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BUSINESS IS BEAUTIFUL! How do you view your business?

If you are an average healthy, able-bodied North American you will spend at least half of all the waking hours in your life at work (which, for most of us, is a separate place and community from what we call “home”). You will spend the majority of the remaining available hours engaging the marketplace in some way. Given that level of involvement, it’s remarkable how negative our outlook often is of work, business and the marketplace.

Work continues to receive a bad rap. The world of business is often characterized as a cold, calculating, sometimes cutthroat place where relationships are exploitative and largely dysfunctional. We might be tempted to think that, at its best, doing business should be nothing more than money changing hands.

Terms like “work/life balance” indicate a prevalent notion that there is no life at work. Rather life is something we escape to after work. Similarly, a saying like “living for the weekend” would indicate that we view work as an unfortunate but necessary detour on our way to our real life. And if we’re fortunate enough to not be suffering through feelings of drudgery, perhaps we’re still at a loss as to the meaning of it all.

In the Christian community especially – how many Christ followers haven’t had an inferiority complex about their work; as if church ministry was somehow a better or more faithful endeavour than whatever it is that they put their mind to from 8 AM to 5 PM each day? How many console themselves with the idea that the work they do provides funds for ministry which is where the “real meaningful” work in our world is done?

A necessary evil?

But is that really true? Is ministry the only way to really obey the Great Commandment and Great Commission? Is business only a necessary evil in the process?

Consider what James K.A. Smith, editor of Comment magazine once wrote.

When we spend our money, we are not just consuming commercial goods, we are also fostering and perpetuating ways of being human. To be a patron is to be a selector, an evaluator, and a progenitor of certain forms of cultural life. You didn’t realize that you exercised such power did you? Our entire lives, including the purchases we make and the businesses we patronize, tell a story.

If we are impacting culture – if we are telling a story – as patrons, then wouldn’t we be doing the very same as producers? Our businesses are also an opportunity to impact the world around us. Consider the influence we can have in our business life with:

  • our employees, customers, contractors and suppliers,
  • the entrepreneurs we encourage
  • the business leaders we meet
  • the organizations we build,
  • the products we develop,
  • the work we produce,
  • the services we deliver,
  • the way we serve our customers and
  • the way we cooperate with each other at work.

All of this too, reflects what it is to be human. All of this too is “ministry.” Our work is a prime opportunity for us to create beauty. Not a superficial surface beauty but the kind of beauty that flows out of love. The kind of beauty that reveals something “other.”

Business is an opportunity for beauty

Makato Fujimura, founder of the International Arts Movement, says:

Human beings cannot live for a long time in a place bereft of beauty. We hunger for beauty if we are robbed of it. True beauty nurtures our deepest longings.

Our time spent at work and in the marketplace has an impact. All the time and all the resources available to us on the job and all the activities we engage in offer us an amazing opportunity to meet not just people’s physical needs but also their deepest needs and influences our understanding of what is to be human in the process.

Fujimura continues…

In our pragmatism, beauty and art have been exiled to the peripheral realities of our culture and our business environments.

So we can approach work as something to be endured. Or we can see it as an opportunity to encourage something beautiful. Love transforms our businesses from cold, hard utilitarian structures into powerful catalysts for human flourishing.

Our leadership – creativity – innovation – organization – resources and the power we’re each given, everything in the world of business tells a story. When love for God and neighbour is the driving force in our life – including our businesses – the story that that tells addresses our fellow man’s deepest longings.

Because when love drives our business, “business is beautiful.”

Jason Bouwman is the founder of Compass Creative (CompassCreative.ca).

 Questions for further study

  1. How do you view your business? Do you see it as beautiful or a necessary evil? Why?
  2. Discuss your perspective of business with a friend or colleague. What is their feedback to you on your perspective of how you view your business?
  3. What steps can you take to help you and others see that, by design, business can be beautiful?

Up Next


Theology

The Bible doesn’t have a lot say about ___________

We often hear it said, "the Bible really doesn't have a lot to say about ________" Into this blank liberals will insert terms such as "homosexuality" or "creation" or "gender" and, as Douglas Wilson has noted, they'll make this claim because they are the sort of liberal that still professes God's Word as authoritative, and they know that if the Bible does speak to their cause, then they really should listen. But they don't want to so they pretend God has not spoken. Then when we see what they're doing we get frustrated. How can they ignore what God has so clearly said? Not a business manual, but.... But conservative Christians also talk this way and sometimes for the very same reason. We know that God is sovereign, but there are some areas of our life where we want to rule supreme. For some it might be the type of music they like, or the movies they prefer. For others, it could be the way they treat their spouse, or the way they discipline their children. Of course, we know better than to say, "You can have it all Lord, but not this one part." So, instead, we pretend He has not spoken when the truth is we haven't looked and we don't want to. Other times Christians dismiss the Bible's relevance out of ignorance. We insist the Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about business, or the environment, or painting, or playing sports because, in our daily reading, we’ve never noticed chapters on business, the environment, painting, or playing sports. A fellow might say, "The Bible doesn't have a lot to say about being an executive – it's not a management manual after all." And there is some truth to that since the Bible doesn't contain all there is to know about life, the universe, and everything. But what it does contain are God's very thoughts about the purpose of life, the universe, and everything. Might that have some relevance to business practices? It's easy enough to answer with a "yes" and leave everything there – a hypothetical acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty in business too, but then we don’t go any further. We don’t pursue how exactly His rule works itself out in the boardroom. That’s why the better question here is one that apologist Del Tackett loves to ask: "Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?” Do we believe God really is sovereign over every square inch of creation? And do we believe that God really is wise, and really is loving? Do we really believe He knows what is best for us? That’s what we say we believe. But do we really? Because if we do, then instead of dismissing His relevance to whatever we are doing, we should be eager to search out what He does have to say. Even if it is only a little, we know it is brilliant and completely reliable (and what business books can say that?). God has a lot to say for anyone who has ears to hear If we start that search, the results are sure to be astounding. When we eagerly comb through the Scriptures to find every last thing God might have said about our particular interest – when, instead of avoiding his authority over our favorite activity, we look to see how we can place it under His rule – then we'll find God gives us more guidance than we ever realized. Yes, the word "business" is hardly ever mentioned in the Old and New Testament, but the Bible has lots to say about office life. One example: in a recent post by business blogger David Mead, he writes about what to do when you are in a meeting surrounded by brilliant folk and you're feeling intimidated. You feel like you really don't belong here "at the adult table." Mead lays out our two choices. We can either: "Show up in an attempt to prove that we're good enough, smart enough, experienced enough, or educated enough to be there..." "Show up knowing that we don't yet belong at the adult table and use it as an opportunity to learn, ask questions and contribute..." He then notes that if you try the first approach, you're likely to find "others in the group will take some pleasure in knocking you down a few pegs." But if you go with choice two, you may just find "the group will take pleasure in helping you gain..." I don't know if David Mead is a Christian but I do know this advice is. I can state that with confidence becuase God has given His people the means to evaluate such advice – we can verify that Mead got it exactly right, even if we've never been in a boardroom. How can we be so sure? Because in Luke 14:8-11 Jesus says the same thing. In this passage, Jesus is talking about a wedding feast, not a business meeting, but his point speaks to human nature, which remains the same everywhere. "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Maybe David Mead was trying to build on Luke 14. But whether he was or was not, we can. And we should because we will never find a more reliable foundation than God's Word. Car mechanic The same holds true for any profession, any recreation, our food choices, the typical time we head to bed, the friends we choose – anything! For some, the everywhere-and-everything reach of God’s sovereignty will strike them as an imposition – there’s no square inch of creation left for us to call our own! But when we understand that God loves us, and is smarter than us, then we’ll see this not as restrictions, but as a comfort. God is watching out for us and has guidance for us, no matter what we are doing. So let’s try this again. Can we think of any subject, any area, any endeavor that the Bible doesn’t speak to? Let’s try and think of the toughest possible example, by focusing on something that the Bible couldn’t possibly speak about because it hadn’t even been invented in biblical times. What about cars? Wouldn’t it make sense for someone to say: “The Bible doesn’t say a lot about being an auto mechanic – after all, it isn’t a car repair manual”? The answer is still no. The Bible might not speak about cars, but it does offer warnings about the pull of idolatry, which may be a concern for any young gearhead whose interest is bordering on obsession. This is also a profession where most of the work he does has to be taken completely on trust. A client’s automotive knowledge may well end right where the front of the car begins, so the client won’t understand the problem, let alone have a clue as to the best solution. They are depending on an honest man giving them honest advice and putting in honest work. And the Bible has a lot to say about honesty too (Prov. 16:11 for example). Conclusion The Bible isn't an accounting textbook, or a self-help guide, or a cookbook – the Bible doesn't contain all there is to know about all of life. But God is sovereign over all of life, and what He says speaks to all of life. So, in whatever we do, the question is not whether God has something to say, but rather what is it that God has said? This is the calling and the privilege of being one of God’s own: we get to seek out God’s thoughts on math and bookbinding, art and child-rearing, environmental stewardship and counseling, and so much more! Of course, that doesn’t mean we are going to understand everything perfectly. We might seek God’s thoughts, and have a hard time figuring out what He has to say on a particular topic. We are not omnipotent – we will never know it all. But that speaks more to our own limitations than to the Bible’s. So enough with “The Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about _________.” We know God really has spoken, really is Ruler of all, and really does love us. That’s why we have every reason to seek out how God’s Word speaks to every aspect of our lives....


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