How Should Christians Conduct Business
We are looking at the following questions:
a. How should Christian businessmen act and conduct business?
b. What kinds of business can Christian men (and women) do?
c. What are the Biblical rules for businessmen?
Christian business seen in Bible: Acts 18:1-3: “After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; 2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. 3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.”
Obviously if you were interested in having a tent made, Paul would treat you honestly. He’d treat you the way he would hope to be treated as an honest customer if you were the one making a tent for him. Any matter related to interpersonal dealings is summed by God’s Law thus: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
I think a pretty good rule for what kinds of business a Christian can do would be that if it’s a product or a service which a Christian may use lawfully before God, then it’s proper to do a business offering the same.
Another key thing to keep in mind that can come up in many situations, and I think it could easily apply to a business owner who underestimated how much it would cost him to do a job or who ran into trouble he wouldn’t expect at a job. Psalm 15 ” Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? 2 He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. 3 He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. 4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. 5 He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.”
Also some more specific rules for Christian businesses which come to mind: Leviticus 19:11-15, 35-37: “Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another. 12 And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord. 13 Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning. 14 Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the Lord. 15 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour... 35 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. 36 Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt. 37 Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: I am the Lord.”
It is proper to note here that the worst business anyone could possibly start, worse even than a xxx video store, is a preaching/ministry/church business. No one should get into the things of God for money, not just to get rich, but even to make a living at all. Look at Jesus cleansing the Temple! The financial support that a Christian minister receives shouldn’t be the result of him wanting a job or needing money or anything like that; it should only be because he gave himself to serving the Lord in a sacrificial way and there just isn’t time to support himself and his family otherwise. Preaching/ministry/church was never supposed to be “I need a job/career/money- oh, I know, I’ll be a preacher/I’ll have a ministry”. The things of God and making money should always be kept separate, except it is good and right to make money to be able to support the things of God. Nobody should ever minister the things of God so they will receive money nor alter what they are doing in serving God to get more financial support.
Also consider here: “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.” (Proverbs 22:3- also repeated in Proverbs 27:12)
Homosexual wedding cake example; offering wedding services in the USA could easily now land someone in a long, expensive, stressful legal battle. It’s wise to consider if there is any business in your society which doing could land you in a position of participating in sin. But remember here, you would have to be directly involved in the evil to be guilty of promoting it, such as making a cake with two men or two women presented on it. If people take a tent Paul made and use it for sin, Paul isn’t responsible. Any legitimate product or service can be used for evil purposes; we can’t do anything about that and Christians shouldn’t not start businesses for that reason. But there are examples like the wedding cake, where actually being involved in the promotion of evil, could be something the business owner is pressured to comply with.
And there is also, along the lines of Proverbs 22:3 and Proverbs 27:12, the fact that sometimes certain services can carry the risk of associating yourself with darkness due to selling another’s product possibly or being involved in something which is just shady because of the current trends.
-Diabetes strip example (the business itself is really tempting others to commit insurance fraud)
– Selling products for companies where the product is legitimate but there is immodesty in the advertising on the packages (fitness products with immodestly dressed women on the packages).
Don’t risk your soul and your Christian testimony by doing something which another may justly find fault with or has a strong case to find fault with nor by doing anything which emboldens another to sin. 1 COrinthians 10:31-33) “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”
Another way in which a Christian business owner can associate themselves with evil besides by a bad or questionable product or service is by the character and conduct of their employees. If you work for another, you might have co-workers who swear and don’t dress modestly and whose conduct is overall not exemplary. If it doesn’t cause you as the employee to sin or to compromise your own Christian character in any way, then you are not complicit in the sins of your co-workers. However, if you are the business owner then your employees represent you- and thus if you profess to be a Christian then their conduct and the way they present themselves WHILE WORKING FOR YOU DO REPRESENT CHRIST(to a significant degree). Since you have the authority to instill a dress code, forbid foul language, forbid fornication, and to prescribe a good attitude in dealing with customers then you need to do those things.
Even secular companies I have worked for have forbid their employees from things like:
– Using drugs and alcohol at work
– Coming to work intoxicated
– Making advances towards co-workers
– Sleeping at work
– Using internet for non-business purposes
– Being on a cellphone or smartphone
– Possessing x-rated material at work
To also forbid profane language and to insist on decent, non-revealing clothing is also appropriate for a Christian business owner since your employees represent you by extension WHILE they are working for you. And again with Proverbs 22:3 and Proverbs 27:12, this also means screening potential employees and not hiring those whom there is strong reason to believe are not going to comply with the requirements which a Christian ought to have for their employees. And it also means that if you’re going to have supervisors under you, they really need to believe in the rules and the principles that you must insist that your employees abide by. Character needs to be more important to you than capability and productivity- or else you could be responsible for the lax supervision and/or bad conduct of a manager/supervisor of your business! Christian bosses and supervisors who do things right can be great examples of how excellent God’s ways as a Ruler are; and they can be blessings overall to their employees and customers.
Hebrews 1:8-9 “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
1 John 2:6 “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”
A few other key principles for Christian bosses and supervisors: Colossians 4:1 “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.” People who do a good job should be rewarded- with no respect of persons. Likewise regarding those who do wrong. Ephesians 6:4 “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” As a child with their father, an employee shouldn’t find it impossible or near impossible to please his boss. A Christian business owner with employees under him may have to put a lot of time and labor into his business, but he can be a great blessing in what he does and in providing work for others- ESPECIALLY in providing work for Christian brethren. For many, flexibility in terms of when and how many hours they work is a great blessing. And that is especially so when it comes to other Christians who labor in God’s Word and work to disciple Christian brethren and to preach the Gospel.
Who Should Not Start a Business (we’re especially talking about a full-time business, not something like having a fruit stand or a lemonade stand; and we’re talking about more than just using a skill you have to take a job here and there to make extra money):
– Those who are already in Christian ministry full-time (sacrificially and for the right reasons and doing necessary things for God’s kingdom which require great time and attention). 2 Timothy 2:4 “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”
– Those who are compromising their living situation and their potential for godliness by bringing unnecessary temptation upon themselves to get into a better business situation or to get into any situation that is more pleasing to their natural life which compromises their potential for godliness. Think of Lot going to Sodom; he wasn’t seeking God about what he did, he wasn’t going there to do ministry, he was just going to a better looking, more fertile area where he saw more comfort and prosperity. Obviously there were dangers there that he would have been protected from if he had sought God and not been motivated by carnality. Luke 16:15 “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” 2”
4 Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: 25 Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.” (Proverbs 22:24-25) I know a man who had a very unstable life who might have got on track and got well established in the Lord if he had not started his own business. It stressed him out and drove him crazy. It was well known that he was prone to anxiety and anger anyways, but he wasn’t willing to work for someone else and make a consistent hourly fee; he wanted to do jobs where he made hundreds of dollars for an hour or a few hours of work. If we have a chance to make enough working for someone else and there is a reason to believe that we may not be able to handle our own business, then we should work for someone else. On the other hand, I know of a man who does work 12 to 16 hours a day or something like that; and he apparently handles it well and gives much for God’s kingdom. We need to be honest to recognize our own limitations and to make our priorities right. If we fall away from the Lord, no amount of money is worth making! And no amount of money is worth making if we fail in something more important in the process of making that money. But in its proper place in certain circumstances, then the gain associated with a successful business can be of great value and not have spiritual calamity attached to it.
When there is no ceiling nor any definite floor on the amount of money you can make (like there is with a job with an hourly wage or a fixed salary) then there is greater danger of covetousness and discontentment. There is greater danger of being presumptuous about being wealthy and there is a greater danger of being turned aside from Christian duties. You can know you need to downsize and draw back in business when your abundance is a source of worry for you and/or your mind is consumed with making a profit, especially when you already have enough food and clothing for yourself and any dependents you have.
Ecclesiastes 5:9-19: “Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field. 10 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity. 11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes? 12 The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.13 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.14 But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand. 15 As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.16 And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind? 17 All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness. 18 Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.19 Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.”
James 4:13-17: “13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. 16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. 17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
We see the solution given in a similar warning given in 1 Timothy chapter 6. In all things, including business for Christian business people, there is the need to give yourself to doing what is right before God, worshipping God, knowing God, being a faithful disciple of Christ, etc. Notice how the topic never really changes in this passage when you hear it from beginning to end, even though it somewhat seems to change in the middle of it.
! Timothy 6:6-19: “6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. 13 I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; 14 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: 15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; 18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
It is important to live free of anxiety about the future in terms of our finances and our own being taken care of. Christians have tendencies though to worry as if God is off the throne and left them to fend for themselves OR to be presumptuous, as if God will just take care of everything without their own really taking the concern to live His way and to follow His directions. I know of a banker who is a Christian himself who has said that Christians are often not good with paying back loans. They take unnecessary risks thinking that God will just cause things to work out well. And it’s also obvious these are not adequately concerned and careful with doing what is righteous in God’s eyes and with being honest and blameless before God and men- when that is PRECISELY the thing which we ought to be concerned and careful about above all! And if we are, we can be saved from both presumption and anxiety over the future. And that is Jesus’ point in the passage below which we will close with- do not let ANYTHING, EVER take you away from doing what is right before God and serving Him acceptably today- especially not care over money and worry about tomorrow. If we heed this we’ll not only be delivering our own souls by staying in the narrow way which leads to life, but we’ll also best discern how we ought to handle decisions related to business and whether it is good to even start our own or not.
Matthew 6:24-34 “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
Bro Aaron Carey can be reached at [email protected].