eternity. So where there's brokenness, work to bring healing, where there's oppression, work to bring liberation, and where there's disenfranchisement, work to bring empowerment.
Be willing to make sacrifices. Realize that, while having good ethics usually will lead to good financial profits for your business, sometimes you may face situations where doing what's right will cost your business and hurt its bottom line. If that happens, be willing to sacrifice profits in favor of doing what God wants you to do.
Make your business sustainable. While you shouldn't make profitability your main goal - your main goal is to serve well - you also need to keep your company financially sustainable to stay in business. Keep in mind that you need to pay your shareholders a reasonable, risk-adjusted return on invested capital. Strive to make decisions that will not harm anyone connected to your business, from customers and employees, to suppliers and shareholders. Don't neglect your responsibility to respect and work with other businesses when appropriate. Look for opportunities to partner with people from other businesses in your same community, working together on some projects to help make your community a better place to live.
Build the right spiritual habits. Practice spiritual disciplines regularly to help you develop attitudes that will lead you to do what's right in business. Pursue such practices as regular prayer (especially for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind each day so you can think healthy thoughts), regular worship at church, celebrating Communion, observing a weekly Sabbath day, studying and meditating on the Bible, living simply, giving generously, fasting, and offering people hospitality. Build close relationships with some other Christians, encourage and support each other, and hold each other accountable as you grow closer to God together.
Build the right ethical habits. If you keep growing closer to Christ, you'll be able to make the right ethical decisions in business, such as: conducting yourself with integrity in all situations, comply with laws and company policies, work hard, be kind and compassionate to others, be generous to others, listen well to others, be humble, be eager to learn, avoid intentionally harming others (such as through gossip), and working for the best interest of your company and community instead of just your own personal advancement.
Adapted from Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed), copyright 2010 by Jeff Van Duzer. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.
Jeff Van Duzer has served as dean of the School of Business and Economics at Seattle Pacific University since August 2001. He also has an appointment as professor of business law and ethics in the School. For the 20 years prior to his full-time association with SPU, Van Duzer practiced law in Seattle with an emphasis on finance and natural resources. During that time he supplemented his practice with service as adjunct faculty at SPU and studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. He writes and speaks frequently in both church and professional settings.