Lesson 1 - More Than Profit
Business is Business
What has been your experience of Christians in business? Has it been overall positive? Negative?
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Business is Not Just Business
As of September 2018, these are just a few news headlines that involve businesses:
- Used-Car Sales Boom as New Cars Get Too Pricey for Many
- FAA Bill Leaves Out Change Fee Oversight
- Blood-Testing Firm Theranos to Dissolve After Fraud Scandal
- Wells Fargo Braces for Lean Years Ahead
In his book, Why Business Matters to God, Van Duzer points out (pp. 56-58) how a poorly understood sense of purpose results in impaired decision-making. In fact, many high-profile cases of corporate fraud involved active churchgoers—even some who were outspoken about their faith. The goal of corporate culture, to maximize the stock price or shareholder value, blinded them to ethical considerations and led their businesses toward immoral decisions.
Why Business Exists
Here’s how Kenneth Cole described his company’s experience after becoming publicly-traded:
The Street is ruthless and unrelenting. Very often it distorts the process of why you do what you do. It demands a very short and immediate focus on quarterly results. There’s no real relationship to sustainable, long-term objectives and goals. We found ourselves so focused on messaging that we lost track of how to elevate what we were doing. Rather than make the numbers better, we would talk about how to talk about them. There were all these various stakeholders, and their interests were not always aligned, so we would often have to figure out how to create a certain perception for the audience we were speaking to, rather than focus on how to be a better company.” This is emblematic of the corrosive effect of short term decision-making which has the wrong end in mind when it comes to the purpose of business. If profit is understood to be an end in and of itself, then being truthful and straightforward with customers becomes expendable. Providing meaningful work to employees is optional. These goals are only prioritized to the extent that they help the bottom line.
God has a more creative, integrative, and honoring concept for business than conventional wisdom. There is more to business than maximizing shareholder return. There is more to business than donating wealth earned by a business to fund the “real” mission of God to nonprofits or church activities.
Business has an opportunity to change people’s lives and promote redemption.
Case Study: Ardent Mills
As an example of a higher purpose for business, let's look at Ardent Mills, America's largest flour producer.
Each day, 100 million people eat an Ardent Mills product. It’s likely that the bread products you ate for breakfast this morning came from the flour produced at one of their 42 mills. Dan describes his work as “nourishing the world,” which his company does on a global scale. They continuously innovate the best processes of turning wheat into flour, which is eventually sold to companies like Bimbo bread that are found in America’s grocery stores. And at the end of their global operations and billion dollar balance sheets is a simple commitment to serve the needs of their customers.
What are some practical, recent examples of business practices that you believe exemplify what the Bible considers to be unrighteous or unjust? How could Christians in business do better?