What makes a business ‘Christian’? Is it merely slapping a Jesus label on it? ‘A place where Christ is modeled, not preached’? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing all the time, anyway?
Or is it a business that tries to align itself with kingdom values, even if the name Jesus isn’t front and center? But what separates that from a good business run from a humanitarian standpoint?
What does it mean to have our identity and vocation impact our businesses?
“The impact of the fall is on both the individual and the social system and so the impact of the gospel of the kingdom must be on both.” (WWP)
Let’s look at an example of an industry that drives me crazy. ‘Christian’ coffee shops that serve coffee, but it’s not fair trade.
I did a little unscientific survey, and I called coffee shops around me, plus a few Christian ones I found online. Out of 12 coffee shops, 9 served at least some fair trade coffee. 3 of those 9 were openly Christian.
3 of the 12 sold no fair trade, and 2 of those were Christian.
So of the 5 Christian shops, 3 sold at least some fair trade. Of the 7 secular shops, 6 of them sold at least some fair trade, or 60% and 85%.
I also noticed, especially in the smaller, secular coffee shops, that if they sold Fair Trade coffee, they did so because it was important to them, and so it was front and center on their websites. The Christian sites made no mention of it, and when I called, the baristas didn’t know and had to go look.
If you have Christian music playing, and have verses scattered all over, but your main attraction is something that keeps people enslaved and oppressed, then what’s the point? What are those verses up there for anyway? Shouldn’t Christians be informed and leading the way on Isaiah 58 issues?
What does a Christian company look like? Is it having a CEO who’s a Christian? Having verses printed on the bottom of paper cups or store bags? Is it paying an employee a fair wage, treating customers honestly and with integrity?
How should a person who is working for the kingdom deal with a broken system? Do they leave? Or stay and work for the good of fellow employees and clients, trying to change things from the inside? How do you balance working for redemption and needing to make a living?
“If we act as if individuals are saved now and the kingdom is only in heaven when Jesus comes, then we in effect leave the social order to the devil. ‘Vast areas of human life are left out, unredeemed – the economic, the social and the political’. Into this vacuum other ideologies and kingdoms move with their seductive and deceptive claims of a new humanity and a better tomorrow – socialism, capitalism, globalisms, nationalism, ethnic identity, and denominationalism – shakable kingdoms all.” (WWP)
What is the right thing to do when you’re a part of a national company, who wants to appear as a local company to the clients, so the pressure is on to lie about which office you are working out of, to seem as if you are 1 hour away instead of 15?
Why does a Christian CEO tell his employees to fudge their time sheets so their overtime won’t affect their bonus metrics? If he doesn’t care, why not change the metrics, so you aren’t encouraging dishonesty in your employees?
Why is a Christian CEO such a good salesman that he brings those tactics to the employee negotiating table, sometimes waiting for an employee to give up and hand in their resignation before giving in and giving them the raise they are asking for and deserve, because they are already underpaid?
And what do you do when it’s a tough economy and jobs aren’t plentiful and you have a mortgage, student loans, and a family to support?
What is the right way to love and pursue the kingdom when you are keenly aware of the powers and principalities doctrine that keeps you trapped, and you get just a tiny glimpse of what other people around the world face on a much larger scale?
How can we pursue life for others, knowing that the coffee grower is dependent on market prices and honest middlemen, and knowing that we are ignorant of so many other global intricacies? How do we respond when people work unbelievably hard, but remain stuck in poverty?
How do we address the power inequalities in the system, when we all are trapped in our own way, and are yet complicit in so many other ways?
How does a person work for love and the kingdom when it seems as if the walls will never crumble? Why is it sometimes so hard to see Christians breaking down the walls?
Why do we reduce Christian financial practices to just getting the cheapest product, the cheapest cup of coffee, the cheapest employee?
What does it do to those people to be at the mercy of others?
Walking with the Poor calls this playing god in the lives of others: “The results are patterns of domination and oppression that mar the image and potential productivity of the poor while alienating the non-poor from their true identity and vocation as well.”
We are responsible for as much as we can be responsible for, and how we handle our work, whether it is a career or a role, paid or unpaid, is important. Loving others has to, in some way, mean that we become conscious of the people who make our way of life possible. Because the values we pursue in our lives affect the quality of theirs.
“It also follows that we have a responsibility to enable or allow others to work so they can fulfill their purpose.” (WWP)
Are we being responsible and ethical business owners? Employees? Customers? Are we living so that we can empower other image-bearers to pursue their vocation as well?
Check out the other posts in this series: Identity and Vocation Defined Being an Image of God What Does Christian Vocation Look Like? Is It Who You Are, Or Just What You Do?