Grudem postulates that by engaging in business we glorify God because we are emulating God's own creative work. This book is a guide to imitating God during interactions with customers, co-workers, employees, and businesses.
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About the Author
Wayne Grudem(PhD, University of Cambridge; DD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is research professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary, having previously taught for 20 years at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is aformer president of the Evangelical Theological Society, a member of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version of the Bible, the general editor of theESV Study Bible, and has published over 20 books.
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Owning possessions is fundamentally good and provides many opportunities for glorifying God, but also many temptations to sin
SOMETIMES PEOPLE THINK of all ownership of property as a kind of "greed" that is morally tainted, and they imagine that in a perfect world people would not even own personal possessions. But the Bible does not support that idea. When God gave the command,
"You shall not steal" (Ex. 20:15),
he affirmed the validity of personal ownership of possessions. I should not steal your car, because it belongs to you, not to me. Unless God intended us to own personal possessions, the command not to steal would make no sense.
I believe the reason God gave the command, "You shall not steal," is that ownership of possessions is a fundamental way that we imitate God's sovereignty over the universe by our exercising "sovereignty" over a tiny portion of the universe, the things we own. When we take care of our possessions, we imitate God in his taking care of the whole universe, and he delights to see us imitate him in this way. In addition, 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.
Now sometimes Christians refer to ownership as "stewardship," to remind us that what we "own" we do not own absolutely, but only as stewards taking care of what really belongs to God. This is because "the earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof" (Ps. 24:1) and so ultimately it all belongs to him (see also Lev. 25:23; Ps. 50:10-12; Hag. 2:8; Luke 16:12;1 Cor. 4:7).
Why do children from a very early age enjoy having toys that are their own, and why do they often want to have a pet that is their own, one they can care for? I realize that such "ownership" of toys and pets can be distorted by the sins of selfishness and laziness, but even if we lived in a sinless world children from a very young age would have a desire to have things that are their own. I think God has created us with a desire to own things because he wanted us to have a desire to imitate his sovereignty in this way. This desire in itself should not automatically be called "greed," because that word slanders something that is a good desire given to us by God.
When we are responsible stewards, whether taking care of our toys at the age of four or managing the entire factory at the age of forty, if we do this work "as unto the Lord," God looks at our imitation of his sovereignty and his other attributes, and he is pleased. In this way we are his image-bearers, people who are like God and who represent God on the earth, whether we own few possessions or many, and whether we own a small business or a large one.
So what should we do with the things we own? There are many good things to do, all of which can glorify God. One good "use" of our resources — paradoxically — is that we should give some of them away! This is so that others can use them wisely, not just we ourselves. For example, we can give to the church to help its evangelism and teaching, and in that way we build up the church. Or we can give some of our possessions to meet the needs of others, especially the poor:
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (Heb. 13:16).
The Bible frequently speaks of the importance of regularly giving away some of what we have been given:
Honor the LORD with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce (Prov. 3:9).
... we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
Giving is important because it demonstrates trust in God. When I give away $100, I am essentially saying, "God, I am trusting you to provide for $100 of my future needs, because I no longer can depend on this $100." Thus, giving money away shifts our trust from our money to our God. God is pleased when we give ("God loves a cheerful giver," 2 Cor. 9:7) because it not only demonstrates trust in him but also reflects his love for others, his mercy, his compassion for those in need.
But we do not need to give away all that we have! The Bible talks about other morally right uses of our resources as well. For example, a man who owns a tractor can use it to help "subdue" the earth (Gen. 1:28) — that is, make the earth useful for us as human beings — by causing the earth to yield corn and beans. People who own more complex equipment can extract materials from the earth to make plastics and silicon in order to make computers and cell phones and Palm Pilots.
At other times, we should use our possessions not to make other goods but simply for our own enjoyment, with thanksgiving to God,
who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17).
It is also right to save some of our resources for future use. This will enable us in the future to provide for our relatives, and especially for members of our own households, as God's Word tells us we should do (see 1 Tim. 5:8). We can glorify God through all of these uses of resources if we have thanksgiving in our hearts to God.
On the other hand, ownership of possessions provides many temptations to misuse the resources that God has entrusted to us. We can use our resources to pollute and destroy the earth, or to rob and oppress others, thereby disobeying Jesus' command to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39), and thereby dishonoring God by our actions. The author of Proverbs 30 knew that stealing is not imitating God but is showing to the world a picture of a God who is selfish and unjust, for he said,
... lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God (Prov. 30:9).
Or we could use our possessions to turn people away from the gospel and attack the church, as some wealthy people did in the first century:
Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?(James 2:6-7).
We could also use our resources to advance our own pride, or we could become greedy and accumulate wealth for its own sake, or we could take wrongful security in riches (see Matt. 6:19; Luke 12:13-21; James 5:3). We could use our possessions foolishly and wastefully, abounding in luxury and self-indulgence while we neglect the needs of others (see James 5:5; 1 John 3:17). These things are rightly called "materialism," and they are wrong.
In many parts of the world, the wonderful, God-given privilege of owning and managing property is not possible for large segments of the population. In some cultures, property rights are selfishly hoarded by a small number of powerful people and government regulations are so complex and time consuming that they effectively make it impossible for poor people to own any property or to own a small business. In Communist countries, most private ownership of homes and businesses is prohibited by law, and the government owns all factories and all real estate. Such systems are evil because they prevent people from owning anything more than a small number of personal possessions, and thus they prevent people from even having the opportunity to glorify God through owning any property, or owning a home or a business.
Ownership can be abused, but the distortions of something good must not cause us to think that the thing itself is evil. Possessions are not evil in themselves, and the ownership of possessions is not wrong in itself. Nor is ownership something morally neutral. In itself, the ownership of possessions is something that is created by God, and very good. Ownership provides multiple opportunities for glorifying God, and we should be thankful for it.CHAPTER 2
Producing goods and services is fundamentally good and provides many opportunities for glorifying God, but also many temptations to sin
WE KNOW THAT producing goods from the earth is fundamentally good in itself because it is part of the purpose for which God put us on the earth. Before there was sin in the world, God put Adam in the garden of Eden "to work it and keep it" (Gen. 2:15), and God told both Adam and Eve, before there was sin,
"Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Gen. 1:28).
The word translated "subdue" (Hebrew kåbash) implies that Adam and Eve should make the resources of the earth useful for their own benefit, and this implies that God intended them to develop the earth so that they could come to own agricultural products and animals, then housing and works of craftsmanship and beauty, and eventually buildings, means of transportation, cities, and inventions of all sorts.
Manufactured products give us opportunity to praise God for anything we look at in the world around us. Imagine what would happen if we were able somehow to transport Adam and Eve, before they had sinned, into a twenty-first-century American home. After we gave them appropriate clothing, we would turn on the faucet to offer them a glass of water, and they would ask, "What's that?" When we explained that the pipes enabled us to have water whenever we wanted it, they would exclaim, "Do you mean to say that God has put in the earth materials that would enable you to make that water system?"
"Yes," we would reply.
"Then praise God for giving us such a great earth! And praise him for giving us the knowledge and skill to be able to make that water system!" They would have hearts sensitive to God's desire that he be honored in all things.
The refrigerator would elicit even more praise to God from their lips. And so would the electric lights and the newspaper and the oven and the telephone, and so forth. Their hearts would brim over with thankfulness to the Creator who had hidden such wonderful materials in the earth and had also given to human beings such skill in working with them. And as Adam and Eve's hearts were filled with overflowing thanksgiving to God, God would see it and be pleased. He would look with delight as the man and woman made in his image gave glory to their Creator and fulfilled the purpose for which they were made.
As we look at any manufactured item, no matter how common, can we not also discover hundreds of wonders of God's creation in the things that we have been able to make from the earth? Such richness and variety has not been found on any of the other planets known to us.
... the whole earth is full of his glory (Isa. 6:3).
God did not have to create us with a need for material things or a need for the services of other people (think of the angels, who apparently do not have such needs), but in his wisdom he chose to do so. It may be that God created us with such needs because he knew that in the process of productive work we would have many opportunities to glorify him. When we work to produce (for example) pairs of shoes from the earth's resources, God sees us imitating his attributes of wisdom, knowledge, skill, strength, creativity, appreciation of beauty, sovereignty, planning for the future, and the use of language to communicate. In addition, when we produce pairs of shoes to be used by others, we demonstrate love for others, wisdom in understanding their needs, and interdependence and interpersonal cooperation (which are reflections of God's Trinitarian existence). If we do this, as Paul says, while working heartily, "as for the Lord and not for men" (Col. 3:23), and if our hearts have joy and thanksgiving to God as we make this pair of shoes, then God delights to see his excellent character reflected in our lives, and others will see something of God's character in us as well. And so it is with any manufactured good, and any service we perform for wages for the benefit of others. As Jesus said, our light will
"shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven"(Matt. 5:16).
That is why God made us with a desire to be productive, to make or do something useful for other people. Therefore human desires to increase the production of goods and services are not in themselves greedy or materialistic or evil. Rather, such desires to be more productive represent God-given desires to accomplish and achieve and solve problems. They represent God-given desires to exercise dominion over the earth and exercise faithful stewardship so that we and others may enjoy the resources of the earth that God made for our use and for our enjoyment.
This is consistent with God's command to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28:
And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
God's command to "subdue" the earth implies doing productive work to make the resources of the earth useful for themselves and others. That is what he wanted Adam and Eve to do, and that is one of the things he wants us to do as well.
Therefore, in contrast to some people's attitude toward life today, productive work is not evil or undesirable in itself, or something to be avoided. Productive work should not be seen as "bad," but as something "good." In fact, the Bible does not view positively the idea of retiring early and not working at anything again. Rather, work in itself is also something that is fundamentally good and God-given, for it was something that God commanded Adam and Eve to do before there was sin in the world. Although work since the Fall has aspects of pain and futility (see Gen. 3:17-19), it is still not morally neutral but fundamentally good and pleasing to God.
Hindering and decreasing the earth's productivity (as when wars destroy factories and farms, or when governments prevent them from operating) is not good, however, because it simply allows the curse that God imposed in Genesis 3 to gain more and more influence in the world, and this is what Satan's goal is, not God's. After God imposed the curse that was required by his justice, the story of the Bible is one of God working progressively to overcome the curse, and increasing the world's productivity is something we should do as one aspect of that task.
But significant temptations accompany all productions of goods and services. There is the temptation for our hearts to be turned from God so that we focus on material things for their own sake. There are also temptations to pride, and to turning our hearts away from love for our neighbor and toward selfishness, greed, and hard-heartedness. There are temptations to produce goods that bring monetary reward but that are harmful and destructive and evil (such as pornography and addictive drugs).
But the distortions of something good must not cause us to think that the thing itself is evil. Increasing the production of goods and services is not morally neutral but is fundamentally good and pleasing to God.CHAPTER 3
Hiring people to do work is fundamentally good and provides many opportunities for glorifying God, but also many temptations to sin
IN CONTRAST TO Marxist theory, the Bible does not view it as evil for one person to hire another person and gain profit from that person's work. It is not necessarily "exploiting" the employee. Rather, Jesus said,
"the laborer deserves his wages" (Luke 10:7),
and by this statement he implicitly approved of the idea of paying wages to employees. In fact, Jesus' parables often speak of servants and masters, and of people paying others for their work, with no hint that hiring people to work for wages is evil or wrong. And John the Baptist told soldiers, "Be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14).(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Business for the Glory of God"
Copyright © 2003 Wayne Grudem.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: A Neglected Way to Glorify God,
4 Commercial Transactions,
7 Inequality of Possessions,
9 Borrowing and Lending,
10 Attitudes of Heart,
11 Effect on World Poverty,
What People are Saying About This
"A thoughtful review of the purpose and meaning of business and a fresh way to look at honoring and glorifying God in doing business."
C. William Pollard, Chairman Emeritus, The ServiceMaster Company
"Helpful, easy-to-understand grounding for business leadership."
James Fellowes, CEO, Fellowes, Inc.
"What remarkable insight!"
Stephen Happel,Emeritus Professor of Economics,W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University
"What a great reminder that your business life can be a critical part of how you serve God and impact lives for eternity!"
Dave Browne, Former CEO, LensCrafters; current CEO, Family Christian Stores
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