Every Christian in business should read this book. Actually, strike that: every Christian should read this book; it is insightful, full of depth, and rich in scripturally based lessons. The book is penned by Jeff van Duzer, who is the Dean of the School of Business and Economics as well a professor of business law in Seattle. Van Duzer has become a leading scholar on Christian business
ethics, and his understanding of the area is rich in wisdom. I truly believe that his message has the potential to change lives throughout our society.
What The Book Says
The core argument of the book centres around asserting business as a worthwhile calling; not simply as a periphery to missions, but as a missions calling in and of itself. Too often, business is regarded as a method for living, sometimes a method for raising money for missions, but not as a mission in itself. Due to this misalignment in perspective, Christian business leaders often act as business leaders who are Christian instead of the other way around.
Companies doing business will, in many ways, dictate the kind of world we live in. Thus, for Christians interested in advancing God’s agenda of peace, justice and reconciliation, a focus on business and its role in society is crucial.
Van Duzer goes on to explore what the specific calling is for Christian business leaders, beyond playing the periphery role of money raisers. He demonstrates through the scriptures that Christians are called to serve. In business, this means serving the customers, community, shareholders, and (perhaps most pointedly), the workers.
Christians in management should seek to re-inject a sense of mission, purpose and meaning into work where it has become rote and detached.
I know I have discussed the importance of taking care of workers in previous articles on business, but I think it bears repeating again here. Van Duzer presents with clarity the scriptural evidence that demonstrates the calling of Christians in business to bring value and meaning to work. In addition to this, he points out that creating value is a large part of what business should be aligned towards. Business needs to be focused on adding to the community through items produced and services rendered. This also means that not all businesses are good, since there are businesses that actually take away from community and society.
Another concept that van Duzer presents is particularly insightful, despite the temptation to deny it: van Duzer points out that making ethical decisions does not always lead to business success. This is a difficult thing to accept; even in the secular world there is a movement toward arguing that doing business the ethical way leads to business profits. My post on the book “Uncontained” by Kip Tindell discusses this idea at length.
The fact that ethics does not always lead to profits is a hard thing for many Christian business people. Extending this line of though, van Duzer illustrates that using business as an excuse to do unethical behaviour is also never something that should be permitted by a Christian. We need to be willing to see our business fail before we abandon our ethics. Understanding this puts business into the right perspective; profits and even survival itself are not the end-goal of our work.
How The Book Says It
Van Duzer uses the story of creation to explore his assertions on Christian business ethics. A good book to read that compliments this book well is “The Drama of Scripture” by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen. In it, the authors explore the four different “Acts” of Creation, Fall, Redemption Initiated, and Redemption Accomplished. Van Duzer uses these eras in God’s narrative to explore His purpose for creation. In this, the author demonstrates that business is not somehow separate from God’s intentions.
Beyond following the narrative of the Bible, Van Duzer consistently references scripture to illustrate his arguments. In this way, the book is incredibly well-researched, and cannot be viewed as anything but a faithful accounting of business in the Bible. Although capitalism is a relatively new economic system, there are clear truths that we can extrapolate from scriptures and apply to the modern world.