Is there really such a thing as a Christian business? After all, a business is simply an entity that solves a problem utilizing systems and often people. In today’s economy there are even businesses that run without much involvement from the owners. With the recent change in Chick-fil-A’s giving strategies and the outcry that followed, I wondered if we should even get upset about it. Yes, we can be disappointed in people’s decisions, but is there such a thing as a Christian business?
In order to be a Christian, you must accept that Jesus is the son of God and that He died for our sins and rose again. A business cannot accept anything (or reject it either). Case closed. There won’t be any Chick-fil-A’s in heaven or Hobby Lobby. If there were Christian businesses, would some franchises get into heaven and others not? Would the physical store location enter into His gates? What about online stores? It’s a preposterous thought. It’s not a living being.
Or Is It?
I know it’s a bit silly but we had to get that out of the way. I think when you read my words about Kingdom Leadership or Mission-Driven Business you think that’s code for “Christian Business.” I want it to be. I love Jesus and I want you to love Him too. I want the companies where I spend my money to have employees and leaders that love Him too. However, it’s not true. A business can be incredibly missional without having a scriptural mission statement.
A company like Babban Gona that finances loans for small farmers in Nigeria has an incredible mission, yet there is no mention of Christ. The loans provide the profit and allow them to help the farmers be more profitable in the long run. Essentially, they are loaning to the poor in an effort to end their poverty and as a result, have a happy client. I’ve seen this model in many countries with varying levels of success and it’s beautifully missional. Yet, many of these social enterprises aren’t led by Christians. Christianity has no monopoly on doing good.
Any business enthusiast would recognize that businesses are like a living organism. You might even argue that every business has a soul. The people and the culture of a business can make it decidedly Christian-like. A company’s mission, vision and values can be Christian-like to the extent that they were taken from Bible verses. Look at Chick-fil-A, “to glorify God.” It drives everything they do (or did). I think a better question is..
If there were a Christian Business what would it look like?
If there were such a thing as a Christian business then we’d have to evaluate it based on what the Bible says. Jesus said that we are to love God and love each other. Paul expands a bit on how we should live in Colossians.
Therefore, a Christian business would have these characteristics…
What does this even mean? Simply put it would put the people first and honor God’s commandments (this is a circular argument). Employee and customer alike. Many secular businesses do this. The differentiation, if there any, would be where the business implemented policies that were decidedly unprofitable. Like closing on Sunday, like paying for medical expenses for employees, or having hiring and firing practices that are almost detrimental.
Does the business serve the local community well? Does it serve its customers with care? How does it handle complaints? If the questions lead you to answers we just talked about then you’ll see it’s impossible to glorify God without love.
Judged By Its Fruit
Unfortunately, a lot of business owners slap a fish on their business card and call their business a Christian business. A true Christian business (in this mythical world) would be judged by its fruit too. Obviously, we covered love, but also excellence. This business wouldn’t cut corners, wouldn’t be late, would be courteous and patient. I’d even go as far as to say that a Christian business should be highly profitable. Not because it’s gouging its customers but rather because it’s so efficient that profits are naturally generated and demand is high.
What’s not covered?
As much as I’d love to hold a business that claims Christian values accountable to a standard of stewardship, there isn’t anything Biblical to that. Whether the business tithes isn’t something I can evaluate. If a business decides to support something theologically that I don’t support, there really isn’t anything I can look at. Whether a business works on Sunday (honoring the Sabbath), for example, isn’t something that would be considered in this mythical conversation. If this business were a person, then we’d be falling into the trap of becoming Pharisees.
In business, one of the biggest enemies is the false attribution error. Where we assume our altruistic intent and assume that others are all evil somehow. This is a deep rabbit hole. One could consider not working on Sunday as a disservice to the customer. They are inconvenienced on a day that could very well be their Sabbath. In essence, by not working on Sunday a business could force a customer to “work.”
You can see how silly the entire conversation is just from these arguments!
Is There Such Thing As A Christian Business?
No. I can only judge a business by its own prescribed mission statement. Whether it’s missional or not is determined by its intentionality behind its impact for its customers, employees, and community. Even then, after I make a judgment, my option is to either buy or not buy.