Business and the Bible
A lightly edited version of a short item by David Murray, originally written in mid-1996 for the magazine of CARE, London - “Light & Salt” - and taken from previous editions of our web site.
It is a sunny Saturday during the Parisian early Spring. A group of twentyfive men and women, mostly professional business people aged from twentyfive to forty, are sitting in small groups debating some difficult questions. “How can conflict in an organisation be captured and transformed into a creative tension rather than cause destructive fragmentation?” “What is the nature and purpose of human work, and to what extent is individual ambition a valid motivation?” This is not a university running a weekend philosophy course. It is a church seeking to cater to the needs of its many members who work in the world of business and who want to think about how to live out Christian faith and values in their Monday to Friday lives.
A dozen people are gathered in an apartment in Budapest. They plan tonight, for three hours, to think together about the way salary and other reward structures are developing in their post-communist economy … and what, if any, lessons can be drawn from St. Paul`s letters to the early church in Corinth.
In a beautiful conference centre overlooking a Swiss lake senior business people from some of Europe`s largest companies join with bishops and other Christian leaders from many countries to consider how business can apply Christian compassion to the plight of the long-term unemployed. They`ve just been listening to an address by former President of the European Commission, Jacques Delors.
The scouts` meeting room is being used for a different purpose today. It holds almost thirty men and women who, in an area of Romania deeply scarred by environmental, economic and social dereliction, are determined to run their struggling small enterprises as Christian “Islands of Integrity,” even though they are surrrounded by an ocean of bribery and other corrupt business behaviour. Today they`re using their extremely valuable time to share in a workshop on how to deliver quality service to customers in the light of Biblical values.
Eight people huddle around a table in a seminar room at a Cambridge theological college, absorbed in discussion. They are not ordinands speculating on the nature of deity or the relationship between divine sovereignty and human free-will. No, these are business managers considering how to apply Christian principles of morality and care when planning and implementing major change in an organisation.
The above are just five examples of situations in which I have been privileged to share during the past year or so. Across Europe, and across the Atlantic also, more and more people are becoming dissatisfied with a Christianity which ignores the activity on which they spend more time than anything else - their professional and business lives. From small local study groups to substantial international organisations meetings and conferences are addressing the question, “How can we live as Christians in the hurlyburly world of business?”
People doubtful about the moral validity of buying, making, selling and providing service for profit are discovering that Paul, the great apostle, partly financed some of his missions by engaging in the small-scale manufacture of tents and are asking themselves, “How, I wonder, did he display the fruit of the Spirit whilst engaged in commercial enterprise?” They turn to the Old Testament and find a man called Job. He’s running a sizeable agricultural business with many of the same kinds of pressure that people face today, including a period of disaster which looked as if it might have wiped him out, and yet in it all, “He maintained his integrity.”
There are today many organisations bringing together Christian business people to encourage one another and to share insights and experiences, and whether or not you are yourself actively engaged in business you can pray for those who are seeking to follow the Biblical injunctions: “Whatever you do, …. do everything for the glory of God,” and, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.”