I was recently in a small Southern town which shall remain nameless (let’s just say it’s a touristy place in the mountains that is named after rats that have wings).My wife and I were flipping through the local ad paper looking for something fun to do when we saw an ad for a local artist’s shop.
The first thing that tipped us that it was going to be a weird place was that the picture that they had chosen to go with their ad. It was one of those “contemporary Jesus” paintings with Jesus sitting in the middle of a group of little girls letting them braid his hair. There’s nothing heretical or wrong with this painting. I understand the artist is just trying to give a contemporary perspective on the whole “Let the children come unto me” passage. But let’s be honest. It’s pretty kitsch.
The thing that made me want to go find the store and have a heart to heart with the owner was the store’s tagline: “If you’re a Christian, shouldn’t your art be made by a Christian?”
I have a problem with this statement on several levels. It devalues art by making the beauty secondary to the artist, it’s pandering to a fairly manipulatable Christian sub-culture, and it uses valid logic to make an unsound point. However, that’s not why I bring up the ad.
The reason I’m talking about the ad is because of the business practice it implies.
At its best it smells of “guilt advertising” by making Christians feel bad for not supporting other Christians. At its worst it suggests some sort of spiritually-based incestuous business practice. In either case it’s a pretty blatant statement that Christians should prioritize doing business with each other.
Though I doubt the store owner meant for this ad to sound as manipulative and twisted as it does, I felt that since I am z Christian who is in business I should respond to this statement. Ads like this continue to push Christians towards poor economic practices and help non-Christians continue to think that Christians are weird, cultish fundamentalists. So, how then should Christians in business operate?
Where Christians Work
I’d like to dispel three rumors about Christian’s in business starting with the one that this previously mentioned ad addresses.
Number one: Christians are not supposed to withdraw from the world and deal only with each other. Paul says that Christians should not associate with people who call themselves Christians but act like hypocrites, but he says that we are to engage with people who don’t believe the same things we do (1 Cor 5:10). Why should Christians do that? Because it honors God when we are his ambassadors to the world and show others what work should look like in God’s Kingdom. However, that idea that Christians are supposed to engage with those who don’t believe the same thing leads to my second point.
How Christians Work
Christians don’t just work because they need a place to evangelize. You wouldn’t believe the amount of Christians who think that the only purpose in having a job is to tell other people about the Gospel. I’m not saying they shouldn’t. I think if you’ve heard Good News you should be able to share with the people around you. However if Christians think that’s all work is about, then we are short-sighted.
God created Adam to work in the garden before the Fall. That means that God created man to work. Work is literally in our DNA. If God made us to be like that, then that means work is a way to “glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
A Reason Christians Work
Before I make this point, I need to make sure we're clear on the subtitle. I said "a" reason. Not "the" reason. Big difference.
So here it is: it’s good to make a profit. I’m not just saying it’s permissible. I’m saying it’s Godly. Now, this is a dangerous thing for a Christian to say because of the materialism and greed that permeates the world’s economics. I know some people read that statement and what they hear is, “It’s good to be greedy.” Others, like those in the Occupy movement, probably hear the word “profit” and think “Taking advantage of people for corporate gain.”
Let me be clear. I think greed is evil. However, making a profit and growing a business is not. Jesus said a worker is worthy of his wages (Luke 10:7). If you charge a fair price for your item or service and you make money to reinvest in your company, that’s a good thing. It allows you to help other people provide for their families. It allows for the companies influence to grow. And it allows more people to honor God by having a place where they can glorify Him through hard work done well. Those are just a few of the many reasons why it’s good for a Christian business to make a profit.
Now I know some of you are already quoting the “love of money is the root of all sorts of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10). I agree with you. It’s in the Bible and I've watched enough MTV to know it’s true. But did you know the Bible also says “money is the answer to everything?”(Ecclesiastes 10:19). You have to consider that verse in context (because money can’t get you a relationship with God), but we can see that the Bible doesn't think of money as something bad in and of itself. It's the love of money that messes people up. Money, like every other good gift from above, is something to be used for the benefit of others and for the glory of God.
Let's Talk About It
Mixer Direct is owned by Christians. We make no bones about it. In fact, we kind of like to talk about it with whoever will listen. Though I am not the spokesman for the company, I would say that for the most part, where we stand makes both fundamentalist Christians (of which I consider myself to be one) and non-Christians uncomfortable.
We like working with people who hold different beliefs. We think it is appropriate and good to talk about those beliefs in the context of the business world. We think work is a good gift that God gave humans, and we believe a business making a profit is a good thing. That combination of beliefs seems to make just about everyone uncomfortable.
But that's why I want to talk about it. I don't want to make people uncomfortable just to make them uncomfortable. If I just pretended the thing that makes me different and uncomfortable don't exist, I really won't be able to enjoy my life. I want to pursue truth, and I want to have open conversations about it. I believe that makes for better people and better businesses.
That’s really my ultimate goal. I want to know how God designed the world to work and I want to live in accordance with that design. I truly believe that if I want to enjoy life, enjoy my family, and enjoy my work, I need to be like Jesus. Thankfully God has promised to make Christians more like him every day.