Over the years I’ve had the great opportunity to do business with lots of good Christian people. For the most part, I’ve loved doing business with these people. They are generally honest and upright. Kind and reasonable. Patient and understanding. Truly…it’s been a pleasure.
But once in a great while you come across a bad apple. Their logic is flawed and they reek of contradictions. These types of people sometimes appear to be the cream of the crop. Often they’re successful and money is not an object. Each of them appear to be quite dedicated and engaged in their church service and callings. I’ve observed them to actually be quite giving when it comes to their faith and helping others at church.
But then one day you have a conversation with one of these people about their philosophy on business and you’re left dumbfounded.
“It’s just business” they’ll tell you as they explain why they acted in such and such a way during this or that business transaction.
This one little phrase is the most hypocritical thing a Christian business person can ever say. “It’s just business!” As if that is supposed to somehow excuse them from observing the tenants of their faith when money is involved. I have listened to those whom I’ve considered to be good people explain that they are very careful to “separate business from religion.” They’ve explained that in business, they may need to do things that they are not necessarily proud of. Some are very upfront about this fact and I sit there trying to make sense of that logic. Many of them will justify questionable “business practices” in the name of their family. They’ll contest that they’ve “got a family to feed” and are therefore required to make sacrifices, even if those sacrifices betray their core beliefs.
Never…should a business come before the God who gave you that business.
In my mind, it’s not possible to separate your business from your religion. To quote Jeffrey R. Holland, there is no possible reason that you should ever “check your religion at the door.” The way you run or manage a business should reflect the teachings and leadership of Christ. The way you treat people inside and outside of your organization should not make their professional lives miserable. The opposite should be the case. You should strive to make the business environment safe, secure, and enjoyable. It is after all…many people’s “home away from home!”
But too many Christian business owners are out there trying to grind people, sue people, and exercise dominion over people. The mentality of this type of person is one that must win…at everything. It’s not enough to do a fair deal. They need it to be the best deal for them, and a bad deal for the other parties involved. They seek to exploit others in their weakness in order to extract a maximum profit on the deal.
But “it’s just business” right?
Their actions are subtly saying, “Nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.”(2 Ne: 28:8)
It doesn’t at all work that way.
Calling someone a “shrewd businessman” used to be an insult. Now it seems fashionable. But you don’t have to be shrewd to make money. I would rather live a life of making fair deals in which both parties involved feel good about the deal than be 20% richer when I’m 65 years old. If I’m going to give my family something when I die, I’d much rather it be a legacy of integrity than an extra million bucks. That kind of legacy is one that will never rust or burn or diminish with time.
After all, as the once successful Job stated, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.”(Job 1:21) As my mission president used to say, “You’ll never see a hearse towing a U-Haul to the cemetery.”
It should never only be “just business.” It should be about people, and the impact you can have on them. Studies are showing a popular trend toward “servant-based leadership” among the most effective leaders in business these days. Go figure. Christ was teaching that almost 2,000 years ago. It was then, and is now, the most effective way to lead and manage a business or transaction.
Making a living occupies so much of our lives. Therefore the way in which we make that living is one of the most significant determinants of our character. Our character is what we give to our families, and our character is what we take back to God.
It’s never “just business.”